[A-List] About time

Henry C.K. Liu hliu at mindspring.com
Wed Oct 27 19:22:37 MDT 2004


For years, I have battled on the internet the US left's criticism of 
China's policy on labor unions. My view is the target should be US 
transnationals which operate in China's private sector, not the Chinese 
Communist Party.  For holding this view, I have been ejected from 
several so-called left lists.







Posted on Wed, Oct. 27, 2004


  China Pressures Wal-Mart, Other Investors


CHRISTOPHER BODEEN

Associated Press

SHANGHAI, China - China's official Communist Party-controlled trade 
union is threatening to sue foreign companies such as Wal-Mart Stores 
Inc., Dell Inc. and Eastman Kodak Co. if they don't set up union 
branches in their China operations.

The unionization drive, announced in official newspapers this week, is 
the latest attempt by the 123 million-member All China Federation of 
Trade Unions to penetrate the most dynamic sector of the economy, shore 
up its declining membership, and boost its lowly political status.

"The AFCTU feels challenged and is losing membership. To survive it has 
to do more," Anita Chan, a research fellow specializing in Chinese labor 
issues at Australian National University, said Wednesday.

Unlike past unionization campaigns, this one appears to come with teeth 
and if enforced could oblige foreign-invested companies to give the 
Communist Party a say in the running of their companies' China businesses.

The trade union federation - the only legal labor organizer in China - 
plans to collaborate with local governments and company employees to 
compile a "black list" of foreign-invested companies that have yet to 
set up union branches, said Yang Honglin, deputy director of the Grass 
Roots Organ Building Department.

Those that refuse union requests to set up branches "could be sued," 
Yang was quoted as saying in an article published Tuesday in the 
state-run newspaper China Youth Daily.

The push to unionize workers at foreign companies has little to do with 
workers' rights. In China, branches of the trade federation are usually 
management-controlled bodies with little authority that work mostly to 
prevent conflict.

American computer maker Dell, one of the companies identified in the 
article as a target of the campaign, had no immediate comment. Eastman 
Kodak Co.'s Beijing office said a spokesman wasn't available while a 
spokesman for Wal-mart Stores Inc. could not immediately be reached.

However, an earlier statement by Wal-Mart said its China operations 
follow the company's global no-union policy.

"Companies in China are not required to have trade unions, and therefore 
this position is fully consistent with the law," it said.

No figures are available for the number of foreign companies that have 
unions, but official media last year reported that only 2,000 of 
Shanghai's 5,000 foreign-invested companies have them.

"Setting up unions is not an easy matter. Management refuses and often 
workers are not interested," said Chan. Local officials also fear that 
pushing for union branches might drive away investors, she added.

By turning to the courts, the government's labor body is showing 
increasing sophistication in going after a company like Wal-Mart, whose 
no-unions policy has provoked criticism in the United States and 
elsewhere, Chan said.

It's unclear whether the law requires foreign companies to allow unions. 
The trade federation contends that union branches are required according 
to a law, amended in 2001, that states that unions "shall be set up" in 
all companies.

The law is vague about the penalties for companies that refuse to allow 
unions, saying only that they will be required to "make rectification."

The campaign is more likely an attempt to expand the influence of the 
trade federation and the Communist Party in the fast-growing private 
sector, said Bill Taylor, who studies Chinese unions at the City 
University of Hong Kong.

State-owned companies have Communist Party branches, but non-state ones 
don't.

"With the union in place, the party has its only access point into these 
enterprises," Taylor said.


 
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