Unions push for collective wage bargaining

Updated: 2012-08-29 07:51

By Chen Xin (China Daily)

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Chinese trade unions are urging enterprises nationwide to introduce collective wage bargaining to help raise workers' wages and protect their rights, said the country's top trade union official.

"We pay great attention to ensure the interests and rights of workers and we work hard to bring the benefits of economic development to all workers to promote social justice," said Wang Zhaoguo, chairman of the All-China Federation of Trade Unions, when addressing an international forum on economic globalization and the role of trade unions in Beijing on Tuesday.

Chinese trade unions believe collective bargaining between workers and employers is the most efficient way to help workers seek higher pay and boost sound labor relations.

The federation has a target to introduce collective wage negotiations in 80 percent of corporations that have unions by 2013.

Also attending the forum, Hariharan Mahadevan, deputy secretary-general of the World Federation of Trade Unions, said job losses, low pay and insufficient social security coverage are challenges workers worldwide face as the global economic recovery is still sluggish.

"With the backdrop of this economic situation, we should bring unity to more workers. In many parts of the world, such integration is going on. For example, in India, more trade unions are joining hands to fight for workers' basic interests such as higher minimum wages and employment maintenance," he told China Daily.

"Labor is not a commodity. All laborers should be respected and earn due wages according to the value they produce," he said. "Every worker should benefit from collective bargaining, which has yet to be set up in many places."

Mahadevan said 85 percent of workers across the globe are not covered by collective wage bargaining.

Minimum wages and other basic rights of workers could be guaranteed by conducting collective negotiations and dialogue between workers and employers, he said.

But he said it's not that easy to quickly introduce collective bargaining because employers are profit-driven and many make profits by cutting costs of production and paying low wages to workers.

"So such a profit model should be changed, and unions should play a more important role in this regard," he said.

Mahadevan said it is a common responsibility of trade unions in all countries to defend workers' labor rights and interests, and "unions should actively participate in the formulation of international rules to ensure that the benefits of global economic growth are shared fairly and reasonably among workers of all countries, particularly those in developing countries."

He also called for worldwide union efforts to improve the employment environment, increase job opportunities and lift more workers out of poverty by offering training programs and creating worker mutual-aid programs to effectively reduce poverty and better protect worker's rights.

Commenting on Chinese trade union efforts in protecting workers' rights, Mahadevan said a lot of improvements in working conditions are taking places in China.

He said he has noticed that Chinese workers are becoming more involved in government decisions as more workers are increasingly elected as local legislators.

"It's a good move," he said.