Thursday, June 30, 2011

China’s Labor Organization is ‘evolving,’ says Han Dongfang

Han Dongfang, director of the China Labor Bulletin in Hong Kong, used to think that the official labor organization in China, the All-China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU), was so much a part of the Communist Party apparatus that it could never become a union. Now he’s changed his mind.

He expressed his new view publicly in a June 26 commentary published in a leading UK newspaper, The Guardian, and in his own Bulletin.

“Workers are angry,” Han writes, pointing to the wave of strikes last year and a recent riot in Guangdong province. Such activism has forced the ACFTU to review its own role and begin to “look for ways to become an organization that really does represent worker interests.”

Han cites some signs that the ACFTU is already moving in that direction. In March, for example, the union at an auto plant in southern China negotiated a 30%-plus pay increase; a year earlier workers striking for higher pay were beaten up.

But the same old ACFTU lives on, subject as always to the Communist Party, Han acknowledges. But “in today’s market economy [the Party] has to be flexible….If the ACFTU can show it can better serve the Party’s interests (ensuring economic growth and social stability) by standing up for the rights and interests of workers, the Party will certainly take note.”

Han’s commentary is, to a large extent, devoted to arguing that Western trade unions take note. He urges them to intensify contacts with the ACFTU. “Their wealth of experience in genuine collective bargaining can help the ACFTU better serve its members and eventually become a real trade union.”

Although he is exiled in Hong Kong, Han’s phone access to people throughout China keeps him well informed on the political mood in various circles there. Still, his changed perspective on the ACFTU and its evolution may be more a reflection of his hopes than of the grim political realities in China.

No comments: