Failures of Enterprise-Level Unionization in China: Implications for Coalmine Safety and Beyond
Liu, Chaojie, International Labour Review
In recent years, China's frequent coalmining accidents have highlighted legislative defects that disable enterprise unions from exercising their statutory functions effectively in regard to occupational safety. The causes of this dysfunction have much wider implications, however. Reviewing the country's Trade Union Law, the author argues for amendments to empower workers to set up genuine enterprise-level unions - by clarifying the procedures for doing so, excluding senior corporate executives from union membership and leadership, securing unions' financial independence from enterprise management, providing safeguards for the election of trade union leaders and their removal from office, and recognizing the right to strike.
In recent years, much of the criticism over the frequent occurrence of mining disasters in China has been leveled at the country's trade unions: "Why does the trade union keep silent in mine disasters?",1 "Where is the trade union in the Zuoyun mine disaster?",2 "Why did the trade union say nothing after the mine disaster?",3 "Where is the trade union in mine disasters?",4 etc. The media are indeed replete with such criticism, holding the trade unions responsible for failing to protect the occupational safety of mineworkers.
This article examines the statutory rights and duties of China's trade unions in regard to the prevention of industrial accidents, why they are unable to exercise those rights effectively, and how they could be institutionally empowered to do so. In the process, however, it raises broader issues regarding the establishment and operation of trade unions at the enterprise level.
The statutory role of trade unions in the prevention of industrial accidents
According to article 6 of the Trade Union Law of the People's Republic of China, "[t]he basic duties and functions of trade unions are to safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of workers and staff".5 Since the right to life and health is obviously a precondition of the enjoyment of all other workers' rights, the protection of their occupational safety and health is arguably the most important mission of the trade unions. Indeed, the Trade Union Law explicitly provides for trade union rights and duties where an enterprise fails to provide adequate work safety and health conditions:
Article 22. ...[t]he trade union shall, on behalf of the workers and staff members, make representations to the enterprise or institution and demand that it take measures for rectification; the enterprise or institution shall review and handle the matter, and give a reply to the trade union; if the enterprise or institution refuses to make rectification, the trade union may apply to the local people's government for a decision according to law. . .
Article 23. Trade unions shall, in accordance with State regulations, see to it that the working conditions and occupational safety and health facilities for enterprises under construction or expansion and for technological transformation projects are designed, built and put into operation or use simultaneously with the main parts of projects. The enterprises or the competent departments shall give serious consideration to the opinions put forth by the trade unions, and inform the trade unions of the results of their consideration in writing.
Article 24. When the trade union finds that the enterprise gives a command contrary to the established rules and compels workers to operate under unsafe conditions, or when major hidden dangers and occupational hazards are identified in the course of production, the trade union shall have the right to put forward proposals for a solution, and the enterprise shall, without delay, consider the proposals and give a reply to the trade union. Where the very lives of the workers and staff members are found to be in danger, the trade union shall have the right to make a proposal to the enterprise that a withdrawal of the workers and staff members from the dangerous site be organized, and the enterprise shall make a decision promptly. . . .
Article 26. Trade unions shall participate in investigation into and settlement of job-related accidents causing death or injuries to workers and staff members and in investigation into and solution of other problems seriously endangering the health of workers and staff members. Trade unions shall make proposals for solulions to the departments concerned, and have the right to demand that the persons who are directly in charge and the other persons who are responsible be investigated for their liabilities. The proposals put forth by trade unions shall be considered and replies be given without delay.
In addition to the above provisions, the Trade Union Law also spells out rules on matters such as trade union participation in the formulation of work safety policies, laws and regulations, as well as occupational safety education for employees. Provisions on the rights of trade unions similar to those quoted above are also contained in legislation specifically concerned with occupational safety, such as the Law on Work Safety, the Law on Prevention and Control of Occupational Diseases and the Law on Safety in Mines.
By law, the trade unions thus clearly have the right - and the duty - to oversee the enterprise's safety-related arrangements, safety conditions, safety training, safety technology, safety management and handling of specific hazards. In practice, however, such trade union supervision has frequently been found lacking in the prevention of mining disasters. This calls into question the framework for the realization of the above trade union rights - and the trade union system itself.
Legal reasons for the trade unions' lack of involvement in prevention
Generally speaking, the trade unions undeniably perform certain statutory functions in the prevention and investigation of coalmining accidents. These include "actively participating in the formulation of relevant policies, laws and regulations on the work safety of coalmines and related research", "establishing and perfecting the labour protection supervision and inspection network", "widely advertising laws, regulations and policies on occupational safety and coalmines", and "actively carrying out various safety activities and mobilizing employees for prevention" (Tao, 2007). But the public is also acutely aware of the shortcomings of trade union supervision in the circumstances that preceded many mining disasters.
On the night of 18 May 2006, for example, a flooding accident occurred in the Xinjing coalmine of Zuoyun County (Shanxi Province), and 56 miners were killed. Acting as the trade union representative, Zhang Mingqi, a member of the secretariat of the All-China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU), joined the State Council Investigation Panel that was set up to look into the disaster. But where was the trade union of the Xinjing coalmine when the disaster occurred? Water seepage - a clear sign of impending disaster - had been observed three days earlier, but the miners had to continue their underground work nonetheless.6 Xinjing is a township-owned coalmine operated on the basis of multi-level subcontracting, so it probably did not even have a trade union in the first place.
The same goes for many coalmines in China. At a press conference held by the State Council Information Office on 21 December 2006, Li Yizhong, the former Secretary of the State Work Safety Administration, announced that "a considerable number of minor coalmines, and also some joint-venture and foreign-funded coalmines, have not established their trade unions".7 If there are no trade unions, their statutory responsibility for safeguarding the occupational safety and health rights of employees clearly remains a dead letter.
On 28 November 2004, a gas explosion occurred in the Chengjiashan coalmine of Shaanxi Province, and 166 miners were killed. One week before the disaster, a fire had broken out in a laneway, but the mine authority made the miners continue their work.8 And they did not get any support from the trade union either. Indeed, even in such a large state-owned mine as Chenjiashan, the trade union failed to uphold the workers' statutory right to occupational safety supervision.
Since the law explicitly stipulates that the trade unions have the power and the duty to oversee workplace safety, why is this trade union function systematically sidelined in practice? The answer, it will be argued, lies in legislative shortcomings in regard to trade union establishment procedure, cadre appointment and sources of funding that make trade unions subservient to employers. The outcome is therefore bound to be ineffectual no matter how many rights have been conferred upon the trade union by law - not to mention the fact that trade unions do not enjoy the right to strike.
The establishment of trade unions
Article 3 of the Trade Union Law provides that:
All manual and intellectual workers in enterprises, institutions and government departments within the territory of China who rely on wages or salaries as their main source of income, irrespective of their nationality, race, sex, occupation, religious beliefs or educational background, have the right to organize or join trade unions according to law. No organizations or individuals shall obstruct or restrict them.
According to this provision, not only do workers in China have the right to join a trade union, but they also have the right to "organize" their own trade union. Yet neither the Trade Union Law nor even the Constitution of the ACFTU contains any instructions on how to organize a trade union or on the legal procedures to be followed in this regard. Various local trade union federations have drawn up procedures of their own which generally include such requirements as: submitting an application to the trade union organization at the next higher level; setting up the preparatory team responsible for establishing the trade union subject to approval of the application; enrolling members and convening a meeting of members (or of members' representatives); establishing the basic-level trade union committee by democratic election; reporting the result of the election to the organization at the next higher level for approval, etc.9
Beyond the complexity of such procedural requirements, however, the fundamental question left unanswered is: "Who has the right to submit the application for establishing a trade union to the organization at the next higher level? In practice, the initiative is typically left to the enterprise manager or administrator; and in some cases, it is even stipulated that the membership of the preparatory team must be decided by the Communist Party Committee of the enterprise10 or "assumed by cadres of the enterprise above the middle-management level".11 This effectively denies the workers their right to establish the trade union themselves. For economic reasons, foreign-funded enterprises, private enterprises and many of the township-owned enterprises contracted out to private management obviously have no incentive whatsoever to establish trade unions, and some of these enterprises have no Party organizations either. The establishment of enterprise-level trade unions is thus entirely dependent on forceful promotional action by higher-level trade unions. The workers themselves simply cannot take the initiative. This is the main reason why so many minor coalmines and some joint ventures and foreign-owned enterprises have no established trade unions.
In September 2004, the Standing Committee of the Guangdong People's Congress adopted Guangdong Province Regulations for the Implementation of the Trade Union Law of the People's Republic of China. With effect from 1 November 2004, these regulations provide that:
If there is no trade union in an enterprise, public institution, government organization or other kind of economic entity, ten or more trade union members who work in one unit and who are affiliated to the local federation of trade unions, may submit a joint application for establishing a trade union in their work unit to the next higher level trade union.
It was remarked at the time that "this regulation concretely stresses that the workers may exercise the right to establish trade unions spontaneously via the bottom-up approach. This is an important supplement to the Trade Union Law, which often causes embarrassment because of its confusing provisions".12 It is a pity, however, that this local legislation requires the application to be submitted by "trade union members", not common workers. In most of the enterprises without trade unions there will be no change: neither can their workers join a trade union because there is none, nor can they apply for establishing a union because they are not union members. In other words, though Guangdong's legislation is an improvement on the Trade Union Law, it still does not fully empower workers to exercise the "right to organize or join trade unions" in accordance with article 3 of the Law.
Under pressure from local Party committees, local governments and trade unions, however, the establishment of enterprise trade unions in coalmines appears to have made considerable progress in some areas. For example, the People's Daily Online reported on 31 January 2007 that "all coalmine enterprises in Xishui have established trade unions",13 while Xinhua Net reported on 6 July 2007 that "95 per cent of coalmines in Guizhou have established trade unions". 14 Yet, most of these trade unions were established by the managers of the coalmine enterprises. The selection of candidates to serve as trade union cadres, the convening of the trade union general meeting and other functions were all performed with the "assistance" of the administrative departments of the enterprises concerned. Trade unions thus established are obviously easy to turn into instruments of management, no longer protecting workers' rights and interests, but defending the coalmine enterprises and, at best, acting as "intermediators" for the conciliation of disputes. For example, in one absurd case, the chairman of a trade union, speaking on behalf of the enterprise, even argued against the employees in court.15 Such trade unions seem totally oblivious to their fundamental mission, which is to safeguard the rights and interests of employees.
Membership and appointment of trade union officers
In principle, trade unions should be organizations set up by workers. But under article 3 of the Trade Union Law, all workers who rely on wages or salaries as their main source of income have the right to organize or join trade unions. So except for shareholders and investors, all senior executives and even their legal representatives are allowed to join the trade unions provided that their main income is a wage or salary. As a result, the trade unions are easily controlled, their independence sacrificed to the interests of management.
Moreover, although the Trade Union Law provides for trade union officials to be democratically elected, the candidates are often "trustworthy persons" nominated by the administrations of the enterprises, such that senior and middle -level managers often make up most of the membership of the basic- level trade union committees. Article 9 of the Trade Union Law provides that "No close relatives of the chief members of an enterprise may be candidates for members of the basic-level trade union committee of the enterprise." Although this provision put an end to situations where "the husband was the boss and the wife chaired the union", which used to be widespread prior to the revision of the Trade Union Law in 2001, the chief executives themselves have not been prohibited from standing for election to the trade union committees. In practice, the deputy general manager may also serve as the chair of the trade union, which is obviously not ideal when the interests of employees come into conflict with those of management.
In recent years, the media have featured reports of trade union chairpersons being transferred to another job or even dismissed for performing their duties in safeguarding workers' rights and interests.16 Yet, article 17 of the Trade Union Law prescribes that "No trade union chairman or vice-chairman may be arbitrarily transferred to another unit before the expiry of his tenure of office. When such a transfer is prompted by the need of work, it shall be subject to approval by the trade union committee at the corresponding level and the trade union at the next higher level." This wording may well seem to restrict the transfer of trade union chairpersons and vice-chairpersons to other work, but it can also be understood as a licence for enterprises to effect such transfers because the concepts of "arbitrarily" and "need of work" are too blurry. In the circumstances, trade union leaders cannot possibly act independently when the employees' interests conflict with those of their employer.
The sources of trade union funds
Article 42 of the Trade Union Law provides for five sources of trade union funds, namely: (1) membership dues paid by union members; (2) a contribution equivalent to 2 per cent of the monthly payroll, paid by the enterprise, institution or government department where the trade union is established; (3) income from the enterprises and undertakings run by the trade union; (4) subsidies provided by the people's governments; and (5) other incomes. In practice, however, the main source of funding is the second item, i.e. the contribution paid by the enterprise. Furthermore, article 41 of the Trade Union Law stipulates that "Full-time functionaries of trade union committees in enterprises, institutions and government departments shall have their wages, bonuses and subsidies paid by the units to which they belong. They shall enjoy the same social insurance and other welfare benefits as the other workers and staff members of their units".
In other words, both the funding for trade union activities and the remuneration of trade union officers are provided by the enterprise (or mainly so). Given such financial dependence, how can enterprise-level trade unions and their leaders genuinely represent the interests of the workers and engage in opposition to management? In recent years, in order to prevent enterprises from exercising financial control over trade unions, their 2 per cent payroll contribution has in many areas been collected by the local tax administrations and transferred to the local trade union federation, which then redistributes it to the enterprise trade unions on a pro rata basis. Although this system has produced some positive results, neither the statutory requirement that enterprises pay monthly payroll contributions to the trade unions, nor the practice of collecting those contributions via the tax administrations makes much jurisprudential sense.
At the time of China's planned economy, all enterprises were state-owned, so their contributions to the trade unions were nothing but an internal transfer of money "from their left pocket to their right pocket". However, the functions of trade unions at that time were very different from what they are today. Even in state-owned enterprises, the workers are only employees - no longer the "ruling class" or the nominal owners. The fundamental function of the enterprise trade unions is now to safeguard the interests of workers - they should therefore stand only for the workers, especially when their interests are at odds with those of management. So why should the enterprises "foot the bill"? In order to gain independence, China's enterprise-level trade unions must indeed free themselves of financial reliance on both enterprise contributions for their activities and enterprise payrolls for the remuneration of full-time trade union officers.
Trade union rights
Article 24 of the Trade Union Law (quoted above) provides that when the personal safety of workers is at risk, the trade union has the right to suggest a solution. Though the Law goes on to require the enterprise to respond promptly to the trade union's suggestion, this does not mean the enterprise must accept it. If its executives persist in exposing the workers to dangerous conditions, there is not much the trade union can do. Organize a stoppage? Withdraw from the workplace urgently? There is indeed no definite provision for any such emergency action in the Law.
Ultimately, however, the most serious shortcoming is the absence of any provision for the right to strike. The exercise of the right to strike is generally understood as a measure of last resort in labour disputes over wages or working conditions. As argued by Professor Chang Kai of China's Renmin University, a strike is essentially a form of economic action. In a narrower sense, strike action falls within the scope of labour relations, as a "weapon" available to workers for safeguarding their interests in the employment relationship and a defensive measure of last resort (see Chang, 2005). In short, the right to strike is an instrument for the defence of economic interests, not for the pursuit of political aims.
In many countries, strikes have indeed played a key part in the improvement of occupational safety conditions. n Yet Chinese law - whether the Constitution, the 1994 Labour Law or the 1992 Trade Union Law - says nothing about strikes. Strikes are neither forbidden, nor expressly allowed. According to general legal principles, all actions not expressly forbidden by law are permissible as far as citizens and NGOs (such as trade unions) are concerned. Strikes are thus not technically illegal in China. But "since the right to strike is not a statutory right of employees and trade unions, strikes are not protected by law, and the State will not undertake the liability of safeguarding strikes staged by the employees or the trade unions" (Chang, 2005, p. 46). Indeed, as long as the right to strike has not been confirmed by law, it will be difficult for the trade unions to exert any real pressure on enterprises to make them pay attention to workers' interests, including workplace safety.
Suggestions for empowering enterprise-level trade unions
In coalmines where no trade union has been established, there is no legally recognized organization to safeguard the rights and interests of workers, and in those that do have a trade union organization, workers are often unwilling to turn to it for assistance, even when they are forced to continue their work in life-threatening circumstances. In 1951, Mr Liu Shaoqi, Vice-Chairman of Central Government, had already pointed out that if the trade unions were unable to realize their fundamental aim of protecting the basic interests of workers, the latter would turn away from the unions and seek other means of defending their rights. The trade unions would then be cut off from the workforce (Liu, 1985). If China's enterprise-level trade unions are to become genuine workers' organizations, the law should be amended to give them the independence they need to avoid instrumentalization by enterprises and to perform their statutory functions.
Clear procedures for establishing trade unions
Most of the coalmines without trade unions are foreign-invested or private enterprises or yet contracted operations which are nominally collective-owned but actually privately run. In order to close the gaps in unionization among these enterprises, not only should the promotional capacity of local trade union federations be mobilized, but the workers themselves should be empowered to exercise their legal right to organize in accordance with article 3 of the Trade Union Law. To that end, the Law should be amended - or regulations made thereunder - to prescribe a set of definite and simple procedures for establishing a trade union.
For example, the application could be submitted jointly by three or more workers (not necessarily union members) to the local federation of trade unions, which, subject to approval, could appoint officials to assist in the establishment of the proposed trade union. Provision could also be made for the workers of several small enterprises in the same area to set up a multi-enterprise union, in which case the joint applicants would not be required to work in the same enterprise. The officers of the newly established trade union could initially be selected by the joint applicants themselves, subject to approval by the higher level trade union. The enrolment of members should proceed only after the trade union has been established, and once its membership has grown to a specified number, a meeting of all members or their representatives should be called to re-elect the leadership of the trade union.
Exclusion of senior enterprise executives from union membership
Given the diversity of interests at stake in China's economy today, the trade unions must be in a position to represent the interests of the workers alone in the event of a labour dispute. Since the relationship between senior executives and the enterprise is not a straightforward employment relationship, but a kind of principal-agent relationship in which they are expected to defend the interests of capital, they must not be allowed to join trade unions.
New mechanisms for the election of enterprise-level trade union leaders
On 1 July 2007, 69 representatives of the trade union members of Sitong coalmine, a private enterprise in the Yaodu District of Linfen City in Shanxi Province, directly elected their trade union chairperson, who was then made directly answerable to the district trade union which paid his salary on behalf the enterprise.18 This would make a good model for reforming the trade union leadership system in non-public enterprises through legislative amendments that would explicitly require the chairpersons of enterprise-level trade unions to be freely and directly elected by their members, with the candidates being either selfnominated or nominated by other members of the trade union. Provisions should also be make for the supervision and removal from office of the chairperson and other main officers so as to ensure that trade union officers are accountable to union members.
In state-owned enterprises, the system of unionism led by the enterprise Party committee is also in need of reform. The principle that trade unions must adhere to the leadership of the Communist Party can be upheld in several ways among basic-level trade unions. In many non-public enterprises, for example, there is a trade union but no Party organization, yet this does not mean that the union is divorced from the leadership of the Communist Party. In state-owned enterprises, the same person often serves as chair of the board of directors and Party secretary. In theory, the Party committee of the enterprise should represent the interests of the workers because the Communist Party is the party of the working class, but in practice the chair of the board is bound to have interests that differ from those of common workers on matters such as wages, benefits or occupational safety. A tentative solution for state-owned enterprises may be to make the trade union organization and the Party organization equally subordinate to the leadership of the higher level Party organization. The trade union would thus be in a better position to perform its fundamental statutory function of safeguarding employees' rights and interests.
Funding based on membership dues
Although China's enterprise trade unions may find it difficult at first to survive financially without the 2 per cent payroll contribution paid by enterprises, they - and their officers - must gain financial independence if they are genuinely to serve the interests of the workers. Trade unions must therefore raise their own funds by themselves, primarily from union membership dues. This would also strengthen workers' sense of ownership of their organization. Indeed, in some countries, an enterprise paying money to its trade union would be liable to prosecution for bribery.
The right to call stoppages and strikes
Under China's existing legislation, trade unions have the right to request enterprises to remedy violations of laws and regulations on work safety and other infringements of workers' lawful rights and interests, and to suggest solutions to deal with such occupational hazards as they may discover. But if management disregards their suggestions, the trade unions do not have the right to instruct workers to refuse to go on with their work or withdraw from the site urgently to save their lives. Before the Tongchuan mine disaster, for example, the safety inspector had reported danger to the control centre three times, but his reports were ignored.19 The trade unions must therefore be entitled to call a stoppage to protect workers against undue risks.
As for the right to strike, not only was it advocated by Mao Zedong himself,20 but it is also protected under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which China signed in 1997 and ratified in 2001. With China's transition to a market economy and the rising incidence of labour disputes, it is high time for the right to strike to be protected by law to enable the trade unions effectively to defend workers' interests and rights.21
At all levels of government in China, much attention has been devoted to reducing the incidence of mining disasters. Leaders have made speeches and issued instructions again and again, calling upon all parties to cooperate to prevent accidents, and stressing their responsibilities; new regulations have also been made to regulate coalmining procedures; but mining disasters still occur frequently. The argument that this article has attempted to make is that only a stronger trade union system can make a difference, with unions powerful enough to supervise safety conditions in coalmining enterprises and, if necessary, force management to take appropriate preventive action and respect the rights and interests of workers.
1 People's Daily Online (Henan Channel): "Gonghui Weishenme Zai Kuangnan Zhong Shiyu?", 30 November 2004, available at: http://www.hnsc.com.cn/news/2004/ll/30/23516.html.
2 Guangming Daily Online: "Zuoyun Kuangnan Gonghui Hezai?", 3 June 2006, available at: http://www.gmw.cn/content/2006-06/03/content_425493.htm.
3 China Coal News Web site: "Kuangnan Hou Gonghui Weishenme Bu Shuohua?", 5 March 2005, available at: http://www.cwestc.com/newshtml/2005-3-5/91087.shtml.
4 Xiaoxiang Morning Herald Online: "Kuangnan Zhong Gonghui Zai Nail?", 30 November 2004, available at: http://www.xxcb.com.cn/show.asp?id=585833.
5 For a full English translation of the 1992 Trade Union Law. as amended in 2001, see the official website of the All-China Federation of Trade Unions at: http://www.acftu.org.cn/template/ 10002/file.jsp?cid=56&aid=30. All of the provisions of the Law quoted in this article are reproduced verbatim from this source.
6 Workers Daily: "Qiangpo Kuanggong Xiajing Zheshe Quanyi Queshi"(Miners risking their lives to work compulsorily reflects denial of their rights), 30 May 2006, available at: http://txzx.worker cn.cn/template/10002/file.jsp?cid=0&aid=256375.
7 China Net. "Woguo Xiangdang Ibufen Xiao Meikuang Meiyou Jianli Gonghui Zuzhi" (Quite a few small collieries have not set up trade unions in China), 21 December 2006, available at: http://www.china.com.cn/tx t/2006-12/21/content_7540247.htm.
8 Beijing News, 29 November 2004, quoted in People's Daily Online (Henan Channel): "Gonghui Weishenme Zai Kuangnan Zhong Shiyu?" (Why does the trade union keep silent in mine disasters?), available at: http://www.hnsc.com.cn/news/2004/ll/30/23516.html.
9 See Establishment Procedure of the Federation of Trade Unions of Dongcheng District, Beijing, available (in Chinese) at: http://www.dczgh.org.cn/typenews.asp?id=84; see also Directive Opinions of the Federation of Trade Unions, Pudong New Àrea, Shanghai, on the General Procedure for Establishing Trade Unions in Enterprises or Public Institutions, available (in Chinese) at: http://gonghui.pudong.gov.cn/web/new_page/doc.asp?id=4675.
10 See Establishment Procedure of the Federation of Trade Unions of Dongcheng District, Beijing, available (in Chinese) at: http://www.dczgh.org.cn/typenews.asp?id=84.
11 See Directive Opinions of the Federation of Trade Union, Pudong New Area, Shanghai, on the General Procedure for Establishing Trade Unions in Enterprises or Public Institutions, available (in Chinese) at: http://gonghui.pudong.gov.cn/web/new_page/doc.asp?id=4675.
12 Nanfang City News: "Shelun: Gonghui Zifa Zujian Gonghui Gui Zai DuIi" (Editorial: Independence - the real value of trade unions established spontaneously by workers), 2 November 2004, available at: http://www.people.com.cn/GB/guandian/1033/2959821.html.
13 People's Daily Online: "Xishui Meikuang Qiye Quanbu Jianli Gonghui" (All coalmine enterprises in Xishui have established trade unions), 31 January 2007, available at: http://acftu.people. com.cn/GB/67583/5348712.html.
14 Xinhua Net: "Guizhou Baifenzhi 95 De Meikuang Zujian Gonghui Weihu Kuanggong Quanyi" (95 per cent of coalmines in Guizhou have established trade unions to safeguard miners' rights and interests), 7 July 2007, available at: http://news.xinhuanet.com/society/2007-07/07/content_ 6340964. htm.
15 NetEase: "Fasheng Laodong Jiufen, Gonghui Zhuxi Daibiao Qiye Yu Zhigong Duibu Gongtang" (On behalf of enterprise, trade union chairman argues against employees in courtroom on labour dispute), 15 March 2005, available at: http://news.163.com/05/0315/23/lEUOJU9G00011247. html.
16 China News: "Beijing Gonghui Zhuxi Ti Gongren Weiquan Bei Mianzhi" (The Chairman of the trade union was transferred because of his action to safeguard workers' rights in Beijing), 30 December 2008, available at: www.chinanews.com/gn/news/2008/12-30/1507890.shtml; see also China Federation of Trade Unions News: "Gonghui Zhuxi Bang Yuangong Weiquan Jing Zao Jiepin Zhuizong" (Follow-up report on the dismissal of trade union Chairman because of his action of safeguarding workers' rights), 23 April 2009, avaUable at: http://acftu.people.com.cn/GB/9182727.html.
17 Early examples include the strikes by the United Mine Workers of America in the early twentieth century and, also in the United States, the influential miners' strikes of the 1940s. More recent examples include the mass strikes and demonstrations that followed the September 2006 gas explosion in the Lenin coalmine at Karaganda in Kazakhstan, where 41 miners were killed; the general strike by Mexican mineworkers on 19 February 2007, marking the first anniversary of a mining accident in which 65 miners were killed; and the December 2007 strike by some 250,000 South African miners, also staged in protest against the frequent occurrence of mining accidents.
18 There are so many coalmines, smelting enterprises and forging enterprises in Linfen, and so many migrant workers from the countryside, that the city has become a "severely afflicted area" where industrial accidents and employment problems occur all too frequently. The purpose of "public election and direct management" of the enterprise-level trade union chairperson was to enable the union to play a more active supervisory role in eliminating potential safety hazards, preventing industrial accidents, and protecting employees' rights and interests (see An, 2007).
19 SoHu News: "Tongchuan Kuangnan Baozao Xu: Anjianyuan Sancì Baojing Wuren Licai" (Follow-up report on Tongchuan mine disaster: No one pays attention to the three alarms of safety checker), 2 December 2004, available at: http://news.sohu.com/20041202/n223282063.shtml.
20 In his speech to the Second Plenary Session of the Eighth Central Committee of the Communist Party of China in 1956, Mao pointed out that "The workers should be allowed to go on strike and the masses to hold demonstrations. Processions and demonstrations are provided for in our Constitution. In the future when the Constitution is revised, I suggest that the freedom to strike be added, so that the workers shall be allowed to go on strike. This will help resolve the contradictions between the State and the factory director on the one hand and the masses of workers on the other" (Mao, 1977, p. 345).
21 Besides amendments to existing legislation, this should be done through a separate enactment to regulate the exercise of the right to strike, including procedural safeguards, requirements and restrictions (e.g. the prohibition of political strikes).
An, Yongjie. 2007. "'Gongxuan Zhiguan' Youli Gonghui Zouchu Jizhi Kunjing" ("Public election and direct management" is favourable for trade unions to get rid of mechanism dilemmas), in Xinhuu Net, 13 July, available at: http://news.xinhuanet.com/comments/ 2007-07/13/content_6364388.htm.
Chang, Kai. 2005. "Bagongquan Lifa Wenti De Ruogan Sikao" (Some remarks on the legislation of the strike right in China), in Xuehai (Academia Bimonthly), Vol. 16, No. 4, pp. 43-55.
Liu, Shaoqi. 1985. "Guoying Gongchang De Neibu Maodun He Gonghui Gongzuo De Jiben Renwu" (Internal conflicts in state-owned factories and basic tasks of trade unions), in Editorial Board of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (ed.): Liu Shaoqi Xuanji (Selected Works of Liu Shaoqi), Vol. 2, Beijing, People's Publishing House, pp. 97-98.
Mao, Tsetung. 1977. Selected works of Mao Tsetung, Vol. 5, Peking, Foreign Languages Press.
Tao, Zhiyong. 2007. "Woguo Meikuang Anquan Wenti Yu Gonghui Canyu Yanjiu?" (Research on mining safety and trade union's participation in China), in Zhongguo Anquan Shengchan Kexue Jishu (Journal of Safety Science and Technology), Vol. 3, No. 4, pp. 78-81.
* Associate Professor and Vice-Dean of the School of Literature, Law and Politics, China University of Mining and Technology, email: email@example.com. The research for this article was sponsored by the Ministry of Education Research Funds for "Legal research on government regulation of occupational safety and health in coalmines" (Item No. 10YJA820061).
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Publication information: Article title: Failures of Enterprise-Level Unionization in China: Implications for Coalmine Safety and Beyond. Contributors: Liu, Chaojie - Author. Journal title: International Labour Review. Volume: 150. Issue: 1/2 Publication date: June 2011. Page number: 163+. © 2008 Blackwell Publishers Ltd. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.
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