Academic journal article Labor Law Journal

Whither the Staff and Workers' Congress System in China? A Historical Perspective

Academic journal article Labor Law Journal

Whither the Staff and Workers' Congress System in China? A Historical Perspective

Article excerpt

While prospects are bright, the roads have twists and turns.

Mao Zedong

1. Introduction

The term "industrial democracy" was referred to as a vision of workplace democracy by Pierre-Joseph Proudhon in the 1850s, and the usage of the term soon gained popularity in both theory and practice.1 Industrial democracy has the need for a comparison after an outline of the salient points, to avoid generalization.

It is rewarding to address the prominent position of Staff and Workers' Congresses from three aspects. First, Staff and Workers' Congresses have a say in the appointment and removal or dismissal of directors:191 if the selection or recall of factory directors are made by the competent departments of the government, the opinions of the workers shall be solicited;192 if the selection or recall of factory directors are decided by Staff and Workers' Congresses, it shall be reported to competent departments of the government for approval;193 competent departments of the government shall also decide whether directors may, after the expiry of his or her term of office, hold a consecutive term or leave the post upon hearing the opinion of Staff and Workers' Congresses.194 Second, the execution of functions and powers of Staff and Workers' Congresses shall be guaranteed by directors in accordance with the law:195 directors shall report his or her work to Staff and Workers' Congresses on a regular basis,196 solicit workers' opinions, implement the resolutions passed by Staff and Workers' Congresses within the remit of Staff and Workers' Congresses,197 and be responsible to handle the proposals of Staff and Workers' Congresses concerning issues of enterprise administration, adopt supervision of Staff and Workers' Congresses.198 Third, Staff and Workers' Congresses are entitled to put forward suggestions to directors or report to competent departments of the government for approval of issues within the remit of directors when it holds dissenting views.199

In any discussion of the exalted position of directors, two themes stand out. First, Staff and Workers' Congresses are legally required to support directors, particularly, by supporting factory directors in exercising their functions and powers according to law,200 including in the decisionmaking of business management and the unified leadership of productive activity.201 Second, directors have a strong influence on Staff and Workers' Congresses in some ways. It may be exemplified by three points at least: the execution of the functions and powers of Staff and Workers' Congresses is dependent on directors to submit the plans or programmes for deliberation or decision;202 directors are entitled to convene interim meeting of Staff and Workers' Congresses;203 the members of a special group shall not get due treatment according to normal attendance when it needs to encroach on the time of production or work unless they obtain the consent of directors.204

Compared with its counterpart at the former stage, Taken as a whole, this system has been substantially unchanged at large, or, rather the transition is almost indiscernible on paper, which is quite opposite to the expectation. The old rules concerning the appointment and removal or dismissal of directors, directors shall guarantee the execution of the functions and powers of Staff and Congress' Congresses, Staff and Workers' Congresses shall support directors, the ways that directors influences Staff and Workers' Congresses, etc. all have been preserved in the current system. Then only noticeable difference may be the right to put forward suggestions to factory directors or report to competent departments of the government if Staff and Workers' Congresses dissent from the decisions of factory directors, which is, as a matter of fact, a newly introduced rule with a purpose of spreading the influence and power of Staff and Workers' Congresses. However, given the almost unimaginable former rule that Staff and Workers' Congresses had the right to put forward suggestions to competent departments of the government concerning their decisions and instructions, the new rule adopted a more pragmatic approach. …

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