When it comes to the functions of trade unions in practice, many enterprises often believe that trade unions play a relatively small role in China, mainly focusing on the implementation of notification procedures in cases of dismissal and layoffs. But in fact, Chinese laws grant trade unions and their internal organizations considerable power to effectively protect the interests of employees. This article briefly glances over the functions and powers of trade unions and their main internal organizations in China’s current laws, in order to help readers better understand trade unions under Chinese law.
According to Article 2 of the Trade Union Law of the People’s Republic of China, trade unions are mass organizations of the working class in which workers and staff members voluntarily unite. The National Trade Union system consists of the All-China Federation of Trade Unions and its trade union organizations. All trade union organizations represent the interests of their employees and safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of employees in accordance with the law.
The Basic Tasks of Trade Unions at All Levels:
Trade union organizations at all levels shall be established in accordance with the principle of democratic centralism. Trade union committees at all levels shall be democratically elected by the member congress or member representative congress. Trade union committees at all levels shall be responsible for and report their work to the member congress or member representative congress at the same level and accept their supervision. Trade union organizations at higher levels lead trade union organizations at lower levels.
According to Article 18 of the Regulations on the Work of Trade Union in Enterprises, the basic tasks of trade union at all levels can be summarized as follows:
- Implement the resolutions of the member congress or the member representative congress and the decisions of the superior trade union.
- Organize staff and workers to participate in the democratic management and democratic supervision of enterprises through workers’ representative congresses or other forms in accordance with law and inspect and supervise the implementation of the resolutions of workers’ representative congresses or workers’ congresses.
- Negotiate and sign collective contracts with enterprises on equal terms on labor remuneration, working hours, labor quota, rest and vacation, labor safety and health, insurance, and welfare, supervise the performance of collective contracts and mediate labor disputes.
- Rationally use trade union funds and manage trade union assets.
- Organize staff training, ideological education and guidance, staff competitions, selection of outstanding employees, membership management, and protection of the special interests of female employees.
- Assist and supervise enterprises in labor remuneration, labor safety and health, insurance, and welfare, and supervise the implementation of relevant laws and regulations.
Workers’ Representative Congress and Trade Union Member Representative Congress
The Workers’ Representative Congress (“Workers’ Congress”) and the Trade Union
Member Representative Congress (“Member Representative Congress “) also named the “Two Sessions” or “Two- Representative Congress ” as often referred to by grassroots trade unions, are two important work systems of grassroots trade unions.
“Workers’ Congress” are the basic form of democratic management in enterprises and are the organs for employees to exercise democratic management powers, and fully guarantee that employees enjoy democratic rights such as the right to know, the right to participate, the right to express, and the right to supervise in accordance with the law. Member Representative Congress is the highest leading organ of trade unions at all levels and is the organ of power to discuss and decide on major trade union matters and to elect the leading body of a trade union.
Due to the different nature of the two, the Workers’ Congress and the Member Representative Congress have differences in functions, participants, and work systems. Interested readers can refer to the relevant provisions of the Regulations on the Grassroots Trade Union Member Representative Congress, the Provisions on the Democratic Management of Enterprises, and the Regulations on the Work of Trade Union in Enterprises.
In view of this, the “two sessions” cannot
Trade Union Committees
The grassroots committee of the trade union is the leading body of the grassroots trade union organization, which is elected by the grassroots trade union member (representative) congress, responsible for implementing the resolutions of the member (representative) congress and the decision of the higher-level trade union, presiding over the daily work of the grassroots trade union, and also undertaking the responsibilities of the working body of the employee congress of the enterprise and the public institution, and signing collective contracts or special agreements with the administration on behalf of the employees of the unit.
The relevant functions of the grassroots trade union committees as the leading body of the grassroots trade union organizations are as follows:
(1) Implement the resolutions of the member congress or the member representative congress and the relevant decisions and work arrangements of Party organizations and higher-level trade union.
(2) Submit the work report of the member congress or the member representative congress and the important requests and reports to the Party organization and the higher-level trade union.
(3) Make trade union work plans and summaries.
(4) Put forward suggestions to enterprises on major issues related to the development of enterprises and the rights and interests of employees.
(5) The implementation of the budget of trade union funds and major financial expenditures.
(6) Other issues discussed and decided upon by the trade union committee.
In addition, the grassroots members of the trade union are also the working bodies of the Workers’ Congresses, responsible for the daily work of the Workers’ Congresses, and perform the following summarized functions in accordance with Article 22 of the “Provisions on the Democratic Management of Enterprises”:
- Propose election plans and solicit proposals from employee representatives;
- Responsible for the preparation and organization of the conference;
- Report to the congress on the implementation of the resolution, the handling of the proposal and the implementation of the disclosure of factory affairs, etc.;
- During the intersessional period, supervise the handling of proposals and the implementation of the disclosure of factory affairs;
- Establish and manage the work archives of the workers’ congress, and carry out publicity and education on democratic management to the staff and workers;
- Accept the complaints and suggestions of employee representatives and safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of employee representatives.
We have briefly introduced the definitions and responsibilities of trade union, Workers’ Congresses and Trade Union Member Congresses, as well as trade union Committees. As representatives and defenders of the interests of the broad masses of staff and workers, trade unions have the basic duty of safeguarding the legitimate rights and interests of staff and workers.
When a labor dispute occurs between labor and management, the legitimate rights and interests of employees are infringed, and serious events or problems such as safety production accidents occur, the trade union should provide corresponding assistance to the employees to protect the employees’ legitimate interests. Employees as the cornerstone of enterprise development, enterprises should be fully aware of the relevant responsibilities of trade unions, attach importance to communication with employees through trade unions, and maximize the protection of employees’ interests and promote the development of enterprises.
 Regulations on the Work of Trade Union in Enterprises, Article 15 The meeting of the members (standing committees) of the enterprise trade union shall generally meet once a quarter to discuss or decide on the following issues: