Chinese Unions Fail to Cover 100 Million Migrant Workers (story in Chinese)

October 27, 2004

The All-China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU) has accused a number of multinational companies involved in the retail, computer and fast-food businesses of refusing to set up branches of the ACFTU. The ACFTU is the only legal union in China, and branches are not selected by a vote of employees, but instead arranged by ACFTU officials together with company management. When a branch is set up, dues are deducted from employees' wages. One ACFTU official threatened to seek punitive fines against multinationals that persist in refusing an ACFTU branch.

Kodak, one of the multinationals criticized by the ACFTU, asserted that it supported the establishment of authentic trade unions, but they must be "voluntary associations of employees. If our employees chose to do so, Kodak would fully support them.”

The Chinese government recognizes the ACFTU, a body closely connected to the Communist Party, as the sole representative of Chinese workers. The government does not recognize the international right of its workers to freely organize trade unions and to bargain collectively. Worker demonstrations and strikes are not tolerated and often lead to detentions and jail sentences.