In 2010, the ACFTU, under the leadership of its former Chair Wang Zhaoguo, launched an initiative to establish trade unions and collective wage bargaining in all enterprises. Also known as the “Two Paramount Priorities”, it aims to promote union rights, recruit the vast majority of workers into trade unions and encourage workers to turn to unions when they are in trouble. The move also seeks to involve labour and management in the bargaining process, keep workers’ wages on a par with inflation and profit growth, set up a wage determination mechanism whereby workers can share the benefits of enterprise development, boost workers’ income and foster workplace harmony.
Trade unions’ hard work has been rewarded, yielding five positive results:
1. The trade union movement has become stronger. According to ACFTU figures, by the end of 2013, 2.76 million grassroots unions had been established, covering 6.53 million enterprises and institutions, with total membership growing to 290 million.
2. Labour relations have become stable and harmonious. Collective bargaining has given workers a platform to voice their concerns. As a result, a normal wage growth mechanism has been created, thus balancing the interests of all parties.
3.Collective bargaining has boosted workers’ income. Industries and enterprises that have implemented collective bargaining have seen an obvious rise in workers’ earnings. Take Jiangsu: in 2012, 54,000 enterprises in that province awarded 2.5 million workers an average wage rise of 11.3%.
4.Collective bargaining has stabilized the workforce. With collective bargaining in place, hiring practices have been standardized and wage distribution in enterprises has become more transparent. For instance, the public transport industry in northeast China’s Shenyang City used to have a rapid turnover of bus drivers. Now many drivers who left their jobs are beginning to return.
5.The influence of trade unions has expanded. Collective bargaining empowers trade unions to effectively protect and represent workers, thus boosting the image of trade unions. A survey conducted by the catering industry in Wuhan City reveals that 100% of the workers in the industry knew about the Collective Wage Contract for the Catering Industry in Wuhan; 100% of those surveyed knew that the contract had been signed by trade unions on their behalf; and 100% recognized the positive role of trade unions in raising their wages.