Doing business with China: the dilemma for unions

Source: Transport International, Issue 32, July 2008

For most of the planet’s working people, China – the country set to become the world’s biggest economy – is omnipresent; via our television screens, through the Chinese goods in our shops, and reflected in the prices of the things we buy.

The repressive actions of China’s forces against Tibetan protesters and human rights activists focused on the Beijing Olympics have starkly underlined the question of China’s systematic denial of basic rights.

For China’s working people, the lack of labour rights is a question that does not look as if it will be quickly resolved. There are no independent trade unions in China. While the explicit right to strike was removed from the constitution in 1982, the current situation remains ambiguous. Considerable debate around explicitly reinstating the right to strike continues. But the country’s booming economy and the increased awareness of a new generation of workers have led to a wave of industrial action over the past couple of years.

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