China due to enact new labor law after heated debate

Author: Associated Press, Published on: 27 June 2007

The law...would set standards for labor contracts, use of temporary workers and severance pay...In April 2006, the government published the first draft of the law and...received more than 190,000 responses from workers and...companies...
Foreign business groups expressed alarm at proposed restrictions on firing workers, limits on use of temporary workers and a provision giving the All-China Federation of Trade Unions — the umbrella group for unions permitted by the communist government — a voice in staffing decisions...Labor activists reacted angrily to the foreign lobbying. The U.S.-based group Global Labor Strategies dubbed companies involved the "sweatshop lobby" and accused them of pushing Beijing to "weaken or abandon significant pro-worker reforms." Apparently stung by that criticism, the European Chamber of Commerce in China backed away from earlier criticism of the law..." The business comments appear to have prompted Beijing to remove the most contentious provisions. The third draft of the longer requires approval from the official labor body to fire workers...The ACFTU often is regarded not as an advocate for better pay and working conditions for employees but as an intermediary that represents employers to workers..."As these new laws are enforced," [Ronald Brown, a specialist in Chinese law at the University of Hawaii,] said, "the labor union is likely going to have to accept a larger role as an adversary and an advocate, negotiating better conditions for its members."

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