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BEIJING -- Wal-Mart has become the target of the All-China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU) for refusing to establish trade unions in its branches in China, according to local reports.
Before the opening of the Chinese Trade Unions' 14th National Congress Sept. 22, the ACFTU officially urged Wal-Mart to establish trade unions.
"For companies depriving the rights of employees to establish trade unions, we reserve the right of resorting to lawsuits," the ACFTU announced.
Wal-Mart's China headquarters responded the next day that "it had constituted a series of regulations under Chinese laws, especially those that relate to trade unions, offering effective channels to resolve complaints from employees," according to reports.
"All the legal rights of employees, involving wage rises, promotion, and vacations, have been written in contracts and the company's employee manual," a Wal-Mart spokesman said.
According to the ACFTU, participation in trade unions is a basic right of employees in all enterprises in China, enshrined in law, which cannot be removed by any organization or individual.
Wal-Mart said that according to Chinese law, a trade union could be installed only at the free request of employees, and since there have been no requests yet, there is no necessity to establish a union.
But the ACFTU contended that although employees of foreign-funded enterprises wish to have local trade unions of their own, they cannot afford to raise the issue with their employers for fear of losing their jobs or other benefits.
Since November 2000 all efforts by the ACFTU to urge Wal-Mart to establish trade unions have been in vain.
"We have contacted Wal-Mart several times," said Feng Lijun, an ACFTU official, "but no progress has been made so far."
Xu Xicheng, vice chairman of the ACFTU, told Wal-Mart it should "establish trade unions sooner than later, and actively rather than passively."
Insiders say the actual reason for Wal-Mart's refusal to institute trade unions is to reduce expenses. According to the regulations of Chinese trade unions, the fees managed by trade unions account for 2 percent of employees' total salaries, of which 60 percent returns to employees in bonuses, and 40 percent is spent on the daily work of trade unions.