The government of the southern province of Guangdong publicly issued draft Collective Bargaining and Collective Contract Regulations, which, if passed into law, would grant employees a right to strike in certain circumstances.
According to the draft regulations, if no less than 1/3 of all employees or employee representative council members demand that a collective bargaining process be initiated, the company union or (if the company has no labor union) the upper level union should send a written demand to the management for collective bargaining. The management must respond to such demand within 20 days after receipt of the demand notice.If the management fails to respond or refuses the demand for collective bargaining without justification, and the employees go on strike, then the employermay not terminate the striking employees. This would put further pressure on companies to engage in good-faith collective bargaining with employees if and when such a demand is made by the company union or other employee representatives.
However, if the management agrees to collective bargaining, and during the collective bargaining process some employees strike or engage in other disruptive activities, e.g. blocking entrances or exits of the company’s facility, then such employees can be terminated if their conduct is defined as serious violation of company rules in the company’s legally adopted rules or policies.
In a related development, the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security, the All-China Federation of Trade Unions, and the All-China Association of Enterprises recently issued a notice requiring their local counterparts to enhance efforts to initiate collective bargaining with companies. The goal set out in the above notice is that no less than 80% of all employers in China shall have established collective bargaining mechanisms and begun conducting collective bargaining with employees. This notice and the above Guangdong draft regulations indicate a trend that the Chinese government is trying to use collective bargaining as a tool to increase workers’ wages and welfare benefits. Another purpose of the government’s push for collective bargaining may be to use it as a tool to reduce the tension in labor relations, and thus reduce the number of strikes and other forms of labor unrest.
According to China Labor Bulletin, a labor rights group, the number of strikes during the first quarter of 2014 increased by 31% as compared to the first quarter last year.