Negotiating for Social Justice
Edited by Susan Hayter
Chapter 8: Collective Bargaining in Transition: Measuring the Effects of Collective Voice in China
Chang Hee Lee and Mingwei Liu 8.1 INTRODUCTION In recent years, there have been significant developments in industrial relations in China – including a successful campaign to organize Wal-Mart and other MNCs, adoption of ‘pro-worker’ Labour Contract Law and other regulations, and the expansion of collective bargaining coverage. However, at the same time, many hold sceptical views on the effectiveness of trade unions and industrial relations in China, which lack fundamental rights such as freedom of association and the right to strike. So we have a rather complex – often contradictory – picture of trade unions and industrial relations in China. This chapter attempts to give some preliminary answers to the question – what do unions do in China? Given the importance of labour market developments in China for the global economy and labour market, it is a crucial question to ask. At the same time, given the diversity, complexity and pace of change, it is a question beset with pitfalls. In this chapter, we try to find some answers, with a full knowledge of the risks involved, by reviewing previous quantitative surveys and case studies, and also through our own recent survey of workplace industrial relations in China. In the following section (8.2), we will describe recent changes in industrial relations, to set the institutional context of our analytical attempt to measure effects of trade unions and collective bargaining in China. In section 8.3 we clarify a number of methodological issues associated with quantitative analysis of trade unions and collective bargaining in China....
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