Law would help Chinese workers unionize

Chinese workers assemble electronic components at the Foxconn's Shenzhen factory in southern Guangzhou province.


Steve Chiotakis: We've seen big worker strikes at Honda and Toyota factories in China this year, a sign of unrest in the workshop of the world. And now, a proposed law in China's main manufacturing province would give these workers broad new rights to unionize. Marketplace China Bureau Chief Rob Schmitz has the latest.

Rob Schmitz: There's at least one worker strike a day in Guangdong province. Up til now, workers were forced to bargain through an essentially powerless government-sanctioned union. William Nee, spokesman for the China Labor Bulletin, says this new law will give workers the right to represent themselves.

William Nee: It has the potential to be a game-changer.

The law says if a fifth of the workforce at a factory asks for collective bargaining, then management would have to sit down and listen. Nee says this is all part of a government response to this year's strikes at Honda and Toyota, and to a spate of worker suicides at iPhone-maker Foxconn.

Nee: They're struggling for a way to try and figure this out and find a way to have more peaceful and more harmonious labor relations. These regulations are a way to try and address that.

And they're a signal to foreign firms that doing business in China may soon get more expensive.

In Shanghai, I'm Rob Schmitz for Marketplace.

About the author

Rob Schmitz is Marketplace’s China correspondent, based in Shanghai.


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