union elections in shenzhen

In keeping with Shenzhen’s place at the core of Guangdong reforms, Shenzhen has announced that 163 companies with more than 1,000 employees will introduce elections for union leaders. These elected representatives will then work with the City, District and Precinct level union organizations in order to represent worker rights in negotiations with company management. According to Southern Daily, the impetus for this move has been ongoing independent worker demands for better wages and benefits. Indeed, the first company to implement the election system was OMO, a German company with a plant at Bantian. The article notes that holding union representative elections seemed to have dispelled worker dissatisfaction.

I’m not sure how to interpret this development other than to note that provincial Party Secretary, Wang Yang is actively promoting this reform. Indeed, as we approach the Two Conferences season, Wang Yang has been very active promoting “Happy Guangdong (幸福广东)” and its recognizably middle class values. It is also worth mentioning that the targeted 163 companies are large and many are foreign. Hopefully progressive change at larger plants will help less protected members of the workforce. The problem, of course, is that like the US American workforce, the Chinese workforce is fragmented into segments that receive more and less protection depending not only on worker skills, but also public visibility. Large, international companies are monitored not only by Chinese unions and news media, but also to some degree by foreign groups and media. In contrast, a large segment of the population works under unseen conditions in smaller factories, restaurants, and services or does piecework at home.

But still. One hopes.

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