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Trade Union Revitalisation

Trends and Prospects in 34 Countries

Edited By Craig Phelan

Although trade unionism has been declining in virtually every part of the world, its continued demise is not a foregone conclusion. As it has throughout its history, trade unionism has demonstrated a capacity to adapt, to make its voice heard, to reassert its power. The scale and scope of experimentation taking place in the labour movement today is testimony not just to the depth of the crisis but also to the possibility of resurgence in the years ahead. This book is an essential resource for anyone wishing to know about contemporary labour issues. It offers a comprehensive introduction to the state of trade unionism in the world today, and the often innovative strategies and tactics trade unionists are using to revive their organisations in each of the major nations of the world. Leading labour scholars discuss, in clear prose, the health of the trade union movement, the present political and economic climate for trade union advancement, the dominant revitalisation strategies, and future prospects in each nation. Each chapter includes an up-to-date guide to further reading.


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The All China Federation of Trade Unions:Present Role, Trends and Prospects 489


BILL TAYLOR and QI LI The All China Federation of Trade Unions: Present Role, Trends and Prospects 1. Introduction In the period 1949 to 1978, the Chinese economy was organised under a centrally planned system resembling the soviet communist system. This system has been gradually replaced by capitalist economic relations since the 1980s and continues to reform today. The context of industrial relations in China is one of fundamental change, where institutions, ideologies and practices are all in constant flux. The All China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU), the official union body, has been more resistant to change than many other institutions in the reform, but economic, political and social forces are creating tremendous pressures for change. It remains unclear how the ACFTU will evolve within this context. This chapter will interlace descriptions of the shifting situation in China with analysis of the tensions within the ACFTU over self reform. 2. The General Situation of the ACFTU Status and Function The ACFTU is the only legally sanctioned representative of labour in China. The Trade Unions Law (2001) and the ACFTU’s Constitution (1998) specify that the ACFTU’s fundamental duty is to safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of employees (referred to as workers Bill Taylor and Qi Li 490 and staff members in Chinese, but include managers). The monopoly status of the ACFTU has at times been challenged by alternative independent union bodies, but none have the mass base or have been sustained long enough to pose serious competition. Central to...

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