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Cablegate: Hubei's Experiment with "Direct Union

VZCZCXRO6778
PP RUEHCN RUEHGH
DE RUEHBJ #1628/01 2850855
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 120855Z OCT 06
FM AMEMBASSY BEIJING
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9542
RUEHC/DEPT OF LABOR WASHDC PRIORITY
INFO RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHDC
RUCPDOC/USDOC WASHDC
RUEHSH/AMCONSUL SHENYANG 6984
RUEHGH/AMCONSUL SHANGHAI 6082
RUEHCN/AMCONSUL CHENGDU 7330
RUEHGZ/AMCONSUL GUANGZHOU 1631
RUEHIN/AIT TAIPEI 5975
RUEHHK/AMCONSUL HONG KONG 8266
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 1362

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 BEIJING 021628

SIPDIS

SIPDIS
SENSITIVE

DEPT PASS USTR FOR KARESH, A. ROSENBERG, MCCARTIN
LABOR FOR ILAB - CARTER, OWENS, HELM, ZHAO, SCHOEPFLE
TREAS FOR OASIA/ISA-CUSHMAN
USDOC FOR 4420/ITA/MAC/MCQUEEN
GENEVA FOR CHAMBERLIN

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ELAB PHUM EINV PGOV CH
SUBJECT: HUBEI'S EXPERIMENT WITH "DIRECT UNION
ELECTIONS"

(U) SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED: NOT FOR INTERNET
DISTRIBUTION.

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: The All China Federation of Trade
Unions (ACFTU) is experimenting in Hubei Province with
direct elections of enterprise-level union leaders,
but the rules ensure that Communist Party
organizations and regional ACFTU offices control the
selection of candidates and also give regional ACFTU
offices power to reject election results. The program
reflects ACFTU's recognition that its enterprise-level
unions are weak, with a tendency to passively await
instructions from higher-ups in the ACFTU apparatus
rather than respond to workers. By giving workers a
say in selecting their representatives, the program is
meant to make ACFTU unions more energetic and
proactive. However, there is no sign that the Hubei
ACFTU is rethinking its conflicted mandate to promote
both workers interests and stability in production.
At the same time, by providing detailed provincial
guidance that inserts regional ACFTU offices and the
Party into enterprise-level union elections, ACFTU has
made the emergence of genuinely worker-controlled
unions more difficult. End Summary.

2. (SBU) In July 2005, the Hubei provincial branch
of the All China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU)
issued a circular on strengthening direct elections of
enterprise-level union leaders, and detailed guidance
on how to carry out such elections on a pilot basis.
Laboff met with Hubei ACFTU officials on September 28,
2006 to discuss Hubei's experiment in promoting union
elections.

3. (SBU) Article 9 of China's Trade Union Law
provides that enterprise-level union leaders be
"democratically elected," but such elections rarely
take place. Union leaders are generally appointed
through a process of consultation between employers
and higher level (city or county-wide) ACFTU
officials. Legal prohibitions on management personnel
or their relatives serving as company union leaders
are widely ignored throughout Cina.

4. (SBU) Hubei ACFTU General Secretar Tan Biyuan
told Laboff that the election promotion policy arose
in response to the provincial government's call for
initiatives to promote a "harmonious society" in
keeping with Central Government policy. Tan said
ACFTU wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to
promote democratization within its unions, and combat
ACFTU's tendency to act as a "top-down" organization.
The effort started with 50 enterprises in 2004, and
expanded to 477 mostly small- and medium-sized non-
state-owned enterprises after ACFTU published its
election regulations in July 2005. Tan stressed that
ACFTU's notion of democratization did not mean
unlimited democracy. He said union work must be in
line with Party leadership, but that grass-roots union
members should participate actively in union work and
be free to express themselves within the union. He
said ACFTU is still exploring how to accommodate
democratization.

5. (SBU) Despite its numerous references to
democracy, ACFTU's guidance on union elections
contains some highly undemocratic elements. Election
procedures are democratic and straight-forward, but
elections are to be managed by "election working
groups" made up of officials from local Party
organizations and from higher levels of the ACTFU.
There are several methods for selecting candidates,
including self-nomination, but according to Tan,
"election working groups" play a powerful consultative
role in assessing whether candidates have the required

BEIJING 00021628 002 OF 002


qualifications. The first qualification listed in the
election guidance is that candidates "diligently carry
out the Party's direction and policies." Implementing
measures for the pilot election program also require
higher ACFTU organizations to approve the results of
union elections within an enterprise.

6. (SBU) Tan and others said they are optimistic
about the union election program, although it is still
early in its pilot phase. They said that newly
elected union presidents appear to be more effective
and enthusiastic than those selected through "non-
democratic" means in the past. Tan said this has led
to greater interest in the union among workers. Tan
added that elected union leaders require a lot of
training because they do not know how the union
functions, and in some cases, ACFTU has had trouble
with employers who do not want to provide union
leaders with the time, space and resources required to
conduct union work, although it is required by law.
When asked by Laboff how far ACFTU was willing to go
in its democratization, neither Tan nor any of the
other ACFTU officials had any response beyond hoping
to organize more unions and promote the use of
collective contracts. ACFTU did not indicate any
plans to make greater use of collective bargaining to
agree upon contract terms. With respect to wages, Tan
said that ACFTU and employers generally follow basic
guidelines issued by the Ministry of Labor and Social
Affairs.

7. (SBU) Comment: That ACFTU recognizes the weakness
of its enterprise-level unions, and sees greater
participation by workers in choosing their union
representatives as a solution is a positive
development, and may result in marginally more active
unions. It falls far short, however, of progress on
freedom of association, and the Hubei ACFTU shows no
interest in making increased use of its already
significant powers under Chinese law to promote
workers' rights and interests. Nor is it rethinking
its conflicted mandate to protect both workers rights
and "stability" in production. At the same time, by
providing detailed provincial guidance that inserts
regional ACFTU offices and the Party into enterprise-
level union elections, ACFTU has made the emergence of
genuinely worker-controlled unions more difficult.

RANDT

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