A union has been created at a Taiwanese factory that was cited by China's state-sanctioned labor group as an example of anti-union foreign companies, union leaders said yesterday.
A union affiliated with the All-China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU) was formed at a factory owned by Foxconn Technology Group (富士康) in Shenzhen on Dec. 31, the ACFTU said on its Web site.
The group is the umbrella body for unions permitted by Beijing.
The announcement comes amid a campaign to boost the group's presence in foreign companies, which employ some 25 million people in China but until recently resisted allowing labor organizing.
ACFTU officials said last year they would target Foxconn, along with Dell Inc and Eastman Kodak Co, for unionization and cited them as examples of anti-union foreign employers.
Foxconn representatives were absent from the meeting at which creation of the union was approved, although five local ACFTU officials attended, the statement said.
"In forming a union, it's important to hold talks with the enterprises and win management's support, but that doesn't mean workers can't set up labor unions without that approval," Guo Wencai, the ACFTU's director of grassroots organizing, was quoted as saying in the statement.
Chinese law allows the creation of a union at any workplace with at least 25 employees. It does not require the employer's approval.
The statement said that the union was set up at a factory run by Foxconn subsidiary Hongfujin Precision Industry Co (鴻富錦精密), the largest Taiwanese investor in China. Foxconn is the trade name of Taiwan's Hon Hai Precision Industry Co (鴻海精密), the world's biggest electronics contract manufacturer.
Hongfujin produces iPod music players for Apple Inc and other international brands.
The company was involved in a controversy last year when it sued two Chinese journalists who reported that it mistreated employees.
Apple conducted an investigation and said it found infractions of its code of conduct but no serious abuse. Hongfujin later withdrew its lawsuit.
The ACFTU targeted foreign companies in an organizing campaign last year.
Its most prominent success was at Wal-Mart Stores Inc, which agreed in August to help set up unions at its 62 Chinese outlets.
The group said that since Guo accused Dell and Kodak of being anti-union, unions have been set up at both companies.
The ACFTU set a goal of organizing unions at 70 percent of foreign companies this year after meeting its goal of 60 percent in a campaign launched last year.
China has about 300,000 foreign-funded enterprises with 25 million employees , or more than 10 percent of its urban workforce, government statistics showed.
Unions affiliated with the ACFTU represent some 150 million Chinese workers. The government does not allow independent labor organizing and activists are frequently jailed and harassed.
The ACFTU said its goal was to prevent worker-management confrontations.
It is widely seen more as a tool of government control than as an advocate for better pay and working conditions for employees.
The Foxconn union was not set up by employees but by ACFTU organizers sent by the local branch, the ACFTU statement said.
It said the five members of the union's steering committee were all full-time employees of the Shenzhen ACFTU office.
"This is entirely in accordance with the law," Guo was quoted as saying.
The company's Hongfujin factory employs about 200,000 Chinese workers, the ACFTU said. It wasn't clear how many had joined the new union.
Guo was quoted as saying the unionization at Hongfujin was a "breakthrough development."
He said company officials had said they supported unionization, but accused them of repeatedly delaying talks.
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