Senior official breaks ground with speech
A senior official urged trade unions on Friday to guarantee workers' right to rest and ensure they work "happily and with esteem".
Unions should take the initiative to protect workers' rights in terms of employment, payment, social insurance, work safety and rest, said Liu Yunshan, a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee.
He was speaking at the opening ceremony of the 16th National Congress of the All-China Federation of Trade Unions.
Top leaders including President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang attended the ceremony at the Great Hall of the People along with 1,900 union representatives.
Li Jirong, chairman of Shanghai SAIC Motor Corp's trade union, said it is the first time the central leadership has placed such a high priority in an official speech on workers' right to rest and on the importance of working happily.
The speech "has shown the direction for trade unions' work", he said. "Unions should pay more attention to workers' mental and psychological health," said Li, whose union has 190,000 members.
A series of worker suicides at contract manufacturer Foxconn in 2010 focused media attention on employees' working conditions and their psychological problems as a result of long working hours and the lack of a working relationship.
Guo Zhigang, a technician at a shipyard in Shanghai, said paid leave has not been widely applied in labor-intensive industries such as his.
He said unions should do more to implement paid leave and enable workers to have more flexible arrangements in terms of when and how to spend their holidays.
"Only when a worker has sufficient time to rest and be with his family can he enjoy a sense of happiness, which is an important part of the Chinese Dream," he said.
Although the Labor Law states that workers have five to 15 days' paid leave, the policy has never been fully carried out in many places.
Many migrant workers are also forced to work overtime, a report by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences said this month. More than 84 percent of migrant workers worked longer than 44 hours a week in 2012, the maximum number stated in the Labor Law.
"How to adapt to the diverse needs of workers, especially the younger generation, and ensure they work happily is a challenge for all trade unions," said Li from SAIC Motor.
Li Jianguo, chairman of the All-China Federation of Trade Unions, said it is unions' responsibility to protect workers' legal rights.
Unions will try to improve workers' income by promoting collective bargaining and solving problems of unpaid wages in the next five years, he said.
They should continue to expand the practice of collective bargaining, improve the system where pay is decided through negotiation, maintain steady growth in employees' income and supervise companies in solving arrears in wages, Li said.
As of June, there were about 2.7 million grassroots trade unions in China with 280 million members, 40 percent of them migrant workers, official statistics show.