The world's largest retailer, Wal-Mart, has been publicly warned by the All China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU) that it must allow trade unions in its 30 China stores, reported Xinhua. "For companies that deprive the rights of employees to establish trade unions, we reserve the right to resort to lawsuits," it said before the opening of the Chinese Trade Unions Congress in late September.
Wal-Mart maintained that it has followed Chinese law with regard to unions and set up channels to resolve complaints by its workers. All the legal rights of employees involving wage rises, promotion and vacations are written into contracts and included in the company's employee manual, it claimed. The retailer added that it had received no requests from employees to set up a union.
The ACFTU countered that employees were reluctant to bring up the issue with their employer for fear of losing their jobs, and that unions were legally required at all companies above a certain size. The ACFTU held that the right to form a trade union is fundamental in Chinese law and cannot be removed by any organisation or individual. The Xinhua report highlighted the issue of trade union fees – about 2 per cent of employees' salaries – as being one of the underlying issues in dispute.