Workers at the Shanghai supermarkets of French retail giant Carrefour will get a 7.5 percent pay increase under an agreement negotiated by the trade union and management. The agreement also includes a bonus for employees who have worked at the company for more than one year, as well as medical benefits.
Trade union officials told the China Daily newspaper that the pay increase had been a hard-fought victory after years of management intransigence and refusal to negotiate.
“After our repeated and patient attempts to explain the mission of Chinese unions, which is to support the development of enterprises and protect workers' rights, the employer finally understood and agreed to hold the talks," said Mao Ronghua, deputy head of the Shanghai Municipal Federation of Trade Unions.
However, Carrefour employees interviewed by the China Daily seemed less impressed with the union’s efforts, pointing out that the deal would only benefit the lowest paid, and even then it would bring monthly pay levels to just a few hundred yuan above the minimum wage. Moreover, employees complained that the agreement took no account of how long workers had been employed at the company.
“Although I've seen a wage increase in the past two years, I'm still paid almost the lowest wages in the company, more or less as much as new staff members make, and I have worked here for eight years,” said Zhu Xuefeng, a 36-year-old worker with the company's pricing division. “I hope they (the union, the employer and workers' representatives) will take employees' experience into account when they decide our wages.”
Although the Carrefour agreement was billed in the official media as collective bargaining between employees and employer, it seems that the 6,500 employees were not really consulted in the process. Rather, the agreement was part of the All-China Federation of Trade Unions’ (ACFTU) on-going campaign to get businesses in China owned by Fortune 500 companies to sign up to collective wage negotiations.
The ACFTU hopes that by the end of 2013, about 95 percent of all Fortune 500 companies operating in China will have engaged in collective wage negotiations. Approximately 80 percent of the 4,100 enterprises set up by Fortune 500 companies in China had introduced such a system by the end of 2011, Zhang Jianguo, director of the ACFTU’s collective contract department, told China Daily.
Zhang said the ACFTU was targeting Fortune 500 companies because “those companies play an important role in China's economic and social development and they set an example for other enterprises.” However, probably just as important for the ACFTU is that such a campaign boosts its public image, which has been at a low ebb for a long time.