China issues new regulations on labour dispute resolution – seeks to create early warning system

As labour unrest continues to rise, the Chinese government has unveiled a new set of regulations that it hopes will enhance the labour dispute resolution process and, crucially, create an "early warning system" that can prevent minor disputes from snowballing into full-scale strikes and protests.

The Regulations on Consultation and Mediation for Labour Disputes in Enterprises (企业劳动争议协商调解规定), which will go into effect on 1 January 2012, are a positive development that shows the government is clearly aware of the need to create a mechanism for resolving labour disputes within enterprises. However, the regulations still fall short of producing a framework that can yield long term and sustainable results that benefit both labour and management.

The regulations mandate the creation of labour dispute mediation committees in all large-scale enterprises (such committees will be voluntary in smaller enterprises) tasked with resolving disputes as quickly as possible so as to preclude the need for more formal procedures such as arbitration and litigation. Both the civil courts and labour dispute arbitration committees (LDACs) have been overwhelmed with labour dispute cases since the Labour Dispute Mediation and Arbitration Law was introduced in 2008, and the government hopes that by resolving disputes "in house," enterprise mediation committees can relieve some of the burden on these public institutions.

The mediation committees are required to "thoroughly listen to both parties' statements, and adopt flexible and accommodating methods to patiently, carefully, and meticulously persuade both parties and help the parties reach a voluntary settlement agreement." (Article 25).

In addition, the regulations direct local government departments of Human Resources and Social Security to:

Coordinate with trade union and enterprise representatives to establish a mechanism to mediate and address emergencies involving large-scale labour disputes of a collective nature, working together to promote the prevention and mediation of labour disputes. (Article 7.3)

The government's focus on prevention and mediation is understandable given the continually high numbers of labour disputes in China. However the regulations might have been more effective if they had prepared the groundwork for long-term and effective collective bargaining between worker and employer representatives. Collective bargaining does not require a mediation committee but relies on face to face negotiation between the two parties to reach an agreement. It allows each party to forcefully defend their position so that the best possible deal for both sides can be attained. The bargaining process can often be a long, painstaking experience but the results are usually more durable than a quick fix agreed under pressure through mediation.

Indeed, it could be argued that collective bargaining is a better labour dispute prevention method than the system outlined in the new regulations because both parties will be fully apprised of each other's bottom-line and understand what demands are reasonable and realistic and what are not.

Under the government's proposed system however the mediation committees will have a much broader role than simply dispute resolution. The committee will in addition be responsible for monitoring the compliance of individual and collective labour contracts, labour laws, and internal work regulations, and of investigating any complaints made by employees in relation to the above. The committee is also charged with publicizing information regarding labour laws, regulations, and policies, supervising the implementation of labour dispute settlements and mediating issues that arise from their implementation, and, most importantly, participating in discussions on major enterprise plans that are likely to touch on employees' interests such as mergers, takeovers or enterprise relocation.

This expanded role is the key to the government's hopes of creating an "early warning system," but it will only be effective if the workers themselves trust the committee to look after their rights and interests. And such trust will only be gained through the committee's actions.

See below for more details on the establishment and composition of the committees, and the process of consultation and mediation.

Establishment and composition of labour dispute mediation committees

The regulations mandate that all large-scale enterprises must establish mediation committees. In very large enterprises (those with more than one work location, for instance), the regulations encourage the formation of committee sub-branches and subgroups, "according to need." The mediation committee is to be made up of an equal number of representatives from employees and management, with the total members to be decided by agreement of both parties. Employee representatives are to come from either the employees' trade union committee members or representatives elected by the entire workforce (Article 15). The chairman of the mediation committee must either be a member of the trade union committee or an individual agreed upon by both management and labour. Members are to be appointed to a minimum one-year term, may serve consecutive terms, and are to be paid their normal salaries when attending to mediation committee business (Article 20). The Mediation Committee is expected to govern itself, including appointment of internal positions and dismissal of members for dereliction of duties (Article 35).

Consultation

When a labour dispute occurs, either party may request to consult with the other party. If there is no response to the request after five days, it will be regarded as a refusal of the consultation request (Article 10). The employee may request the participation and assistance of the trade union or any other representative in the talks and the union may also participate in the talks on its own initiative (Article 9). If a settlement agreement is reached, the parties must memorialize it in a signed agreement, and it shall have binding force should the dispute eventually go to arbitration (Article 11). However, compromises proffered by either party during the talks, but not agreed upon by the other side, may not be used as evidence during arbitration. If either side refuses to engage in consultation, a settlement agreement is not reached or a party violates the settlement, a party may apply for mediation or arbitration (Article 12).

Mediation

Although the regulations mention the possibility of other organizations in which mediation may be conducted, such as village, township, and neighbourhood committees and labour employment and social security service centres, as well as other approved mediation organizations (Article 12), the regulations mostly cover the mediation work of the enterprise mediation committees. When a labour dispute occurs, a party may request mediation either orally or in writing, submitting the basic details of the dispute to the committee. If the request is oral, the committee will create a written record of the request (Article 21). If the issue qualifies as a labour dispute and both parties agree to mediation, the mediation committee must accept the mediation request within three working days; if the issue does not qualify as a labour dispute or if the other party does not agree to mediation, the mediation committee must give a written notification to the requesting party. The mediation committee may also request that both parties agree to mediation on its own initiative, without a mediation request from either party (Article 23). Absent agreement by the parties to extend the period, mediation must be completed within 15 days or else deemed to have been unsuccessful (Article 28).

Settlement agreements reached via mediation have binding force, and within 15 days after the agreement enters into force, both parties may agree to have a member of the LDAC examine the agreement; if the agreement is determined to be legal, the LDAC will issue a mediation agreement, which will allow the party to enforce the agreement in the courts. If parties do not apply to have the LDAC issue a mediation agreement, parties must seek arbitration for relief if one party breaches the settlement agreement. Absent new evidence, the LDAC should rule in accordance with the settlement agreement (Article 28).

In cases where a party does not agree to a request for mediation, mediation is unsuccessful, or a party breaches a settlement agreement, the mediation committee must provide written notification to the injured party regarding the right to arbitration (Article 30). The regulations also emphasize that the statute of limitations for the arbitration of labour disputes (normally one year) is suspended while the parties are in the process of initiating or conducting consultation or mediation, or the implementation of a settlement agreement; if talks fail or there is a breach of the settlement agreement, the count begins anew and parties have one year from the end of talks or the breach of the agreement to apply for arbitration (Article 31).


中华人民共和国人力资源和社会保障部令

第 17 号

《企业劳动争议协商调解规定》已经人力资源和社会保障部第76次部务会审议通过,现予公布,自2012年1月1日起施行。
部 长  尹蔚民
二〇一一年十一月三十日



企业劳动争议协商调解规定

第一章 总则


第一条 为规范企业劳动争议协商、调解行为,促进劳动关系和谐稳定,根据《中华人民共和国劳动争议调解仲裁法》,制定本规定。
第二条 企业劳动争议协商、调解,适用本规定。
第三条 企业应当依法执行职工大会、职工代表大会、厂务公开等民主管理制度,建立集体协商、集体合同制度,维护劳动关系和谐稳定。
第四条 企业应当建立劳资双方沟通对话机制,畅通劳动者利益诉求表达渠道。
劳动者认为企业在履行劳动合同、集体合同,执行劳动保障法律、法规和企业劳动规章制度等方面存在问题的,可以向企业劳动争议调解委员会(以下简称调解委员会)提出。调解委员会应当及时核实情况,协调企业进行整改或者向劳动者做出说明。
劳动者也可以通过调解委员会向企业提出其他合理诉求。调解委员会应当及时向企业转达,并向劳动者反馈情况。
第五条 企业应当加强对劳动者的人文关怀,关心劳动者的诉求,关注劳动者的心理健康,引导劳动者理性维权,预防劳动争议发生。
第六条 协商、调解劳动争议,应当根据事实和有关法律法规的规定,遵循平等、自愿、合法、公正、及时的原则。
第七条 人力资源和社会保障行政部门应当指导企业开展劳动争议预防调解工作,具体履行下列职责:
(一)指导企业遵守劳动保障法律、法规和政策;
(二)督促企业建立劳动争议预防预警机制;
(三)协调工会、企业代表组织建立企业重大集体性劳动争议应急调解协调机制,共同推动企业劳动争议预防调解工作;
(四)检查辖区内调解委员会的组织建设、制度建设和队伍建设情况。

第二章 协商

第八条 发生劳动争议,一方当事人可以通过与另一方当事人约见、面谈等方式协商解决。
第九条 劳动者可以要求所在企业工会参与或者协助其与企业进行协商。工会也可以主动参与劳动争议的协商处理,维护劳动者合法权益。
劳动者可以委托其他组织或者个人作为其代表进行协商。
第十条 一方当事人提出协商要求后,另一方当事人应当积极做出口头或者书面回应。5日内不做出回应的,视为不愿协商。
协商的期限由当事人书面约定,在约定的期限内没有达成一致的,视为协商不成。当事人可以书面约定延长期限。
第十一条 协商达成一致,应当签订书面和解协议。和解协议对双方当事人具有约束力,当事人应当履行。
经仲裁庭审查,和解协议程序和内容合法有效的,仲裁庭可以将其作为证据使用。但是,当事人为达成和解的目的作出妥协所涉及的对争议事实的认可,不得在其后的仲裁中作为对其不利的证据。
第十二条 发生劳动争议,当事人不愿协商、协商不成或者达成和解协议后,一方当事人在约定的期限内不履行和解协议的,可以依法向调解委员会或者乡镇、街道劳动就业社会保障服务所(中心)等其他依法设立的调解组织申请调解,也可以依法向劳动人事争议仲裁委员会(以下简称仲裁委员会)申请仲裁。

第三章 调解

第十三条 大中型企业应当依法设立调解委员会,并配备专职或者兼职工作人员。
有分公司、分店、分厂的企业,可以根据需要在分支机构设立调解委员会。总部调解委员会指导分支机构调解委员会开展劳动争议预防调解工作。
调解委员会可以根据需要在车间、工段、班组设立调解小组。
第十四条 小微型企业可以设立调解委员会,也可以由劳动者和企业共同推举人员,开展调解工作。
第十五条 调解委员会由劳动者代表和企业代表组成,人数由双方协商确定,双方人数应当对等。劳动者代表由工会委员会成员担任或者由全体劳动者推举产生,企业代表由企业负责人指定。调解委员会主任由工会委员会成员或者双方推举的人员担任。
第十六条 调解委员会履行下列职责:
(一)宣传劳动保障法律、法规和政策;
(二)对本企业发生的劳动争议进行调解;
(三)监督和解协议、调解协议的履行;
(四)聘任、解聘和管理调解员;
(五)参与协调履行劳动合同、集体合同、执行企业劳动规章制度等方面出现的问题;
(六)参与研究涉及劳动者切身利益的重大方案;
(七)协助企业建立劳动争议预防预警机制。
第十七条 调解员履行下列职责:
(一)关注本企业劳动关系状况,及时向调解委员会报告;
(二)接受调解委员会指派,调解劳动争议案件;
(三)监督和解协议、调解协议的履行;
(四)完成调解委员会交办的其他工作。
第十八条 调解员应当公道正派、联系群众、热心调解工作,具有一定劳动保障法律政策知识和沟通协调能力。调解员由调解委员会聘任的本企业工作人员担任,调解委员会成员均为调解员。
第十九条 调解员的聘期至少为1年,可以续聘。调解员不能履行调解职责时,调解委员会应当及时调整。
第二十条 调解员依法履行调解职责,需要占用生产或者工作时间的,企业应当予以支持,并按照正常出勤对待。
第二十一条 发生劳动争议,当事人可以口头或者书面形式向调解委员会提出调解申请。
申请内容应当包括申请人基本情况、调解请求、事实与理由。
口头申请的,调解委员会应当当场记录。
第二十二条 调解委员会接到调解申请后,对属于劳动争议受理范围且双方当事人同意调解的,应当在3个工作日内受理。对不属于劳动争议受理范围或者一方当事人不同意调解的,应当做好记录,并书面通知申请人。
第二十三条 发生劳动争议,当事人没有提出调解申请,调解委员会可以在征得双方当事人同意后主动调解。
第二十四条 调解委员会调解劳动争议一般不公开进行。但是,双方当事人要求公开调解的除外。
第二十五条 调解委员会根据案件情况指定调解员或者调解小组进行调解,在征得当事人同意后,也可以邀请有关单位和个人协助调解。
调解员应当全面听取双方当事人的陈述,采取灵活多样的方式方法,开展耐心、细致的说服疏导工作,帮助当事人自愿达成调解协议。
第二十六条 经调解达成调解协议的,由调解委员会制作调解协议书。调解协议书应当写明双方当事人基本情况、调解请求事项、调解的结果和协议履行期限、履行方式等。
调解协议书由双方当事人签名或者盖章,经调解员签名并加盖调解委员会印章后生效。
调解协议书一式三份,双方当事人和调解委员会各执一份。
第二十七条 生效的调解协议对双方当事人具有约束力,当事人应当履行。
双方当事人可以自调解协议生效之日起15日内共同向仲裁委员会提出仲裁审查申请。仲裁委员会受理后,应当对调解协议进行审查,并根据《劳动人事争议仲裁办案规则》第五十四条规定,对程序和内容合法有效的调解协议,出具调解书。
第二十八条 双方当事人未按前条规定提出仲裁审查申请,一方当事人在约定的期限内不履行调解协议的,另一方当事人可以依法申请仲裁。
仲裁委员会受理仲裁申请后,应当对调解协议进行审查,调解协议合法有效且不损害公共利益或者第三人合法利益的,在没有新证据出现的情况下,仲裁委员会可以依据调解协议作出仲裁裁决。
第二十九条 调解委员会调解劳动争议,应当自受理调解申请之日起15日内结束。但是,双方当事人同意延期的可以延长。
在前款规定期限内未达成调解协议的,视为调解不成。
第三十条 当事人不愿调解、调解不成或者达成调解协议后,一方当事人在约定的期限内不履行调解协议的,调解委员会应当做好记录,由双方当事人签名或者盖章,并书面告知当事人可以向仲裁委员会申请仲裁。
第三十一条 有下列情形之一的,按照《劳动人事争议仲裁办案规则》第十条的规定属于仲裁时效中断,从中断时起,仲裁时效期间重新计算:
(一)一方当事人提出协商要求后,另一方当事人不同意协商或者在5日内不做出回应的;
(二)在约定的协商期限内,一方或者双方当事人不同意继续协商的;
(三)在约定的协商期限内未达成一致的;
(四)达成和解协议后,一方或者双方当事人在约定的期限内不履行和解协议的;
(五)一方当事人提出调解申请后,另一方当事人不同意调解的;
(六)调解委员会受理调解申请后,在第二十九条规定的期限内一方或者双方当事人不同意调解的;
(七)在第二十九条规定的期限内未达成调解协议的;
(八)达成调解协议后,一方当事人在约定期限内不履行调解协议的。
第三十二条 调解委员会应当建立健全调解登记、调解记录、督促履行、档案管理、业务培训、统计报告、工作考评等制度。
第三十三条 企业应当支持调解委员会开展调解工作,提供办公场所,保障工作经费。
第三十四条 企业未按照本规定成立调解委员会,劳动争议或者群体性事件频发,影响劳动关系和谐,造成重大社会影响的,由县级以上人力资源和社会保障行政部门予以通报;违反法律法规规定的,依法予以处理。
第三十五条 调解员在调解过程中存在严重失职或者违法违纪行为,侵害当事人合法权益的,调解委员会应当予以解聘。

第四章 附则


第三十六条 民办非企业单位、社会团体开展劳动争议协商、调解工作参照本规定执行。
第三十七条 本规定自2012年1月1日起施行。
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