From the Desk of Anita chan, Contributing Editor, Australia

Notoriously anti-union Wal-Mart buckles in pro-union China
8,500 at Wal-Mart win 9% pay hike in new collective agreement

(Anita Chan is Visiting Research Fellow, Contemporary China Centre, Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia.)

By Guan Xiaofeng

China Daily

SHENZHEN — More than 8,500 employees of Wal-Mart in Shenzhen received a 9 per cent wage rise thanks to a collective contract signed by unions and the retail giant on Thursday, July 24, 2008.

The agreement introduces annual wage negotiations and states that the minimum wage offered by the firm should be higher than the Guangdong city's monthly minimum rate of 1,000 yuan ($147).

Wal-Mart has already signed collective contracts with unions in Shenyang, Liaoning province, and Quanzhou, Fujian province.

The Shenzhen agreement, which was the result of 18 months of tough negotiations between the company and unions, was backed by two-thirds of the city's Wal-Mart staff.

Some voted against because the average pay rise for this year and next fell short of the 12 percent originally called for by union negotiators.

The contract includes other agreements on working hours, paid vacation, social security and training.

Wang Tongxin, vice-chairman of the city's trade union federation, said the contract sets a "good example" for major foreign companies in China.

"This is a win-win contract which has balanced the interests of workers and management," he said.

Wal-Mart has a strong presence in the southern city, with 16 of its 107 Chinese outlets located there. The retailer's China headquarters is also in the city.

Li Yixin, the chief representative of Wal-Mart trade union in Shenzhen, said more than 90 percent of the company's employees are union members.

Vivi Mou, a public relations manager with Wal-Mart, said in a statement that the company "respects and follows all local laws wherever we operate".

"The collective contract is based on our mutual understanding of respect for the individual and the healthy growth of the business," the statement said.

She said the company has no timetable for signing collective contracts with unions in other parts of China.

Peng Yi, a spokeswoman for the All-China Federation of Trade Unions, said the contract shows Wal-Mart has taken an active attitude towards signing collective contracts.

26 July 2008 — Return to cover.