Post-socialist trade unions: China and Russia Simon Clarke

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1 The author has been researching trade unions and the workers’ movement in Russia since 1991, involving extensive fieldwork, directly and in collaboration with Russian research teams. The idea of comparing the experience of trade unions in Russia and China first arose out of discussions with specialists on Chinese labour and trade unions on a visit to Hong Kong in 1995 (particularly Bill Taylor of City University and Gaochao Ho of the University of Science and Technology). This was followed up by a week of discussions with Bill Taylor and leading trade union specialists at the China Labour College in Beijing in 1998 (particularly Qi Li, Lin Fu and Kai Chang, now the first Professor of Industrial Relations at the People’s University in Beijing). I collaborated as a non-funded participant in a project comparing Russian and Chinese trade unions, directed by Bill Taylor. Our collaboration continued through two further visits to Hong Kong, working particularly with Bill Taylor and Qi Li, and a one-week visit to Beijing. I was finally able to conduct fieldwork on trade unions and industrial relations in China through participation in an intensive three-week field trip on behalf of the ILO, headed by Chang-Hee Lee and including Professors Anita Chan and Shi Meixia, in 2002.

2 In both cases the introduction of representative institutions was strongly influenced by fears induced by the rise of Solidarity in Poland, although the initial plans had preceded the Polish events (Moses 1987; Wilson 1990).

3 The provision of legal advice and representation was the main function of the alternative trade unions that emerged from the end of the 1980s.

4 The authority of Party secretaries in state-owned enterprises, which had been removed in 1986, was also reasserted at this time (Taylor, Chang and Li 2003: Chapter Three).

5 To say nothing of retaining their legal and institutional privileges and their very substantial financial and property assets.

6 Token employers’ organisations play an almost entirely passive role. For the case of Russia see Ashwin and Clarke 2002, pp. 145-6 and China see Clarke and Lee 2002.

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