Collective Bargaining in China: Actors, Processes and Outcomes

  • CHEN, Feng (PI)

    Project: Research project

    Project Details


    The Honda strike in May 2010 triggered worker protests across China. Encouragingly, almost half the strikes reportedly concluded with some form of collective bargaining (CB) occurring between management and workers, and a pay raise. Nevertheless, the emerging form of CB in China differs from its counterparts in industrialized countries in important ways. While it constitutes one of workers’ collective rights in the West, exercised through trade unions in an institutionalized setting, CB in China has thus far remained largely spontaneous and scattered. Although local governments and trade unions have come to recognize its ability to resolve industrial conflicts and have begun promoting it, enormous uncertainties stand in the process of institutionalizing CB, as it may engender changes in power relations within factories.

    This project aims to understand the contexts, processes, actors, and impact on labor relations of emerging CB practices in Chinese factories. Specifically, it seeks to accomplish the following goals:

    To examine the socioeconomic context that gives rise to CB in China and explain why it becomes increasingly important for labor disputes resolution in the workplace. To explore whether strikes and CB increase workers’ awareness of collective rights and how workers were organized and represented during the CB process, without the presence of trade unions, and assess the long-term implications of CB for China’s labor movement.

    To investigate the attitude of local governments and trade unions toward CB and their attempt to regularize it, and assess the effect of different models of bargaining (i.e., government-driven, union-driven, and strike-driven bargaining) across the regions.

    To explore the bargaining process and the patterns of interaction among concerned parties, i.e., governmental agencies, trade unions, worker representatives, and employers, and explain the factors that shape the result of bargaining.

    As the current theories on CB is based on western experiences, the project stands to make a novel contribution to the CB literature by revealing the socioeconomic and institutional settings in which CB arises, and its actors, processes, mechanisms and outcomes. The project will advance our understanding of the development of the Chinese labor movement in light of workers’ growing awareness of collective rights and the role of trade unions facing workers’ rising demand for genuine representation. This research will also extend our understanding of the changing state-labor relations by exploring how the state’s response to CB shapes the constraints, as well as opportunities, facing China’s labor movement in the years to come.
    Effective start/end date1/01/1431/12/17

    UN Sustainable Development Goals

    In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This project contributes towards the following SDG(s):

    • SDG 8 - Decent Work and Economic Growth
    • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions


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