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The All China Federation of Trade Unions: the challenge of labour unrest

By Timothy Edward Pringle


This thesis sets out to investigate the possibility that the All China Federation of Trade\ud Unions is capable of reform in the face of the development of capitalist employment\ud relations. The thesis is centred on the examination of hitherto under-researched areas of\ud ACFTU activity by researching the motivations, conditions and actors involved in\ud three local-level pilot projects: collective bargaining, a trade union rights centre and\ud enterprise-level trade union elections. The fieldwork is contextualised by historical\ud summaries of the development of China‟s industrial relations and Party and trade union\ud responses to labour unrest in both the state and private sectors since the establishment\ud of the People‟s Republic in 1949. The results of my research demonstrate that it is no\ud longer appropriate to refer to the ACFTU as a monolithic organisation. Furthermore,\ud my argument departs from mainstream views of the organisation by locating the\ud impetus for trade union reform in the challenge of increasingly sophisticated labour\ud militancy from below, rather than reacting to orders from above. I conclude that while\ud the pilot projects studied each have their own merits and qualifications, taken as a\ud whole they prove that the ACFTU is capable of gradual reform from below. In the light\ud of the improved relations between the ACFTU and the International Trade Union\ud Confederation, this thesis speaks to this fact and aims to contribute to future\ud engagements by expanding the knowledge on which dialogue and trade union\ud exchanges must be based if they are to have any chance of success

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