The Actfu and Ntuc Are Not Really Trade Unions. Do You Agree?

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A trade union is generally seen as an organization of workers who have collectively banded together to improve their working conditions and enhance their status in society. (Tan 2007) Both trade unions in Singapore and China are similar in most important aspects, with some minor differences. Their functions, system, objectives, roles and relationship with their governments are rather similar. Their union structure and sizes are, however different. The main roles of trade unions in Singapore and China however, are seen to be rather different as compared to traditional trade unions. I do agree that the trade unions in these two countries are not really trade unions as they are fundamentally different from the unions in Western democracies. This essay will address some main similarities, differences, problems of the NTUC and the ACFTU and justifications to why they are not really trade unions.

Objectives and Missions

The main objectives of a trade union are to represent union members to seek better wages, terms and working conditions from their employers through collective bargaining, protecting the jobs of its members, forging a close working relationship with the workers for the benefit of the workers, and in some countries, play an active role in politics. (Tan 2007) Both the NUTC and ACFTU do not really follow the conventional union model. The defined mission of the NTUC seeks to help Singapore stay competitive, enhance the social status and well being of workers and to build a strong, responsible and caring labour movement (Tan 2007). While in China, the ACFTU seeks to safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of workers and staff members while protecting the overall interests of the entire Chinese people (Warner 2008).

System and Structure

The National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) of Singapore and the All China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU) follow a rather similar tripartite system. In this system, Unions, the government and employers are supposed to work closely to help each other achieve their needs.

In China, workers are represented by the ACFTU, one of the largest trade unions in the world, with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) at its helm. Employers in China are represented by the Chinese Enterprise Directors Association (CEDA) and the Ministry of Labour acts as the figurehead for the state (Warner 2008). The highest leading bodies of the ACFTU are the National Congress of Trade Unions and the Executive Committee. Several geographically organized industrial trade unions have been established according to the needs and structures of industries, local unions and the ACFTU (Ng & Warner 1998). There are currently 31 provincial trade union federations, 10 national industrial unions and 1.324 million grassroots trade union organizations affiliated to the ACFTU (ACFTU 2007).

In Singapore, the workers are represented by the NTUC, employers represented by the Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF) and the People’s Action Party will be the figurehead for the state. The Delegates conference, is the highest policy making body of the NTUC. Decisions made by the Delegates’ Conference will be carried out by a 21 member NTUC Central Committee. The Central Committee elects all key positions every four years by secret ballot. There are currently 60 trade unions and 6 taxi associations affiliated to the NTUC (NTUC 2009).

Government Relations

Trade unions in both China and Singapore both have close relations with their government. Leaders of the unions tend to be a standing member in their government party. Both the NTUC and ACFTU are widely seen as a de facto arm of the government (Barr 2000) and their role would be to serve the interest of the ruling parties (Taylor & Li 2007). The powers of the chairperson of both the NTUC and the ACFTU are not seem to be derived from the head of the organization as a leading political...
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