Watch VideoPlay Video
Trade unions should be the main mediator between employers and employees, especially in times of crisis. Recent strikes in south China have prompted a re-examination of the role of the trade unions in China. Are they doing their part to defend the interests of workers? How can they play an important role?
China has one of biggest networks of trade unions in the world with nearly 2 million registered across the country.
They are all subject to the leadership of the All China Federation of Trade Unions.
Experts say when times are good, their roles are not fully tested.
They regularly give shopping vouchers to employees...
and they help organize job fairs.
But in most of the recent strikes at foreign-owned enterprises across China, the role of the trade unions has been tested.
Professor Liu Baocheng said, "Their bargaining power has not been fully exercised. When trade unions only cared about festivals and giving movie tickets is going to be a thing of the past."
Trade unions hold elections regularly. Still quite a few workers are not very familier with their own organizations, especially those imigrants who have just come to cities for work.
This is one of the big brothers they are talking about-- Tan Weihua, director of the security and benefits department of this electronics plant in Guangdong.
Workers come to him for personal and work problems. They know they can come here for help, but what they don't know is this department is also the company's official trade union.
So it's crucial to educate employees about their rights and what the trade union can do for them.
A majority of the manufacturing workers in Guangdong only finished junior high school. Experts say they need more awareness to get more involved in trade union affairs. And more involvement means that they need to exercise their rights and gradually have a bigger say.
According to the vice chairman of the Guangdong Trade Union, a third of corporate trade unions have held bottom-up elections to choose its leaders and more are being pushed to follow suit.
This could be an opportunity for China's trade unions to create a new dynamic for its members and management.