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Big Four Firms May be Pushed to Unionize in China

March 8, 2013

China’s official trade union organization is planning to unionize the Big Four accounting firms.

The Shanghai chapter of the government-backed All-China Federation of Trade Unions has its sights set on unionizing the Chinese member firms of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, Ernst & Young, KPMG and PricewaterhouseCoopers, according to Reuters. The union already has representation in about 91 percent of foreign companies, so the move into the Big Four firms would seem natural, especially as Shanghai grows into more of a financial center for the country.

However, don’t expect to see any picket signs in front of the PwC offices in Shanghai. Independent trade unions are not sanctioned in China, and the state-sanctioned unions tend to take management’s side in labor disputes, while activists for labor rights risk imprisonment. The purpose of the union is generally to connect employees with the ruling Communist party and in some cases they collect money for employee social functions.

So while the parties at the Big Four firms in China may get a little more lavish, the employees will still be doing the same work for the same pay.

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