Mongolia—Trade Unions

Exploitz.com!, June 1989

Mongolia’s trade union movement initially had a difficult start, but then it settled down to peaceful growth as a useful tool of the regime. In 1917 Mongolia’s first two trade unions, which had mostly Russian and few Mongolian members, were established but trade unionists were murdered in 1920 by troops of the White Russian baron, Roman Nicolaus von Ungern-Sternberg

(see Period of Autonomy, 1911-21 , ch. 1). Reestablished in 1921 with 300 members, the unions were reorganized in 1925 into Mongolian, Chinese, and Russian chapters. In August 1927, 115 delegates, representing 4,056 union members, held the First Congress of Mongolian Trade Unions, establishing the Mongolian trade union movement in the form it still maintained in the late 1980s. In 1927, as in the late 1980s, the organization and functions of Mongolia’s trade unions were patterned on those of the Soviet Union (see Planned Modernization , ch. 2; Mass Organizations , ch. 4).

In the late 1980s, the highest-level trade union organization was the Mongolian Trade Unions Congress, which was convened every five years; the thirteenth congress was held in 1987. In the interim, trade union affairs were run by the Central Council of Mongolian Trade Unions. The chairman of the Central Council was a member of the Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party Central Committee and of the Presidium of the People’s Great Hural (see Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party , ch. 4; Government Structure , ch. 4). Mongolian trade unions, through the Central Council, possessed the right of legislative initiative in the People’s Great Hural. Below the Central Council were four branch union organizations—each run by its own central committee—for agricultural workers; for construction and industrial workers; for workers and employees in transport, for communications, trade, and services; and for employees in culture and education. Each aymag, as well as Ulaanbaatar, Darhan, and Erdenet, had its own trade union council, as did the Ulaanbaatar Railroad. Below the provincial level there were 3,000 primary trade union committees and more than 7,000 trade union groups. The Central Council published the newspaper Hodolmor (Labor) three times a week and the magazine Mongolyn Uyldberchniy Eblel (Mongolian Trade Unions) six times a year. In 1982 there were 425,000 trade union members. In 1984 about 94.7 percent of all office and professional workers and laborers in the national economy were trade unionists, and members of the working class accounted for 55.8 percent of trade union membership.

Mongolian trade unions did not engage in collective bargaining to represent worker interests to management as was done in capitalist countries. Instead, Mongolia’s trade unions had a variety of functions. Politically, trade unions received party and state guidance and served regime goals by . . . [contributing] to winning over the masses in order to succeed in the implementation of the social and economic policy of the party. The Mongolian trade unions were active in the international arena; the Central Council of Mongolian Trade Unions joined the World Federation of Trade Unions in 1949, and Mongolia joined the International Labour Organization in 1968. The Central Council maintained contacts with more than sixty foreign trade union organizations, and it sent delegations to all World Federation of Trade Unions congresses and other international trade union conferences. Mongolian delegations to conferences sponsored by the Soviet Union and other socialist countries frequently issued communiques or statements supporting Soviet, and criticizing United States, policies.

The most important functions of Mongolian trade unions were, according to the 1973 Labor Code, [to] represent the interests of workers and employees in the realm of production, labor, life, and culture, participate in working out and realizing state plans for the development of the national economy, decide questions of the distribution and use of material and financial resources, involve workers and employees in production management, organize the socialist competition and mass technical creativity, and promote the strengthening of production and labor discipline. Together, or by agreement with enterprises, institutions, and organizations and their superior agencies, trade unions influenced labor conditions and earnings, the application of labor legislation, and the use of social consumption funds. Specifically, this meant trade unions supervised the observance of labor legislation and rules for labor protection, controlled housing and domestic services for workers and employees, and managed state social insurance as well as trade union sanatoriums, dispensaries, rest homes, and cultural and sports institutions. In practice, the major function of trade unions was the administration of state social insurance and of worker health and recreation facilities.

Despite the broad rights granted to the trade union movement, not all trade union bodies carried out their stipulated functions. In a May 1987 address to the Thirteenth Congress of Mongolian Trade Unions, party general secretary Jambyn Batmonh criticized some trade union councils for being on the leash of the enterprises’ administrations, that is, emphasizing the fulfillment of plans while neglecting labor productivity and substandard working and living conditions. Batmonh also called on enterprises and their supervisory government bodies to observe labor laws strictly and not to oppose the legitimate demands of trade union groups.