Washington International Law Journal


Jill E. Monnin


Chinese workers are taking advantage of the dispute resolution tools that legal reform has provided in the past decade, including mediation, arbitration, and litigation. Despite a history of resolving disputes through informal mediation, more and more workers are relying on the new pathways of arbitration and civil suits in local courts. The 1993 Regulations on the Resolution of Enterprise Labor Disputes and the 1994 Labor Law facilitated workers’ access to formal legal forums. Then, in 2006, a Supreme People’s Court (“SPC”) interpretation made a number of important changes to the application of the Labor Law and workers’ access to dispute resolution. The SPC interpretation of the Labor Law expands access to labor dispute resolution by providing a clear standard for determining when labor disputes arise, requiring courts to accept appeals of arbitral decisions involving specific claims, allowing the suspension of the arbitration application period, and permitting certain claims to bypass mandatory arbitration. This Comment argues that the SPC interpretation successfully responds to criticisms of dispute resolution under the Labor Law and will help to ensure that law continues to operate as a tool for China’s workers and government. The SPC is likely to continue filling gaps in the law and respond with needed changes in the absence of clear legislative rules. Only the future will tell whether the potential impact of the 2006 interpretation becomes a reality.

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