China's first union lawyers will take office this month to provide free legal advice and services for workers involved in industrial disputes.
The 669 lawyers will work as employees for trade unions across the country, according to All-China Federation of Trade Unions.
By the end of last year, 11,059 legal specialists were employed by the trade unions, but as unionists, they were barred from practicing as lawyers under Chinese laws.
"Without professional licenses, union law personnel were restricted in providing legal assistance for workers," said Guo Jun, deputy director of the ACFTU legal affairs office, on Wednesday.
Guo said many legal specialists left their union posts because they were unable to practice.
He said union lawyers were paid a monthly wage and were prohibited from charging fees, working for other legal organizations or working without their union's permission.
The number of union legal aid offices reached 3,856 by the end of last year and 16,657 labor disputes were settled by these organizations.
But trade union officials believe this was only a fraction of the total labor disputes last year.
Pay and social security issues were the most common cause of disputes, while the number of disputed redundancies was rising, according to the ACFTU.