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Inspections to Let Migrants Get Pay on Time

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China's top labor official has ordered local human resources and social security departments to make sure migrant workers are paid on time before the upcoming New Year and Spring Festival holidays.

Speaking at a meeting on Monday, Yin Weimin, minister of human resources and social security, said the departments should conduct strict company inspections to ensure migrant workers' pay is not delayed.

Enterprises in the construction industry and those in the labor-intensive manufacturing sector, which absorb most of the migrant workers, will be targeted to ensure workers receive their full wages, he said. Local human resources and social security departments were asked to provide a complaints procedure for workers to report if their wages have been delayed or unreasonable deductions have been taken from their paychecks.

Yin asked local authorities to resolve workers' disputes with their employers as soon as possible. Local departments should help protect the rights of workers by guiding them to settle disputes through mediation and legal channels, he said.

He also advised that emergency response mechanisms be set up to handle mass incidents over pay, such as strikes or physical conflicts.

According to Yin, the withholding of workers' wages is a major cause of labor disputes.

While local human resources and social security departments have made great efforts to ensure employers pay migrant workers on time, problems still remain.

Labor disputes in China surged in the first half of 2010, Li Shouzhen, spokesman for the All China Federation of Trade Unions, said earlier this year. He attributed the disputes to slow pay rises and the delayed payment of wages.

Zhang Yi, a professor at the Institute of Population and Labor Economics under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told China Daily that labor disputes will increase toward the end of the year.

"As the end of the year approaches, there will be some employers who will delay paying wages for a month or two, because they are worried that the migrants will not return to work after the Spring Festival," he said, adding that disputes always rise from late December to mid-January.

Zhang said the rising number of disputes demonstrates that Chinese workers have become more aware of protecting their rights, though workers with little education need to be instructed on labor law and the need to sign a contract with an employer.

To address disputes, he recommended that trade unions become more efficient within companies and the wider use of collective contracts.

More importantly, he said, the government should intensify its inspection of companies to prevent the delayed payment of wages.

(China Daily December 15, 2010)

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