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Agreement Inked to Protect Migrant Workers
A cooperation agreement that aims to provide legal aid to farmers-turned-laborers was signed by 31 major cities at the weekend. The first of its kind in the country, it is a significant step forward in safeguarding the rights and interests of farmer laborers.

Effective in almost all major cities in China which are on top of the lists when rural laborers choose to seek jobs out of their hometowns, the document will hopefully become a legal weapon that farmer laborers can use when they suffer unfair treatment.

Taking into consideration the high mobility of the group, it defines that victims of delayed payment could ask for legal aid in any of the 31 cities under the agreement to recover their payment as long as the case occurred in one of these cities.

This seems to be the most valuable part of the document as it makes farmer laborers who are always on the move able to recover delayed payments when they are in another city.

Official estimate indicates the number of regular farmer-turned laborers stands at around 100 million. The money brought back by these people is more often than not the lifeblood of their rural families.

However, due to insufficient protection of their rights and interests either at the administrative or at the legal level, a considerable number of migrant workers have to endure prejudice and even varying degrees of maltreatment in the cities.

Among their sufferings, late or even cancelled payments stood out as the worst violation of migrant workers' interests at the end of last year.

Since then, both the government and society in general have given keen attention on the plight of farmer laborers. Intervention of government bodies at different levels and growing social pressures over unfair employment practices have helped recover payments for many of these unfortunate people.

However, to end this bad phenomenon, administrative measures are not enough. A legal aid umbrella that farmer laborers could turn to in times of maltreatment is also indispensable.

The agreement signed between the 31 major cities provides such an umbrella to migrant workers working there.

To make this really benefit the needy, migrant workers in those cities should be made well aware of the agreement.

Given that medium and small-sized cities in the affluent South are also the favorite destinations of migrant workers, it is equally important that the practice could be expanded to cover more cities and more people.

(China Daily August 28, 2003)

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