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No Delay of Payment to Workers Allowed

Chinese lawmakers are considering adding an article in the Criminal Law to deliver criminal penalties to employers that delay salary payments or run away, in order to better protect the rights and interests of employees.

In a report delivered at a meeting of the Standing Committee of the 10th National People's Congress (NPC) on Wednesday, He Luli, vice chairwoman of the Committee, said that the legitimate rights and interests of employees have been basically safeguarded since the introduction of the Labor Law on January 1, 1995.

But He cautioned that many problems in violation of laborers' rights and interests still exist, especially in labor-intensive sectors such as construction, garments and accommodation, and in many small and medium-sized private businesses.

The Chinese government will step up the formulation of labor contract law, social security law, labor dispute settlement law and employment facilitation law, revise the Labor Law and try to settle all the overdue pay owed by employers to migrant workers by the end of 2007.

Government statistics showed that the number of employed people in Chinese cities and towns jumped from 190 million in 1995 to 265 million in 2004.

In order to settle the issue of delayed payment of wages to migrant workers, 16 provincial-level regions and municipalities have set up the mechanism to ensure the payment of salaries and 14 provincial-level regions have introduced a system to monitor the delivery of salaries.

In an NPC questionnaire survey among 2,150 businesses in 40 cities this year, 7.8 percent of the surveyed employees said they had been withheld salaries amounting to 2,184 yuan (US$273) per person for 3.2 months on average over the past year.

In addition to the survey, an inspection team of the NPC Standing Committee had visited seven provinces and municipalities, including Beijing, Shanghai, Guangdong and Chongqing, to check the implementation of the Labor Law.

"Some localities still have very serious problems of docking or delaying the payment of salaries," said He, the vice chairwoman. In 2004, 41 percent of the cases investigated by the social security supervision departments fell into the payment delay category.

"Social incidents triggered by overdue salaries, especially by employers who escape and hide, are on the rise, seriously undermining social stability," said He.

Less than 20 percent of employers are found to have signed labor contracts with their workers in small and medium-sized private businesses, most of which have no trade unions to guarantee the staff's rights.

Some workers were given salaries below the basic level required by the local government, and had to work overtime without extra pay, while quite a large number of private business employees and migrant workers have no insurance.

He urged central and local governments to properly handle the relationship between the implementation of the Labor Law and economic development, open more employment channels, severely punish employers who fail to comply with the basic salary requirement, as well as improve social security and labor dispute settlement systems.

The central government should, He suggested, start checking on the implementation of labor contracts across the country in 2006 and ensure all businesses sign labor contracts with their employees in three years.

(Xinhua News Agency December 29, 2005)

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