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Law to Give Workers Free Arbitration

Arbitration services for employees in labor disputes will be provided free of charge if a new law is given the go-ahead.

Draft of the law on mediation and arbitration of labor disputes, submitted to the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC) for its second review Wednesday, proposes public funds cover the cost of arbitration committees.

It also says employers must present relevant evidence to the committees as required or face punishment.

One highlight of the draft is the granting of final decision-making powers to arbitration committees in three kinds of cases.

These are: Disputes over labor payments, workplace injuries, compensation and pensions; disputes over holidays and social security; and disputes over collective contracts.

The current regulation, adopted by the State Council in 1993, comprises a dispute-settlement process of mediation, arbitration and a trial.

"The new procedure aims to greatly shorten the time taken to settle labor disputes and cut costs," Yang Xingfu, a standing committee member of the congress, said.

The draft legislation, along with the Labor Contract Law and Employment Promotion Law, which are scheduled to take effect next January, will create a legal framework to further improve employment and labor relations, Zheng Gongcheng, also a member of the NPC Standing Committee, said.

Figures from the Ministry of Labor and Social Security show that since 1987, the number of labor dispute cases has been rising by an average of 27.3 percent a year as the country's economy grows and workers become more aware of their rights.

Cases involving payment and social security accounted for two-thirds of the total 317,000 labor dispute cases in 2006.

(China Daily October 25, 2007)

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