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Migrant Workers Left Out in Cold

While the majority of Beijing residents were happily basking in the warmth inside their heated homes on Thursday, many migrant workers were left shivering in their makeshift tents on construction sites, which are uncovered by the central heating system so far.

Despite the start of four months of winter heating for residents of Beijing on November 15, migrant workers living on construction sites do not have access to public heating services, the Worker's Daily News reported Friday.

The city's heating system mainly serves the city's permanent residential areas while housing on construction sites is temporary, so it's the construction units themselves that should offer heating to workers, a government official revealed. He added that there is no policy on heating services at construction sites at present.

Authorities in Beijing have pledged to keep indoor temperatures above 16 degrees Celsius for its citizens. However, as reported by the Worker's Daily News, much of the makeshift housing at construction sites does not have heating facilities for the workers, though the temperature dropped to two degrees Celsius on Thursday night in Beijing.

One migrant worker from a construction site said his unit had mentioned installing an electric radiator in the house but has not lived up to its promise yet.

Others complained that the construction unit hasn't provided "heating" in the past until it has gotten freezing cold, while this year they haven't even received stoves from their bosses.

"It has been a big concern for us" said Chen Guorui, section chief of the Migrant Worker's Rights Office under the All-China Federation of Trade Unions. "We should not overlook the equal rights of migrant workers on the first day of the heating season."

He added that the trade union has set up ten-part care mechanisms for migrant workers, one of which is to ensure them with access to winter heating. Special teams will be sent to investigate construction sites and check whether indoor temperatures in their accommodations meet the standards, with a fine imposed by the administrative department for violators.

Chen noted that to guarantee heating for migrant worker, it is also crucial to maintain the rights of trade unions, which they will continue to improve in the future.

( November 17, 2007)

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