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Trade Union Vows to Protect Migrant Workers

China's national trade union federation yesterday vowed to better protect migrant workers' rights and absorb more of them into trade unions.

"Trade unions in China have always been devoted to protecting migrant workers' rights," said Chen Rongshu, an official with the All China Federation of Trade Unions, at the 2006 International Forum on Economic Globalization and Trade Unions yesterday in Beijing.

Chen said the federation encourages migrant workers to join trade unions in various forms, such as project unions, market unions, street unions, community unions, regional and industrial unions.

By the end of 2005 China had 151 million trade union members, 23.6 million of whom were migrant workers. In the first half of this year, another 6.5 million migrant workers joined.

In 2005, trade unions across the country helped recover delayed wages of 1.31 billion yuan (164 million) for 2.79 million migrant workers.

They also provided instructions for migrant workers to sign work contracts with their employers.

So far, 9.18 million migrant workers have signed contracts with their employers, accounting for 40 percent of the migrant workers who have joined trade unions.

"The most pressing task is to protect migrant workers' employment rights through introduction and implementation of active labour market policies," Chen said.

Sun Chunlan, vice-chairman of the federation, said violation of migrant workers' rights, such as low or delayed wages, long working hours, harsh working conditions and hurting workers' self-esteem are still common in some places.

For example, 80 percent of the migrant workers nationwide are working over 10 hours per day.

Sun said the federation would strive to absorb 8 million migrant workers into trade unions annually in the coming three years.

China now has 240 million migrant workers, or nearly half of the total rural workforce.

(China Daily December 5, 2006)

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