Un­paid mi­grant work­ers to gain lever­age

China Daily (Canada) - - FRONT PAGE - Wang xiaodong@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Hun­dreds of mil­lions of mi­grant work­ers in China are ex­pected to get their wages more eas­ily un­der a reg­u­la­tion aimed at more ef­fec­tively pun­ish­ing em­ploy­ers who refuse to pay them.

The reg­u­la­tion spec­i­fies mea­sures that hu­man re­sources and so­cial se­cu­rity au­thor­i­ties should take in var­i­ous cases in which en­ter­prises or in­di­vid­u­als de­lib­er­ately avoid pay­ing work­ers. Cases will be handed more smoothly to ju­di­cial au­thor­i­ties for crim­i­nal pros­e­cu­tion.

Em­ploy­ers who refuse to pay work­ers are al­ready sub­ject to crim­i­nal pun­ish­ment un­der the amended Crim­i­nal Law adopted in 2011. A ju­di­cial in­ter­pre­ta­tion re­leased by the Supreme Peo­ple’s Court in 2013 clar­i­fies the law’s ap­pli­ca­tion to such crimes.

Nev­er­the­less, some cases failed to be trans­mit­ted to ju­di­cial au­thor­i­ties in re­cent years be­cause of prob­lems be­tween ad­min­is­tra­tive law en­force­ment by hu­man re­sources and so­cial se­cu­rity de­part­ments and ju­di­cial pro­ce­dures, Qiu Xiaop­ing, deputy min­is­ter of hu­man re­sources and so­cial se­cu­rity, said when com­ment­ing on the reg­u­la­tion. The mea­sure was re­leased by the Min­istry of Hu­man Re­sources and So­cial Se­cu­rity, the Min­istry of Pub­lic Se­cu­rity, the Supreme Peo­ple’s Court and the Supreme Peo­ple’s Procu­ra­torate on Tues­day.

“The reg­u­la­tion is aimed at fur­ther spec­i­fy­ing stan­dards and pro­ce­dures for hand­ing over cases of sus­pected re­fusal to pay em­ploy­ees, so that ju­di­cial au­thor­i­ties can more ef­fec­tively deal with such crimes and pro­tect the in­ter­ests of work­ers,” Qiu said.

It has been a long-stand­ing prob­lem that em­ploy­ers — es­pe­cially in fields that em­ploy large num­bers of mi­grant work­ers, such as hous­ing con­struc­tion — de­lay or refuse to pay the work­ers, re­sult­ing in com­plaints or so­cial con­flicts.

In a re­cent case that aroused pub­lic at­ten­tion, a fe­male mi­grant worker was al­legedly beaten to death dur­ing a con­fronta­tion with lo­cal po­lice.

About 10 mi­grant work­ers who were try­ing to en­ter a con­struc­tion site in Taiyuan, Shanxi prov­ince, on Dec 13 to de­mand their salaries ar­gued with guards, who stopped them for not wear­ing safety hel­mets, ac­cord­ing to me­dia re­ports.

When the po­lice ar­rived, a brawl broke out be­tween Zhou Xi­uyun, a 47-year-old fe­male worker, and the of­fi­cers. The fight led to Zhou’s death.

Three po­lice of­fi­cers have been de­tained on sus­pi­cion of abus­ing their power, and the in­ci­dent is un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion, Taiyuan of­fi­cials said last week at a news con­fer­ence.

The wage reg­u­la­tion was re­leased ahead of Chi­nese New Year, which falls on Feb 19 this year. Many of the coun­try’s 270 mil­lion itin­er­ant work­ers re­turn to their home­towns dur­ing the hol­i­day each year.

Dur­ing the first nine months of last year, so­cial se­cu­rity au­thor­i­ties in China handed over 1,718 sus­pected crim­i­nal cases in which em­ploy­ers re­fused to pay salaries, and 945 of them were ac­cepted, ac­cord­ing to the so­cial se­cu­rity min­istry.

“The new reg­u­la­tion pro­vides spe­cific mea­sures that au­thor­i­ties should take in cases of salary dis­putes to avoid dif­fer­ent de­part­ments shift­ing re­spon­si­bil­i­ties to each other,” said Zhang Shiqian, a lawyer at He­bei Houzheng Law Firm in Shi­ji­azhuang, He­bei prov­ince, who spe­cial­izes in la­bor dis­putes.

Zhang said it is dif­fi­cult to han­dle some la­bor dis­putes in­volv­ing itin­er­ant work­ers be­cause most em­ploy­ers of such work­ers don’t strictly follow reg­u­la­tions when hir­ing them — for ex­am­ple, by not sign­ing con­tracts. This cre­ates dif­fi­cul­ties as they try to col­lect ev­i­dence to support un­paid wage claims, he said.

“The new reg­u­la­tion will also put more pres­sure on em­ploy­ers to force them to honor their re­spon­si­bil­ity to pay,” he said. “I be­lieve the num­ber of cases in­volv­ing wage dis­putes among mi­grant work­ers will be re­duced in the fu­ture.”

Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping voiced his re­solve to back Venezuela, whose econ­omy is reel­ing from tum­bling oil prices, when he met with Venezuela’s Pres­i­dent Ni­co­lasMaduro onWed­nes­day in Beijing.

The meet­ing was one of sev­eral be­tween Xi and Latin Amer­i­can lead­ers that yielded a raft of agree­ments and pledges of closer ties be­tween China and the re­gion.

Those meet­ings pre­ceded the first min­is­te­rial fo­rum be­tween China and the Com­mu­nity of Latin Amer­i­can and Caribbean States, which was set to open on Thurs­day.

China’s fi­nan­cial support will help coun­tries like Venezuela to over­haul their oil-de­pen­dent economies, which have been hit by a steep de­cline in the price of crude oil. It will also nur­ture mar­kets for China, an­a­lysts said.

“China sup­ports Venezuela’s ef­forts in re­struc­tur­ing its econ­omy and places great em­pha­sis on man­u­fac­tur­ing”, Xi said. He called for closer co­op­er­a­tion in oil de­vel­op­ment, in­fra­struc­ture and tech­no­log­i­cal in­no­va­tion.

Both coun­tries should take bet­ter ad­van­tage of the China-Venezue­laHigh-LevelMixed Com­mit­tee and fi­nanc­ing sys­tems, al­low­ing funds to tar­get en­ergy, min­ing, agri­cul­ture and in­dus­try sec­tors, Xi said.

The com­mit­tee is a key mech­a­nism for both gov­ern­ments to en­gage in co­op­er­a­tion, in­clud­ing the oil-for-loan agree­ments un­der which oil and fuel ship­ments have been used to re­pay debts.

China is Venezuela’s sec­ond­largest trad­ing part­ner and oil cus­tomer and has al­ready agreed

Wang Qian,

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