Unpaid migrant workers to gain leverage
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