The All-China Federation of Trade Unions said yesterday it will help ensure migrant workers receive their salaries on time, as Spring Festival - traditionally, the peak season for delayed payments - is fast approaching.
Federation chairman Wang Zhaoguo said unemployment among migrant workers has become one of the biggest problems caused by the global recession.
"Because migrant workers still receive their salaries late sometimes, we should work harder to tackle this problem," he said.
The federation's vice-chairman Sun Chunlan said the global recession might drive more migrant workers to return home next year, so the federation should do more to protect their interests and help them become reemployed.
The federation has 210 million members, 65 million of whom are migrant workers. China is home to 230 million migrant workers, federation figures showed.
In October, five rural migrant workers hurled bricks onto the streets from atop a 32-story building in Zhengzhou, Henan province, in hopes of arousing public attention to help them win wage arrears. They were charged with disrupting social order and were brought before a local court on Dec 2. The court has yet to issue a ruling, Dahe Daily's website reported.
"We should bring more migrant workers into trade unions, ensure they receive their pay every month and offer guidance to help them start businesses or become reemployed," Sun said.
Tong Zhihui, a professor at the school of agricultural economics and rural development at Renmin University of China, said a high percentage of migrant workers have joined trade unions. The tricky part is helping unions reach their potential, Tong said.
"Most migrant workers tend to find lawyers or directly appeal to the law when employers violate their rights. It would save time and money if trade unions could fulfill this role," he said.
Sun said more trade unions should be founded in towns and villages, so migrant workers could also find support after returning home.
Xie Guiji, a migrant worker who recently returned to his hometown in Sichuan province, said he had not yet joined a union.
"I am just doing odd jobs now. I get my pay every day after work but still do not know where to go if someone refuses to pay me on time," Xie said.
"Before, I did not know we had trade unions in our county. Now that I know they can protect me, I will apply to one after the New Year."
(China Daily December 30, 2008)