On May 19, more than 90 workers from Daimengduo Garment Factory in Haizhu District of Guangzhou resigned en masse because of poor working conditions, low income and overwork.
But their employer not only refused to accept their resignations, he had them locked up in the factory. All the workers were migrant workers from outside Guangdong Province.
The dispute raised concerns at provincial and municipal government levels. The city's police and labor department have set up a special task force to help handle the case and promised to better protect workers' legal interests.
Private enterprises are becoming the main driving force behind Guangdong's economic growth. The province has the country's largest number of migrant workers, some 16 million registered workers, and also a correspondingly large number of labor disputes.
To address the issue, the provincial government has been drafting new local laws and regulations to streamline the operations of the province's countless private companies.
The new laws and regulations will help reduce labor disputes and better protect workers' rights, said Huang Linyang, an official from the Guangdong Provincial Bureau of Labour and Social Security.
One of the impending measures is the Guangdong Provincial Regulations on Salary Disbursement (GRSD), according to Huang.
The draft regulation, which has been submitted to the provincial People's Congress for approval, clearly stipulates when and how the employers are to pay employees' salaries, Huang explains.
The draft also states that employers will have to bear the legal responsibility if they are in arrears for employees' wages, and they will be required to pay the employees' wages "even if they have to sell their personal properties to do so."
Meanwhile, companies under investigation for delaying wages will not enjoy any land-use rights and preferential government policies on taxes and loans, says Huang.
Recalcitrant companies will also be named and shamed.
Many migrant workers in the province have welcomed the new laws and regulations.
Lin Guoqiang, who works at a shoe factory in Guangzhou's suburban Shijing Township, believes the new measures would further protect their legal interests.
Lin, who hails from southwest China's Sichuan Province, said the moves would certainly help attract more migrant workers to Guangdong.
(China Daily June 3, 2005)