More than 2 billion yuan (US$250 million) has been raised by trade unions to help migrant workers during Spring Festival and top unionists hope such assistance will be made available all year round.
The All-China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU) aims this year to recruit a further 6 million migrant workers, who are frequently sidelined in favor of counterparts with permanent urban residence.
"We should not pay lip service to better safeguarding their rights, and also we should not protect them only in the festival seasons," Liu Haihua, ACFTU deputy director in charge of labor security, said at a press conference yesterday in Beijing.
During Spring Festival that started on January 29, trade unions at various levels clubbed together to help workers, especially those who have been laid-off, were in financial difficulties or had trouble securing a ticket home for the traditional family reunion.
Liu said China's trade unions should play a more active role in protecting the legal rights of migrant workers, particularly as many are paid late and are not covered by any form of insurance.
A report from the UN released in last December dubbed China's 140 million migrant workers a "disadvantaged social group," as their rights are often infringed upon in cities. Employers have been known to ignore concerns about the health and safety of migrant workers.
Farmers-turned-workers account for more than half of the manual and service industry labor force in China. Only 13.8 percent of them are members of trade unions.
(China Daily February 11, 2006)