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Unions Launch Campaign to Safeguard Migrant Workers
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In an effort to improve work safety and minimize injuries and deaths among migrant workers, the national trade union federation yesterday launched a nationwide inspection campaign. 

The campaign, to be completed by September, aims to improve safety awareness among employees and employers in mining, construction and processing and manufacturing -- three sectors which provide millions of low paid jobs for the country's farmers who've left the land. 

The campaign is a joint effort by the All-China Federation of Trade Unions and State Administration of Work Safety (SAWS) -- the government's safety watchdog.

"Most accidents happen in these three sectors and the majority of the victims are migrant workers," said Zhang Mingqi, member of the secretariat of the federation representing 150 unions.

Zhang said China's migrant workers were facing three major problems -- low pay, poor work safety conditions and insufficient social security.

"The problems have resulted in social unrest and if the trend continues the health of migrant workers and social stability will be threatened," he warned.

Statistics indicate that more than 200 million migrants flocked to urban areas to find jobs in 2005. More than 80 percent of miners were farmers, 70 percent of construction workers and 68 percent of those processing and manufacturing had once worked on the land. 

"The families of the workers are also victims," said Zhang.

Of the 10,807 deaths in mining and construction sectors in 2005 more than 75 percent were migrant workers, according to SAWS statistics.

"Our campaign aims to change the things for the better," said Zhang.

One example of a change advocated by the federation is the introduction of work safety supervisors.

Zhang said the Ministry of Construction would work with the federation to identify experienced construction personnel to work as safety supervisors on China's building sites. "The first task force will be appointed at the end of this month," said Zhang.

The appointment follows the federation's efforts last year to form a task force of 100,000 veterans to watch over the safety of the country's 1 million coal miners.

So far about 70,000 senior miners have been appointed and the federation plans to expand the project to all of the country's 28,000 coal mines.

"The scheme has been successful so far and there have been no major accidents where there are these supervisors," said Zhang.

Just like those in the mines, construction supervisors will conduct daily safety checks, train new recruits and assist fellow workers to safety should accidents occur, said Zhang.

(China Daily June 14, 2006)

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