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Projects to Further Protect Migrant Workers
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The nation's top trade union organization is stepping up efforts to protect the welfare of migrant workers.

Xu Deming, vice-chairman of the All-China Federation of Trade Unions, announced yesterday that the group would have in place 10 specific projects to safeguard the rights and interests of China's roughly 150 million farmer-turned-workers by the end of the year.

They include pressing employers to sign labour contracts with workers, providing greater assistance to those who have their rights infringed upon and ensuring migrant workers are fully paid.

The organization also wants to help defend the workers' legitimate demands for a safe, healthy working environment and other welfares such as work injury insurance and a feasible pension scheme.

"Along with the labour department, the organization will strive to ensure 90 per cent of migrant workers have a labour contract with their employers by 2008," Xu said yesterday at a press conference.

The federation held the briefing after migrant workers' issues were raised during the ongoing sessions of the NPC and CPPCC.

"The problem of these labourers having difficulties obtaining their pay needs to be effectively resolved," he said. "A system to make sure they get full pay on a monthly basis will be promoted in the construction industry."

Presently, construction contractors often withhold most of the migrant workers' salary and only distribute it at the end of the year. But some bosses end up absconding with it.

The vice-chairman also pledged to lend greater support to migrant workers who intend to file lawsuits.

"The migrant workers will be helped with the expense of a lawsuit even if they are penniless, and they can win it as long as they have justice on their side," he said.

He added that the money for legal costs would be provided by the local trade unions that they belonged to.

According to Feng Tongqing, executive chair of China Labour Studies Centre of Beijing Normal University, Chinese trade unions are playing an increasingly significant role in protecting the disadvantaged group.

In some areas, trade unions have helped migrant workers settle labour disputes legally and effectively, he said.

Trade unions also launched campaigns to help migrant workers win back their overdue wages and raised money to help them during major festivals.

Statistics showed, however, only a small percent of migrant workers are with trade unions now, with the top trade unions aiming this year to recruit 6.5 million more.

"It's similar to the situation that many migrant workers are reluctant to seek help from job agencies," Feng said.

"But more people will realize the benefits of trade unions and join them as their experiences in cities accumulate."

(Xinhua News Agency March 10, 2006)

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