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Legal Protection for Workers Needed

After eight years, more than 600 migrant construction workers in Guangdong Province finally saw a ray of hope to get defaulted payments owed to them: Their case got the attention of Premier Wen Jiabao, who asked local government departments to deal seriously with it.

Huang Huahua, governor of the southern province, gave similar instructions.

As illustrated by previous cases, with the intervention of such high-ranking government officials, these workers have reason to expect a pleasant end to their plight.

Their story goes back eight years to the building of a highway.

After working day and night for several months, these workers were not paid due to disputes among project contractors. The defaulted payments topped 10 million yuan (US$1.2 million).

These workers have since gone through an arduous journey to chase their money. They were only met with cold shoulders while being kicked from department to department.

Now it seems the end of their suffering is near since they were fortunate enough to get Premier Wen's attention.

It is not the first time the premier has intervened to help migrant workers get overdue money. In October, the report that

Wen helped a farmer's family in Chongqing get paid hit the headlines of the media, which finally ignited a great campaign among government officials to help migrant workers.

With that said, such mass campaigns driven by administrative orders, even though they do resolve some problems and benefit some victims, is not the way to stem out this chronic social ailment.

The enthusiasm of local governments and the consequent strong administrative orders and measures, which were motivated by the personal influence of a State leader, do not last long.

When the campaigns wind down, as was the case in both Chongqing and Guangdong, it is hard for migrant workers to iron things out. By then, their rights and interests were already violated.

Ultimately, the way out of the problem lies in steady efforts towards systemic law building.

A highly efficient legal system that regulates labor relations and deals with labor disputes provides a long-term and reliable guarantee for the rights and interests of laborers.

(China Daily December 25, 2003)

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