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Court Orders Pay, Farmers Jubilant

Finally, 500 migrant workers got the money they were owed yesterday.

It took some help from the Beijing No 2 Intermediate People's Court. But the migrants "farmers-turned construction workers "have received most of their delayed payments of 4 million yuan (US$483,100) The delayed payments had drawn national attention after their employer had stiffed them and left them and their families penniless.

The case is China's first-ever one in which legal authorities stepped in to take on the construction industry, the largest industrial sector using such workers.

The court ordered the neglectful real estate company to pay fees of 5 million yuan (US$608,000) to the workers"construction company.

"Every migrant construction worker will be paid most of their delayed salary and the rest of the 1 million yuan (US$121,000) owed should be paid in the near future,'' said Zheng Yuying, the presiding judge of the court's Enforcement Division.

An original judgement was made in July and the Beijing High People's Court rejected an appeal from the accused Beijing-based Ju'an Jinrun Real Estate Company by maintaining the original judgment.

"We got the money earned by onerous toil at construction site,'' a public letter by the 500 migrant workers said.

"We need not be apart from our family members in Anhui (East China) anymore since we dared not go back home last Lunar New Year. We had no money to bring back to our relatives after one year of work,'' they stated.

The workers say they are willing to continue labouring in the capital city to contribute to the flourishing construction industry, even after their bad experience.

"The court is the weapon to guarantee your legal interests,'' Wang Zhenqing, president of the intermediate court said at a ceremony at a construction site in West Beijing where the migrants work.

Wang said this lawsuit was placed on a fast track in April when the labourers"company "the Ma'anshan No 3 Construction Engineering Company "brought action against the Beijing-based real estate company.

When the 500 migrant workers were informed they were not going to receive their wages, they all rushed to the newly-established Beijing legal assistance work centre for migrant workers for help.

The centre was jointly established by Beijing Municipal Bureau of Justice and the municipal construction authorities to solve the problem of delayed payments to migrant workers in the capital.

The centre jumped into action, appointing an experienced lawyer Gu Meirong to act as the workers"attorney. To help the workers, the centre raised 500,000 yuan (US$121,000) for them.

Minister of Construction Wang Guangtao had vowed earlier this month the delayed salaries of the migrant workers would be paid ahead of Spring Festival.

(China Daily  January 16, 2004)

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