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Government Helps Migrant Workers Recover Unpaid Salary

Local governments in China have launched a special inspection of the country's building, services, catering and manufacturing industries and are taking complaints from the tens of thousands of migrant workers who remain unpaid as the new year draws near.


"We hardly have time to go to the toilet since complaint phones keep ringing," said an official in the Labor and Social Security Bureau of southwest China's Sichuan Province, who requested not to be named.


More than 160 telephone calls from migrant workers complaining about their employers' defaulted payment have been answered since the department opened the hot line on Dec. 1, the official said.


Seven complaints involving some 400,000 yuan (about US$48,200) were handled within two days while other complaints were still under investigation, he said.


In China's capital Beijing, the municipal government has also begun a massive check since Dec. 1 into migrant workers' payment held back by their employers.


"I finally retrieved my payment which was four months in arrears," said Tian Shirong in a trembling voice while holding his defaulted payment -- 2,000 yuan, or about 241 US dollars.


"I can securely spend my new year at home now," said Tian, 29, who was from central China's Hubei Province working for a construction company in Beijing's Xuanwu District.


According to statistics from the All-China Federation of Trade Unions, China has 94 million migrant rural laborers, whose employers are in arrears up to 100 billion yuan (US$12.1 billion). Over 70 percent of payment default comes from construction enterprises, and the next biggest defaulter is catering companies.


The issue has aroused extensive concern from high-ranking officials, governments at various levels and the entire society. Premier Wen Jiabao pledged in October to help migrant workers retrieve their defaulted payment during his inspection of the rural areas of southwest China's Chongqing Municipality.


Labor and social security institutions in Beijing investigated 2,557 cases with 83 million yuan (US$10 million) owed in payment for 37,800 workers from January to October, said Wang Dexiu, deputy director of Beijing Municipal Bureau of Labor and Social Security.


Meanwhile, the Beijing municipal construction committee has ordered all construction companies in the city to pay migrant workers their 2003 defaulted salaries before the Spring Festival, or the traditional Chinese New Year, which next year falls on Jan.22.


Xinhua News Agency December 8, 2003


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