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Unions Help Migrant Workers Win Back Wages
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A national campaign has been launched to help migrant workers win back their overdue wages so they can head home happy for Spring Festival.


The drive was launched by the All-China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU), the Ministry of Labor and Social Security, and the Ministry of Construction.


However, Sun Chunlan, vice president of ACFTU, warned yesterday that this problem is widespread in the construction, catering and manufacturing industries, and cannot be solved by just one campaign.


There are about 130 million migrant workers nationwide who are making "historic contributions" to the country's social and economic progress, but who still do not have their rights protected, Sun said.


"It's our responsibility to protect their rights," she said, urging trade unions at all levels to work closely with local governments to retrieve delayed payments for workers.


In Beijing, migrant workers are expected to get 1.8 billion yuan (US$222 million) in defaulted wages by the end of this month, according to Zhang Jianmin, vice president of the Beijing Federation of Trade Unions.


He said Beijing authorities have helped workers get back about 3 billion yuan (US$370 million) in the past three years. About 112 construction companies have been blacklisted and 10 driven out of the capital because of delayed payments.


"We will be strict on this malicious practice," Zhang reiterated.


The Beijing federation will also help migrant workers buy train tickets so that they do not have to queue for hours in ticket offices.


In Henan, a central China province that exports about 10 million migrant workers, a 3-month campaign to retrieve overdue wages started last October, and so far has won back 154.7 million yuan (US$19 million) for 290,000 migrant workers.


In Quanzhou, east China's Fujian Province, about 1.1 million migrant workers joined the local federation of trade unions, accounting for 90.2 percent of the city's total migrant workforce. The federation has set up hotlines on wage disputes, and provides free legal services to them.


A Spring Festival party will be held in a theater on Lunar New Year's Eve for migrant workers who do not go home. They can also visit scenic spots in Quanzhou for free.


In Shenyang, capital of Liaoning Province, migrant workers who are not paid by Spring Festival will get free train tickets back home from the local trade union federation. By the end of last month, 342 migrant workers had got tickets and daily necessities worth 34,000 yuan (US$ 4,200).


(China Daily January 6, 2006)


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