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Union boss says 'hostile forces' inciting migrant workers
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By Yuan Fang
China.org.cn staff reporter

China's trade unions will protect migrant workers' rights and interests, while at the same time keeping an eye on "hostile forces," a senior trade union official said Monday.

"Some people are attempting to incite migrant workers to make trouble on the pretext of defending their rights," said Zhang Mingqi, deputy president of the All-China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU), in response to a question by a journalist with Hong Kong-based Ming Pao, during a group interview on the sidelines of the annual National People's Congress session.

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Zhang Mingqi, deputy president of the All-China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU), talks to reporters Monday on the sidelines of the annual NPC congress. 

"The ACFTU has always attached great importance to the unity of the working class of which migrant workers have become a part in recent years," Zhang said. "Only by uniting, can they protect their legal rights and consolidate their power in the country's political life. Trade unions nationwide will be vigilant in opposing sabotage."

More than 20 million migrant workers have lost their jobs since the global financial turmoil forced many factories to close in China.

In his report to the National People's Congress, Premier Wen Jiabao promised the government would expand urban employment opportunities for rural migrant workers while protecting their current jobs.

"We will boost employment through government investment and the launch of major projects. We will encourage and help enterprises that are in a difficult situation to avoid layoffs by re-negotiating wage levels with their employees, adopting flexible employment and working hours, or providing job training. We will increase the export of organized labor services and guide the orderly flow of rural migrant workers. We will arrange for those that have returned to their home villages to take part in the construction of local public facilities," the report reads.

Trade unions are working on employment and right-protection issues, to help migrant workers, said Zhang.

The unions are expected to recruit 5 million migrant workers this year, adding to the present number of more than 66 million. The federation used to organize only workers with official urban residence permits, but is now giving more attention to recruiting and helping migrants.

In a move to help laid-off migrant workers start their own businesses, trade unions in 10 big cities are running a pilot project to help workers secure small loans.

Asked to comment on the Labor Contract Law, Zhang said that the law was playing an important role in safeguarding social stability.

"About 20 million migrant workers have lost their jobs as a result of the financial crisis, but the layoffs have not caused any social uproar. This is because the Labor Contract Law has relevant stipulations on layoffs and ending contracts, which enables the layoffs to be conducted in an orderly way, without impairing the migrant workers' rights and interests," Zhang said.

(China.org.cn March 9, 2009)

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