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Relief for migrant laborers
( 2003-12-06 15:21) (Xinhua)

Xiaochang Construction Co of central Hubei Province has been ejected from the construction market in Beijing and banned from bidding for any projects in the city.

This week's action against the company came because it delayed payments for migrant laborers it hired on a temporary basis, according to the Beijing municipal construction committee on Thursday.

On November 27, 11 migrant workers from Sichuan Province came to the company to ask for defaulted payment of some 20,000 yuan (US$2,400) owed to them. While refusing to pay up, a company official sent thugs to beat up the laborers, five of whom were severely injured.

The committee said it was also checking on a dozen other companies. It also promised to help migrant laborers get 100 percent of their payment before the Chinese Spring Festival which falls on January 22 next year.

Not only Beijing, but governments at all levels are now listing the job as their top priority before the year-end.

Many provinces have launched overall checks since December 1 in this regard. Labor and social security departments, construction units, trade unions, women's federations and youth leagues have joined in the efforts. Migrant laborers usually return after one year of hard work far away from home.

Defaulting on payments has long been a problem curbing the income rise of the rural population and a "chronic illness" affecting and undermining social stability.

According to statistics from the All-China Federation of Trade Unions, China has approximately 94 million migrant rural laborers, whose employers are in arrears of up to about 100 billion yuan (US$12.1 billion). Over 70 percent of the payment default comes from construction enterprises, followed by the catering industry.

The issue has aroused widespread concern.

Premier Wen Jiabao pledged in October to help migrant workers retrieve their defaulted payment during his inspection tour of Chongqing municipality.

In southwestern Guizhou Province, the provincial labor and social security department recently called in officials of nearly 30 construction companies for a meeting to tackle the problem.

Meanwhile, lawyers are urging migrant workers to increase their awareness of labor rights. A survey in eastern Shandong Province showed that more than 60 percent such laborers didn't sign contracts of any form with employers, which encourages offenders to delay payment and also made it hard to obtain evidence during investigation.

Things are getting better, however. In November, 92 migrant workers in Liuzhou City of southwestern Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region won a case against Liucheng Paper Mill, retrieving payments worth 57,000 yuan which had been delayed for three months.

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