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【时文阅读】Make it easy for workers to get pay on 

(2015-01-24 22:30:58)
分类: 【时文阅读】

The frequent tragedies involving migrant workers' seeking their wage arrears(逾期欠款), mostly at year-end, reveal the lack of a mechanism to ensure the effective implementation of the laws and regulations to protect the vulnerable group's rights and interests.

After a failed attempt to get the wage arrears of her father and other migrant workers, a 14-year-old girl jumped to her death from the 16th floor of an under-construction building in Jizhou, Hebei province in North China, on Jan 19. Her father and his fellow workers from Sichuan province, Southwest China, worked for a property developer in Jizhou from the beginning of 2012 to May 2013 and their accumulated wages amounted to about 900,000 yuan ($144,000). They had made several attempts to get their wage arrears before the tragic incident.

The 14-year-old girl's death came just days after a woman from Henan province, Central China, was beaten to death in a police station in Taiyuan, Shanxi province in North China, for demanding her wage arrears. Not surprisingly, the girl's father and the other migrant workers were paid their wage arrears after the intervention of local authorities and the media storm over the girl's death.

It is indeed sad that a man gets his hard-earned wages only after his daughter sacrifices her life. It is even sadder to know the existence of an "unwritten rule" - migrant workers in many cases can get their arrears only after a sensational event or tragedy occurs.

The media have highlighted a lot of such cases in recent years - for example, migrant workers getting their wage arrears after threatening to take extreme steps such as jumping off tall buildings. Without fundamental institutional improvements and corrections, a large number of migrant workers will continue to suffer because they are a disadvantaged group compared with the powerful property developers. As a result, more such tragedies could take place.

The authorities have taken some practical measures in recent years to help migrant workers get their wages on time. The amendment to the Criminal Law, which took effect on May 1, 2011, stipulates that employers deliberately denying workers' wages could face charges and up to seven years in prison. Also, some local governments have made it mandatory for developers to deposit cash before starting a construction project which could be used to pay workers' wages if the former do not pay them on time.

But recent years have seen disputes between employers defaulting on wage payment and migrant workers hitting the headlines with regularity, especially at year-end, with only a few employers violating the rules being punished. Statistics show that since 2011 when the "punitive clause on wage arrears" was incorporated into the country's criminal code, only 120 people across the country have been penalized.

Another problem is that, some enterprises get away without depositing the required "guarantee money" with local governments because the two sides share some common interests, making the well-conceived measure futile.

Besides, in case of a dispute over wage payment, migrant workers usually have to go through some complicated and time-consuming procedures, such as applying to government departments for mediation and/or arbitration, before filing a case in court against their employer. The fear of such tedious and complicated procedures forces some migrant workers to take extreme measures to get their wage arrears.

The tragic death of the 14-year-old girl testifies to the lack of administrative and legal safeguards for migrant workers. Instead of waiting for a tragedy to happen to help migrant workers get their rightful due, local governments should put in place a set of simple, convenient and effective procedures that will prompt migrant workers to seek legal help to safeguard their rights and interests.

 

By Wu Yixue (China Daily) The author is a senior writer with China Daily. wuyixue@chinadaily.com.cn

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