Effort Hopes to Place Migrant Workers Under Unions' Umbrella

The central government is preparing to develop a regular communications platform with trade unions in an effort to better safeguard the interests of workers.

Vice-chairman of All-China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU) Zhang Junjiu yesterday said the State Council, China's cabinet, is scheduled to invite unionists to voice suggestions next week regarding the effort.

"This meeting will become a regular practice," Zhang told reporters at yesterday's Beijing news conference.

He said the cabinet has planned to hear unionists' views on China's employment situation, workplace safety and workers' legal rights.

A similar open level of communication has already been organized between most provincial governments and union federations, Zhang said.

"The practice has proved to be effective in solving many problems facing workers," said Zhang.

At yesterday's press conference, Zhang also said that the 14th national congress of trade unions will be scheduled to take place during September 22 through 26.

Journalists from home and abroad are being invited to cover the five-day event.

Zhang said his federation has made many achievements since 1998, when the 13th congress was held.

The latest statistics indicate that China has established over 1.65 million trade unions at grass-roots levels, more than ever before, with a record 130 million members.

Zhang said that trade unions play an important role in promoting democratic management inside enterprises and helping safeguard legitimate rights and interests of employees.

More than 327,000 enterprises across the country have encouraged a system of workers' conferences, he said.

Trade unions have also helped a lot in improving the country's social security system and promoting re-employment for laid-off workers, he said.

According to Zhang, trade unions have assisted nearly 3 million laid-off workers find new jobs in the past five years, and launched training courses to help improve job skills of 3.19 million such workers.

"Our next step is to take migrant workers and place them under the umbrella of ACFTU," said an ACFTU official surnamed Sun.

Sun urged that every grass-roots union should undertake effective measures to make the country's huge population of migrant workers take on union membership.

Sun said some of migrants laborers have suffered unfair treatment in some cities, especially in private companies in which bosses have refused to sign labour contracts and pay inadequate wages.

"The very pressing task for us is to mobilize more private companies to form trade unions," said Sun.

Statistics indicate there are currently 94 million rural people working or doing business in cities -- 6 million who arrived this year. (China Daily)



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