Top unionists expressed concerns over the low incomes and the slow wage increase rate among blue-collar workers after a national survey released recently.
The annual total income of the average worker in the country only accounted for 70 per cent of that of all employees working in cities, who earned just over 16,000 yuan (US$2,000) in 2004. The annual amount is half of the monthly income of the US workers.
"It's evident that their income is meagre and what's more, some pay has been delayed," Dong Li, senior official with All-China Federation of Trade Unions, told China Daily.
The findings resulted from the federation's recent survey among 10,000 workers in 1,000 enterprises nationwide.
According to Dong, the respondents in the questionnaires suffer from low incomes, disparity in wages and inefficient payment procedures contributing to delayed wages.
The survey also found that farmers-turned-workers tend to have lower incomes.
An earlier national survey has shown that even in the relatively developed Pearl River Delta in South China's Guangdong Province, a migrant worker earns only around 700 yuan (US$85) per month.
Even worse, the migrants have always been worried about whether they would be paid their full wages. Since 2003, the central government has mobilized related departments to solve the problem, which is likely to affect social stability.
But not all workers earn less. Income for workers in State-owned monopoly sectors was far higher than that of blue-collar workers, Dong said.
This month, the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission required its enterprises to stop "hasty pay increases" in some State-owned enterprises (SOEs).
"For those SOE workers whose pay is twice the amount of the local average income level, steps should be taken to slow down the rate of pay increases," the commission said in a circular.
But both Dong's federation and the commission did not go into details about the income disparity. However, the federation also found that most enterprises are unwilling to increase workers' wages.
"For years, the wages of some workers have remained the same despite the fact that the local governments promulgated a benchmark pay increase rate in line with the economic development scenario," said Dong.
Citing that China's economy has achieved annual average growth of 9.4 per cent in the past 27 years, Dong said the slow rate in pay increase means that workers are losing out in the chance to benefit from the country's development.
"We should face up to the situation and find solutions for workers," said Dong, who is in charge of the membership fees of the 150 million trade union members nationwide.
Trade unions should work hard to make workers earn at least above the local minimum wage and keep their pay increase at the rate set by the local governments, he said.
For example, the municipal government of Beijing has set a benchmark rate of 10 per cent in wage increase for 2005. "So trade unions in Beijing should take the benchmark rate as weapons," said Dong.
Wang Zhaoguo, chairman of the federation, said 1.17 million grass-roots trade unions will be organized to bring workers and the management together to negotiate a possible increase in wages.
"We have legal weapons in our hands to protect the interests of workers," said Wang, who also works as vice-chairman of the Standing Committee of National People's Congress, the country's top legislature.
Source: China Daily