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Beijing to train more negotiators

By Liu Linlin (Global Times)

15:57, May 07, 2012

Construction industry authorities and labor unions will have 1,800 negotiators this year to help migrant workers with their legal rights, Beijing Municipal Commission of Housing and Urban-rural Development has revealed, but analysts questioned their effectiveness.

Negotiators are picked from labor unions attached to construction projects subcontracted to non-local companies in Beijing. About 500 negotiators will be trained this year, bringing the total number to 1,800, a spokesperson from the union responsible for managing companies in Beijing's construction industry was quoted by the Beijing News as saying.

These negotiators will study labor law, employment contract law and negotiation skills to help migrant workers in labor arbitration.

Zhang Qing of the Sichuan Provincial Government's Beijing office, told the Beijing Times that 78 percent of Sichuan companies have set up a part-time negotiator mechanism which helped solve 64 disputes last year.

The Beijing authorities could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Wang Fang, a lawyer at Beijing Zhicheng Migrant Worker Legal Aid and Research Center, told the Global Times that the training program was a sign officials are paying more attention to migrant workers' interests. But he added that the program alone would not be sufficient to deal with the growing complexity of disputes between migrant workers and bosses.

"Cases caused by non-payment of salaries have decreased from 70 percent to around 20 to 30 percent of all cases in recent years. The disputes have become more complicated than before because workers are increasingly aware of labor rights," Wang said.

"A third-party negotiator will be trusted more by workers," she added.

However, Wang said negotiation had not always proved effective in her experience and added that complicated disputes mostly end up being solved through legal channels.

"Considering the wage problem is very seasonal in the construction industry, the campaign will be more helpful in months right before the Chinese Lunar New Year," Wang added. Migrant workers need to be paid before Spring Festival in order to be able to travel home.

A subcontractor surnamed Meng in Beijing told the Global Times yesterday that he had not heard of this mechanism before. His project was going smoothly, he said, and he had no intention of seeking out third-party negotiators.

There are 1,500 non-local companies operating construction projects in Beijing, employing about 700,000 workers.

Beijing Human Resources and Social Welfare Bureau started a campaign in December targeting collecting wages owed to migrant workers. So far, 4,561 cases have been investigated into late salary payments worth more than 181 million yuan ($28.7 million) to 32,993 workers, according to Beijing Youth Daily.

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