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Efforts needed to eliminate wage arrears for migrant workers

(People's Daily Online)

07:51, January 22, 2013

Migrant workers receive their pay at a construction site in Dazu district, Chongqing, on Dec 26. More than 150 workers at the site received a total of 2.2 million yuan ($350,000) of wages that day. (Photo/ CHINA DAILY)

Thousands of migrant workers recently knelt down in Fuping county, Shaanxi province to beg for their unpaid wages, but the company that has delayed paying them once spent 1.3 million yuan inviting a few pop stars to perform at the opening ceremony of its project. This incident has caused quite a stir in China. Migrant workers are probably the only type of workers whose wages are often paid late.

Unlike other types of workers, migrant workers often get their full-year salaries at the end of the year. The salaries are essential to the lives of their families in the next year. Migrant workers are demanding not only wages and justice, but also survival and dignity.

It is not enough to just express moral outrage at unscrupulous businesspeople who always delay paying migrant workers. We should find out why the interests of migrant workers are always harmed and why many businesspeople dare to delay paying workers.

Migrant workers have often ignored their basic rights in order to obtain a job. For example, few of them have signed labor contracts, which put them at a disadvantage in the event of wage disputes. Poor migrant workers seldom resort to lawsuits, and have no choice but to beg local governments to intervene in wage disputes.

Real estate developers can spend money on pop stars, and pay migrant workers under government order. Obviously, it is not that they do not have money. They just do not want to pay the workers. Although China criminalized malicious arrears of wage in 2011, there have been few cases involving the crime. Therefore, the move has not deterred wage arrears in the country.

Local governments have adopted various measures to solve wage arrears, but failed to root it out. Wage arrears should have been resolved through legal means, but are often solved through administrative means.

In order to eliminate wage arrears, the government should strike a balance between the rights of employees and employers, and impose heavier punishments for wage arrears. For example, it can establish a credit system; deduct a company’s credit points for malicious wage arrears, and associate bank loans and business qualifications with credit points. It can also establish a wage compensation fund, and use the fund to pay affected workers in the event of wage arrears.

When people are worried about labor shortages, they should think of rampant wage arrears. When people are paying attention to open-ended labor contracts, they should not neglect the basic rights of migrant workers. There will be more justice, fairness, and hope when more businesspeople pay migrant workers on time.

Read the Chinese version: 愿讨薪不再成为岁末焦点. Source: People's Daily, Author: Fan Zhengwei

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