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Wage defaulters face imprisonment

(China Daily)

10:48, January 23, 2013

An employer who postpones paying a worker 5,000 yuan ($804) may face up to seven years in prison, according to an interpretation of the part concerning delayed wages in Criminal Law released by the Supreme People's Court, China's top court, on Tuesday.

An employer who delays paying one worker 5,000 yuan for more than three months or 30,000 yuan to 10 workers can be considered to have delayed the payment of "a large amount of money", according to the interpretation.

The employer can be sentenced to seven years in prison if the delay seriously affects the basic living of workers' families or if the employer uses violence and threats against the worker demanding their money.

From May 2011, when wage delays were classified as a crime under Criminal Law, to the end of last year, 120 employers have received criminal penalties in 152 lawsuits, and the number of wage disputes has been rising significantly, the top court said.

Zhejiang province, a manufacturing hub, saw a nearly 40 percent year-on-year rise in the number of wage disputes last year, and 29 employers have received criminal penalties due to maliciously delaying wages, Xinhua News Agency reported.

More than 220,000 wage disputes were reported nationwide in 2012 and wage delays resulted in 190 mass incidents each involving more than 100 people in the first 11 months of 2012, according to Yin Weimin, minister of human resources and social security.

On Tuesday, a worker in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, attempted suicide by lying on subway tracks but was rescued by police. Another worker from the same company climbed up noise barriers in the subway before falling and injuring himself.

Both workers were involved in a labor dispute with their employer, a subway construction contractor, according to local government-run website

The judicial interpretation also makes clear that "laborer's pay" should not only include salary, but also welfare, subsidies and overtime payment.

Jiang Ying, a labor law professor at the China Institute of Industrial Relations, praised the judicial interpretation.

Jiang said in some cases, workers' bonuses, subsidies or overtime pay is unpaid, but labor authorities would find it hard to resort to the Criminal Law because the definition of pay was vague.

"Now the interpretation gives a clearer definition of the pay and will help make the law more practical," she said.

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