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Unions should help workers get allowances

(China Daily)

08:14, July 24, 2013

Trade unions should play a stronger role in protecting workers' rights by helping them get hot-weather allowances, a labor rights expert said.

Few unions in corporations stand up for employees, and central, as well as local governments, should strive to get the allowances, said Chang Kai, director of Renmin University of China's Institute for Labor Relations Studies.

Workers should also unite under the trade unions and let the unions negotiate with employers, he said.

"The government's job was not over when it put forward regulations about hot-weather allowances. It had just began," Chang said.

According to a State regulation released in June last year, enterprises are required to provide allowances for employees working outdoors in temperatures above 35 C and indoors above 33 C. But standards differ in cities across the Chinese mainland.

In Beijing, outdoor workers should get 120 yuan ($19.56) a month from June to August every year, and those working indoors are meant to receive 90 yuan a month.

The allowances are part of employees' salaries - they are not welfare benefits that can vary from firm to firm, they are mandatory, Chang said.

"If firms know that not paying employees for their work is illegal, they should also understand that holding back allowances violates the law," he said.

Chang said many workers in various industries said they had never heard about allowances, which indicates a lack of awareness - and even when they do know, workers seldom confront bosses about the allowances due to fear of being fired.

This is where they can consider bringing in trade unions, Chang said.

"Apparently many small and medium companies are too concerned about their costs to give these allowances."

He said the allowances are commonly misunderstood to be welfare benefits.

Most of the companies that did not provide high-temperature allowances were private firms, Chang said, and even when companies did provide the allowances, few paid the full amount stipulated by the government.

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