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Premier pushes plan to root out back wages problem

Updated: Feb 4,2017 11:59 AM

Premier Li Keqiang ordered authorities to crack down on back pay for migrant workers when he visited Ludian county, southwest China’s Yunnan province, on Jan 23.

The State Council on Feb 3 pledged to press ahead with addressing the wage arrears issue of migrant workers to protect their legitimate rights and interests. The pledge was made at the executive meeting chaired by Premier Li Keqiang on the first work day of the Year of the Rooster after the week-long Spring Festival holiday ended on Feb 2.

The State Council will carry out special campaigns and inspection tours to crack down on the offenses, while making some cases public. Related departments were urged to take responsibility to introduce disciplinary measures and comprehensively solve the problem. “We should never let the migrant workers’ hard work go unrewarded,” Premier Li said.

Before the Spring Festival holiday, the Premier decided to address the wage arrears problem. During his inspection tour in Zhaotong, Southwest China’s Yunnan province, on Jan 23, several migrant workers reported their back wage problems to the Premier. The Premier immediately urged authorities to crack down on those back wage cases, and 48 hours later, the workers got their wages.

“We should not only close those independent cases, but also set up a long-term mechanism to solve the problem from the very root,” the Premier said at the meeting on Feb 3, urging government at all levels to thoroughly root out the problem.

During the executive meeting on Feb 3, Premier Li used “angry”, “grieved” and “embarrassed” to express his feeling while talking to the migrant workers in Zhaotong. He recalled the migrant workers’ experiences and said, “Migrant workers are an important supporting force of the rapid growth of our country and have made great contributions to the development of the economy. Not paying them back will not only hurt their families but also have a negative social impact.”

The Premier said this problem will influence social fairness and justice. “This is the social bottom line, and we cannot break it!” he stressed.

Premier Li explained why the State Council addressed the back wage problem for migrant workers on the first work day after the Spring Festival holiday. The upcoming Lantern Festival, which is on the 15th of the Lunar New Year, will see a peak in migrant workers hunting for jobs in cities. “We need to send a strong signal to them that the government at all levels will create a favorable environment to support them in seeking jobs outside their hometowns,” he said.

Premier Li also urged implementing proactive employment policies to increase migrant workers’ employment rate, while noting that solving the problem of back wages is a key step in ensuring the policy.

China’s development since the reform and opening up relied on a free labor market that has not only benefited migrant workers but gave full play to human resources, said Premier Li.

Focusing on the back wage problems in the construction business, the Premier emphasized that government at all levels should be responsible for solving the problems within their jurisdictions, supervising enterprises to pay on time and establishing effective payroll services. He also asked local governments to establish a coordinating mechanism to work together.

Fundamentally solving the wage arrears issue for migrant workers is an important step to increasing their income, strengthening social justice and injecting vitality into our economy, the Premier said.