02/24/2009, 00.00
CHINA
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Shenzhen workers deprived of 102 million yuan in wages

In 2008 local firms fail to pay 39,200 employees. More and more companies shut down without paying wages. Beijing seems unable to cope with growing unemployment, is trying to find ways to manage the inevitable protests.
Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Just in Shenzhen, 370 firms defaulted in 2008 on paying 102 million yuan (US$ 13 million) in wages to some 39,200 workers. The government for its part seems more interested in teaching public officials how to manage social unrest caused by the default than in protecting workers’ rights.

In the past it was not unusual for companies to shut their doors without paying their workers, but the current global crisis has made it worse.

In Shenzhen between October and December of last year, 48 companies went bust and their bosses absconded without paying wages for a total of 30 million yuan.

An estimated 5.6 migrant workers are in the city. Street protests are very likely if job losses and wage pilfering continue.

The city's Labour and Social Security Bureau has begun monitoring firms with operational problems that are a month behind in paying workers.

Baoan District Labour Bureau has demanded firms submit detailed payroll records online and pay wages through banks, which notify the bureau two days after funds are transferred. The bureau can then compare the two sets of records to check whether firms have paid workers properly.

Firms that do not pay employees, or delay payments, are then excluded from government tenders. .

At the same time plans are underway in Beijing to train more than 3,000 public security directors by mid-June to improve responses to threats to public security in the provinces.

This is especially pressing since more than 20 million rural migrant workers have lost their jobs and many have few immediate prospects of finding another.

Layoffs have already led workers in some cities to take to the streets in protest at factory shutdowns.

These training sessions are “urgently needed for the heavy and difficult task of maintaining stability this year,” Public Security Minister Meng Jianzhu was quoted as saying on the Ministry website.

Public security officials should work proactively to “explore new solutions to solving the people's grievances [and] be deeply involved with the people,” he added.

Beijing also does not want public protests to be settled summarily by local authorities resorting to police intervention.

Pundits doubt however that warmth and courtesy will do much for people who need a job to earn a living.

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