05/04/2016, 14.53
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Authorities in Henan warn workers against suicide threats over back wages

Zhengzhou wants to punish migrant workers who threaten suicide to get what is owed to them, a growing practice that has caught the attention of national media. At the same time, the authorities want employers to set up accounts for workers who are not paid on time, and plan a score point system to rank companies.

Beijing (AsiaNews) – Authorities in Zhengzhou, Henan Province, want to punish workers who threaten to commit suicide during protests over unpaid wages.

The draft regulation, set to come into force at the end of the month, would ban acts such as climbing on cranes or buildings and threatening to jump.

This comes as a result of the bad press the area has received latterly, as national media cover the cases of desperate migrants.

The by-law also would also go after unscrupulous workers who use force or money to convince others to join protests, something the authorities have said unhappy labourers have done in the past.

In a recent commentary, the state-run People's Daily said that migrant workers resort to extreme measures because their knowledge of the law is rudimentary, and that the law protects workers in cases of injustice.

Whatever the case, labour protests show an upward trend. Hong Kong-based China Labour Bulletin recorded 2,774 incidents in 2015, double the 1,379 incidents for 2014. This year, things appear to be getting worse, especially in construction and the steel industry.

According to CaixinOnline, a business oriented paper, Zhengzhou’s draft proposal partially acknowledges the problem by calling on companies that hire migrant workers “to set up special bank accounts approved by the government in case workers are not paid on time.” However, how much money would be put in those accounts is unknown.

The draft also calls for establishing a system to score companies based on their history paying migrant workers. Companies with low scores would be banned from the area.

Still, the issue is not local. In July last year, a 20-year old migrant worker from the north-western province of Shaanxi threatened to jump off a 200 metre crane at a building site unless he got his back pay.

A group of migrant workers also made national headlines in August in 2011 when they dug a hole in a dyke along the Yangtze River and said they would arrange for other workers to bury them alive if they did not get a total of 3 million yuan (US$ 460,000) in back wages.

Despite these high profile cases, according to the China Labour Bulletin, in countless more, the victims remain nameless after they kill themselves out of shame for not being paid what is owed to them.

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