VII. Recommendations

To the Government of the People’s Republic of China

  • Aggressively investigate and prosecute employers who withhold wages, deny workers legal contracts, do not provide adequate food and housing and fail to deliver workers’ medical and accident insurance in violation  of China’s labor law. End the de facto impunity enjoyed by companies who abuse workers’ rights by imposing meaningful and consequential penalties for such abuses.

  • Violations of worker rights are made possible by the government’s failure to adequately hold responsible those construction companies guilty of such transgressions. The government should bar firms guilty of wage exploitation and other abuses from tendering for state-financed construction projects. The government should ensure that government investigators and labor protection bureaus are allocated sufficient personal and budgets to effectively prosecute abuses of China’s Labor Law. Construction firms found to violate the law should be subject to substantial penalties in order to create a deterrent effect, including prosecution of senior executives found guilty of embezzling migrant construction workers’ wages. The Chinese government should disclose details of these prosecutions and any resulting convictions through domestic media in a bid to increase transparency about problems affecting migrant workers to maximize the deterrent effect of such legal action. The Chinese government should also implement the Committee’s recommendation to ratify the ILO Convention No. 81 concerning Labour Inspection in Industry and Commerce.

  • Establish minimum standards for company-provided dormitories and food for migrant construction workers to ensure that workers who live on worksites are guaranteed adequate shelter and sufficient quality and variety of food necessary for long hours of hard physical labor.

  • There are currently no such standards for employers to refer to, which results in intolerable conditions for many migrant construction workers. The lack of standards also makes it harder for labor protection officers to regulate the miserable living conditions and food quality for migrant construction workers. The government should deploy adequate resources for random inspection of company-provided dormitories and canteens to ensure that employers are complying with legal standards. It should impose penalties on those who fail to comply in amounts sufficient to deter future violations.

  • Take immediate action to inform and educate migrant construction workers arriving in China’s cities of their rights under Chinese law.

  • A large percentage of migrant workers have relatively low levels of education and are unaware of their rights under Chinese law. The government should ensure that migrant workers on every construction site are provided with information on China’s Labor Law and explained their rights both verbally and in writing. The government should also ensure that workers are aware of and capable of accessing official mechanisms to seek redress for grievances.

  • Respect the right of freedom of association as set out in article 8 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and ratify the International Labour Organization’s Conventions No. 87 and No. 98 on freedom of association and collective bargaining. Amend Chinese labor law to incorporate the protections of all these conventions’ into domestic law.

  • Chinese law strictly limits all union activity and collective bargaining to activities by the state-affiliated All-China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU). Any and all labor organizing outside the ACFTU is forbidden. Chinese law does not guarantee workers’ right to strike. Those deprivations of workers’ rights severely handicap the capacity of workers to seek legal redress for violations by their employers. Chinese labor law should be amended to comply with international standards and explicitly provide for the formation of independent unions free from employer and government interference and allow workers the right to strike. Free formation of unions should be legalized and those unions should empower workers to effectively and efficiently represent workers, draw up their rules, elect their representatives, and operate in full freedom. All workers should have the right to join independent trade unions of their choice and be allowed to participate fully and have active representation and voting rights.

  • Establish an independent commission to investigate and publicly report on the situation of migrant workers in the country, particularly those in the urban construction industry.

  • The government of the People’s Republic of China should directly confront and seek to address the abuse of migrant construction workers in the country. The first such step should be an independent inquiry into these abuses by an independent commission.

    The commission should investigate the failure of the Chinese government at the central, regional, and local level to enforce the protective provisions of the current legal framework. The commission should be given unfettered access to government records on labor disputes and should be empowered to hold public hearings and collect testimonies from migrant workers and their advocates as well as from regional and international nongovernmental organizations with expertise on migrant workers issues and rights.

  • Establish a provident fund to support migrant construction workers who are unemployed while seeking legal redress for wage exploitation by their employers and other abuses.

  • The bureaucratic process of legal redress for violations of the rights of migrant construction workers’ is extremely slow and relatively costly. Those factors effectively deter many migrant construction workers from seeking legal redress, allowing unscrupulous employers to avoid answering for such abuses and thus encouraging future such violations due to the lack of serious deterrence.

  • Establish mobile medical inspection teams to make random checks of migrant construction workers’ health to ensure that they are getting adequate treatment for workplace-related sickness and injury.

  • Mobile medical inspection teams should be given legal authority to enter construction sites at will and should have the power to refer employers who fail to adequately protect the safety and health of their workers to police for legal investigation and, where appropriate, prosecution.

  • Eliminate the discriminatory aspects of the urban household registration permit system which denies migrant construction workers the same basic social welfare benefits, including medical care, enjoyed by urban residents with permanent urban household registration permits.

  • The government should either automatically extend permanent household registration status and its associated benefits to all migrant workers in the cities or ensure that temporary urban household registration permits allow migrant workers to access the same social welfare benefits as city residents with permanent household registration permits.

    To the International Olympic Committee

    International organizations which have helped to spur the construction boom in Beijing and other major Chinese cities also have a role to play in ensuring that migrant construction workers employed on Olympics-related projects are paid in a fair and timely manner and not subject to substandard food, housing, and safety standards.

  • Seek independent verification that all workers employed to construct venues for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing have not been the victims of wage exploitation and other abuses.

  • Raise formally with the Chinese government the importance of the establishment of an independent commission to investigate and report on labor-related abuses of migrant construction workers.

  • Urge China’s Ministry of Labor to fully implement and enforce its labor laws and to hold violators fully accountable under its laws.

  • Request immediate and full disclosure of labor disputes, workplace injuries, and deaths on construction sites for venues of the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.