China to crack down on firms withholding workers' pay

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BEIJING, Nov 1 (Reuters) China will crack down on companies that delay or withhold payments to the country's vast army of migrant workers, theatening to revoke operating licences, the official Xinhua news agency said.

The Ministry of Labour and Social Security, Construction Ministry and police will fan out across China from November 16 ''to carry out nationwide scrutiny of employers in key industries and regions and those who had reported defaults'', the report said.

''Employers who viciously postpone or skimp payments would face punishments ranging from suspension of business to depriving them of operation licenses,'' it quoted an unnamed labour official as saying.

The move is part of annual government efforts ahead of Chinese New Year, which falls in the early spring, to make sure workers can return to their home villages happy and properly paid.

China has an estimated 200 million migrant workers who in recent years have flocked from the vast, poor countryside to the booming cities. Rights groups say they often lack health care, may have their pay withheld and are vulnerable to exploitation.

Amnesty International criticised the government in a report earlier this year for doing too little to protect migrant workers from widespread and institutionalised discrimination.

Reuters BJR VP0622

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