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Laws on weathering heat needed

07-27-2010 08:29 BJT Special Report:China Battles Heat Wave |

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Heat waves continue to affect northern China. Many cities including Beijing have seen temperatures rise above 35 degree Celsius.

To cope with the situation, many companies hand out allowances to employees or reschedule their working hours. But these expedient measures are not enough. As CCTV's Wang Guan finds out, the lack of a nationwide, legally-binding legislation dealing with heat puts many employees' rights at stake, especially migrant workers.

It has been scorching hot since the beginning of July in the Chinese capital and there is little sign of it letting up.

To flee the heat, some choose to swim in a lake others simply doze off in the shade.

But for the country's huge working population, especially the 200 million migrant workers, taking a break is a luxury they can't afford.

These workers are working on Beijing's next major subway line--line nine that will connect the underdeveloped southwestern region with the rest of the city.

They have been working outdoors six days a week, often in a situation that the temperatures are above 35 degree Celsius. Construction site management told us they are aware of the harsh working conditions.

Sun Chao, construction site supervisor, said, "We improved food in the canteens, we bought fans, and set up first-aid kits. Also we changed working hours so they can start at dawn and by 1030 in the morning they go for lunch."

But many questions went unanswered.

If workers get sunstroke or laborers heart's conditions are affected by the intense heat, who will pay the hospital bill?

Also, when temperatures exceed 35 degree Celsius should they still work outdoors for eight hours a day, six days a week?

What's disturbing is that so far, few nationwide labor laws stipulate migrant workers' welfare under such extreme weather.

CCTV reporter Wang Guan said, "This is the only legally binding document that spells out workers' rights in extremely hot weather. It was made in 1960 and there has been no amendment in the past half century. For example, back then there was no such thing as a service industry or migrant workers. Now, migrant workers contribute 20 percent of the country's GDP."

When a new national law is in the making, local governments try to step up. Since July, many cities ordered companies to double allowances and lower indoor temperatures. But Professor Gao Zhikai believes these notifications have good intentions but are not legally binding.

Currrent Affairs commentator Gao Zhikai said, "Whether the company management will be able to disperse the money as required by the government is a separate issue. Even when we have such a regulation, which is an improvement, it can't solve all the problems in Beijing. Whether it'll be implemented, or how and what's the punishment for failure of implementation are all uncertain."

Professor Gao believes a new national legislation on summer emergency response must come into force to replace the current chapter made 50 years ago.

That way the rights and benefits of grassroots Chinese will be ensured.

Editor:Zhang Ning |Source: CNTV

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