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Workers' disputes cause headache for arbitrators

THE local labor union is urging the government to set up more arbitration offices and hire part-time arbitrators to speed up the settlement of an increasing number of labor disputes.

This was not only to ensure cases could be dealt with timely but also to spare current arbitrators from an alarming level of overtime work, officials with Shanghai Federation of Trade Union, said in a proposal to the government yesterday.

Unpaid overtime was a major aspect in labor-dispute cases and, ironically, the arbitrators themselves were now suffering from extensive overtime work, the union officials said.

The law says an arbitration result is due in 60 days after a case is accepted. Struggling to reach that target, government arbitrators have been working many extra hours, the union said. However, many of the cases were delayed because of a lack of arbitrators.

The union said an arbitrator in Shanghai on average dealt with more than 226 cases last year. A reasonable workload should be 50 cases, it said.


An arbitration office in Pudong reported that each of its arbitrators "largely exceeds" the legal limit of 36 hours' overtime per month.

Some even showed symptoms of depression and anxiety, the office said.

Labor dispute cases have been rising sharply since the beginning of last year when the new Labor Contract Law took effect.

The government established arbitration offices to enable workers to settle disputes with employers rather than resort to lengthy and costly court cases.

The union said the government should establish a certification system to allow licensed part-time arbitrators. More authorized offices should be established, especially in the city's industrial zones, it said.

Feng Guoqin, chairman of the Shanghai Committee of Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, the city's top advisory body, suggested local decision makers increase the budgets for arbitration offices to improve staff pay. An arbitrator earns on average 2,800 yuan (US$410.23) a month in Shanghai.

There are 20 labor dispute arbitration offices with 162 full-time arbitrators in the city. Workers filed 52,930 cases with these offices in the first nine months of 2008, more than double the previous year's figure.


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