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NPC Standing Committee members call for occupational disease prevention to be included in draft law
2007-04-24 17:20:32 Xinhua English

BEIJING, April 25 (Xinhua) -- Members of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC), China's top legislative body, on Wednesday called for the inclusion of articles on occupational disease prevention and control in a draft labor contract law.

The draft law, which was submitted to the national legislature on Tuesday for a third reading, lacked any articles on occupational disease prevention, said Zhu Xiangyuan, a member of the NPC Standing Committee, which is convening in Beijing for a four-day regular legislative session.

According to China's occupational diseases prevention law, implemented in May 2002, employees should be informed of the possible risks and effects of occupational diseases, along with preventative measures, which should be stated clearly in labor contracts.

"However, most labor contracts do not include any articles on occupational disease prevention and control and neither does the draft labor contract law," Zhu said.

"Occupational disease has become a very serious problem and rural migrant workers and temporary employees are the worst-hit."

Work-related diseases lung disease are not rare, particularly in the mining sector. The rate of occurrence of occupational disease is also high in the leather-making, construction and chemicals sectors.

China's occupational disease situation was described as "grim" in a report by China's Ministry of Health earlier this month.

More than 670,000 Chinese workers suffer from work-related illness, 90 percent of whom suffer lung disease. Over 100,000 new cases of lung disease are reported every year and China is one of the worst countries for continued inhalation of mineral or metallic dust.

After the NPC sent a team to investigate how the occupational diseases prevention law is being implemented by local governments, Wang Yongyan, a NPC Standing Committee member, said, "During the investigation, we found Chinese workers at risk of occupational disease, many of them from companies whose production processes are dangerous or poisonous, mainly from the mining and cement industries."

"Workers ought to have the right to refuse to work in dangerous or poisonous conditions, and employers should not use this as an excuse for employers to cease labor contracts," Wang said.

The draft labor contract law, aimed at establishing "stable and harmonious" relations between employers and employees, is one of the top items on the NPC agenda. If enacted, it will be the country's first specific law governing labor contracts.

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