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Shanghai legislators helping give migrant workers a voice

2015-01-29 09:06 Shanghai Daily Web Editor: Qian Ruisha

Fan Jinbing left his home in the Pudong New Area at 6:30am as usual yesterday.

But he'd swapped his usual work overalls for a suit and was heading to the annual session of the Shanghai People's Congress in his capacity as a city legislator.

Waiting on Pudong Avenue for a shuttle bus taking legislators to the World Expo Center where the session is being held, Fan reflected on when he first became a legislator.

"I had no idea about what to propose when I was elected in 2012," admitted the Pudong representative. "But now I can discuss many topics with other legislators during group discussions at the session," Fan said.

The 39-year-old is a fitter with the Hudong-Zhonghua Shipbuilding Group, installing equipment on ships.

A native of east China's Jiangxi Province, Fan is one of five local migrant workers elected among Shanghai's 868 legislators.

Around 9 million of Shanghai's population are out-of-towners.

"Legislator is not an empty title but should be used to transmit concerns of the public to officials," Fan said.

This year, Fan has proposed a new law making local companies — not just the city government — responsible for sorting rubbish and collecting batteries and old light bulbs.

Common concerns

"In the past, I submitted proposals to improve social security for local migrant workers," he said.

"Now I'm focusing on pollution and food safety, common concerns of all residents."

Fellow Jiangxi Province native Hua Maofei is among the Putuo District legislators group.

Although it's lunch hour at the conference session, Hua is still busy, surrounded by other migrant worker legislators seeking advice on how best to apply for a Shanghai residence permit.

A senior car mechanic with local Qiangsheng Holding Co, Hua is among migrant workers who have gained a Shanghai residence permit.

After being elected in 2012, Hua said he made a point of studying policies and reports affecting migrant workers.

"I'm the representative of millions of migrant workers and have to study policies to better represent them," Hua said.

He proposed increased training subsidies for mechanics.

"Workers complain to me that customers don't respect them. The best way to gain respect is to improve your skills," he said.

Hua's own career path would seem to bear this out.

He has acquired top qualifications as a mechanic and has just been sent to Germany to study there and add to his skills.

And being a legislator has helped develop other skills, added Hua.

"In the beginning, other legislators would tease me a little, saying that I didn't dare make speeches in discussions.

"But now they say I talk quite well," the congress deputy said.

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