BEIJING, Jan. 18 (Xinhua) -- Ju Xiaolin, a technical migrant worker, was voted in as vice chair of China's trade union federation on Sunday.
"I was very surprised and feel honored to become ACFTU vice chairman. I will continue to help protect the interests and rights of migrant workers," Ju told Xinhua on Monday at the headquarters of the All-China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU) in Beijing.
Ju, 53, is the first migrant worker coming from the rural area to ever hold such a high post. It reflects the central authorities' push to make the ACFTU better represent the interests of the rank-and-file workers.
The stocky, bald technician from Qishan County, northwest China's Shaanxi Province, was recruited by China CREC Railway Electrification Bureau Group in 1987. Before this, he had worked as a painter and a projectionist. He holds a middle school diploma.
Now a skilled rail contact line equipment technician, Ju was involved in the construction of a number of traditional and high-speed railways.
Ju, who is also a model worker, was elected to be a deputy to the 12th National People's Congress, China's top legislature, in 2014.
"As a technical migrant worker, Ju's new position illustrates the increasing participation of ordinary migrant workers in trade unions. This deserves big applause." said Lu Hui, an associate professor in sociology at Peking University.
"But institutional reform is needed at the lower level of trade unions to attract and retain more experienced migrant workers," he suggested.
Many netizens reached out to Ju following the announcement.
"Please speak on behalf of our migrant worker brothers," read one comment by "Dabizidexiaopengyou" on Sina Weibo, China's Twitter-like microblog service.
"Will it be a little bit easier when demanding owed wages in the future?" asked "nonggonglaotou."
In China, migrant workers often work without formal contracts and are sometimes left out of pocket due to various reasons, despite repeated efforts by the government to deal with this problem.
In the first nine months last year, the number of "incidents" related to wage defaults of migrant workers hit 11,007, up 34 percent from the same period in 2014, data from the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security showed.
"Trade unions are a bridge. I have a lot of contact with migrant workers. I will pay more attention to the protection of their interests," said Ju.