Construction Workers Protest in Xi'an

13:03 Feb 1 2010 Xi'an Shaanxi China

Construction Workers Protest in Xi'an
From the Epoch Times:

February is a time for Chinese family reunions, and many migrant workers in China want to return home with some money to share with their family and friends. Now, as the Chinese New Year approaches, waves of protests by laborers seeking to recover unpaid wages are seen in many locations. A Google search of the subject “Ask for unpaid wages” yields 2.62 million hits on related news. However, due to suppression of such news, there are no available Web sites in China devoted to this subject.

On February 1, over 40 migrant workers from the provinces of Sichuan and Shaanxi protested for unpaid wages at the provincial government offices, where they were intercepted by police. The workers held banners that read, “Yu Xing Construction and Qun Jian Labor Services, give me back my hard-earned money! Government, please help!” They shouted slogans as they marched. Police stopped them in front of the building and told them to take their protest to the Appeals Office.

These were workers from the East Gate Trade Center of the Beilin District of Xi’an, the capital city of Shaanxi province. The project was contracted by Yu Xing Construction Company to Qun Jian Labor Services. Though the five-month project was completed on December 25, workers have yet to receive their wages. The foreman disappeared with their money, and, for more than a month, the local government ignored the issue, leaving the problem unresolved.

Mr. Chen, one of the protesters, said the protests have been going on for more than a month. ”The provincial government staff referred us to the city government; the city government referred us to Beilin District; the District referred us to the Labor Bureau, the Labor Bureau referred us back to Labor Services, and Labor Services said it was not their concern.”

Mr. Chen said, “In Xi’an, there are many such incidents. I remember seeing several hundred people asking for their money at the provincial government when I was there on January 26.”

It is alleged that the Communist Party Chief of the Beilin District owns the Yu Xing Construction Company. This has undoubtedly increased the difficulty of resolving disputes. Some workers had contacted local TV and newspaper reporters. They were told that interviews could only be conducted on an invitation from the local Propaganda Department.

Mr. Gong, a worker, said the only compensation workers receive when on a job is in the form of cafeteria meal vouchers. “Now the work is completed, the foreman is gone, and we have nothing.”

The Provincial Labor Bureau proposed resolving the issue by paying the workers 50 percent of their wages. The workers refused.

Wages ranged from 120 yuan (US$17.60) a day to 60 yuan (US$8.80) a day. Thus, 50 percent of 60 yuan would only be 30 yuan. Of that amount, 20 yuan would be deducted for the meal fee, leaving only 10 yuan (US$1.50) a day for some of the workers. “We had discussed this, and none of the workers agreed to it,” they said.

Mr. Gong said that when he approached company officials to ask for his wages, he was beaten.. He said the company hired 30 gang members to stand in front of the building on January 26. “Two workers were beaten, and I was one of the two,” he said.

After that, Yu Xing proposed to pay workers 80 percent of their wages. Frustrated workers said they would probably have to accept this proposal—yet it does not come with any guarantee that they will indeed receive what is promised.

Similar stories abound in China. According to the Nanfang Daily, there are a total of 100 billion yuan (US $120.8 billion) in unpaid wages in China. The debts of construction companies comprise 70 percent of this figure. Only 6 percent of migrant workers report receiving wages on time each month.
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