Wei Jingsheng Foundation News and Article Release Issue: A49-L3



Release Date: January 22, 2004



Topic: China's Workers Face Unhappy New Year by BBC



Original Language Version: English (Chinese version at the end)





On this Chinese New Year Day of Monkey, we wish you and yours the very best.  Here, we also want to share with you stories of Chinese migrant workers from the countryside.




China's workers face unhappy New Year


By BBC's Nick Machie

in Chongqing, China



The start of the Chinese New Year - or Spring Festival - on 22 January, is China's most important holiday.


This is a time when homes are festooned with brightly coloured scrolls and people buy new clothes.


It is also a time when hundreds of millions of Chinese migrant workers travel home to see their families in the countryside after having been away from home for most of the past 12 months, eking out a living in the big cities.


Just like during previous years, the better off are packing the planes and trains, the rest are hitting the road on China's network of long distance buses.

But this year, things are different.


Tens of millions of these people are owed billion of dollars. They have toiled for months or even years in the big cities, only to find their employers are unable to pay them.


Unpaid Debts


The Spring Festival is meant to be a time for families to pay respect to their forefathers, pray for good health and pay-off old debts.


But according to official figures published in December, employers owed an estimated 90 million migrant workers over $12bn.


Construction firms are among the worst offenders.


"The company is big, we've worked here for 4 to 5 months but we haven't been paid," said one migrant worker at a Chongqing building site.


As a consequence, those with no money for their families will not be going home.


Rough Existence


China may be in the midst of a property boom, but the country is being built on the cheap labourers, when they are paid, earn around $50 per month.


In the city, the damp, dirty building sites where they work are also their homes.  The workers are fed on site and they usually sleep on scaffolding in basement parking lots of tomorrow's apartment and office blocks.


"We sleep on the site, eating and living and sleeping. We have a canteen, they give us a food voucher," one labourer said.


Competitive Advantage


Yet the migrants keep coming, not least because one unskilled worker here can earn 40% of the total income of a small village - when they are paid.


With many of China's construction projects financed by speculative investment, late payment is common.


Contracts often go to those companies willing to borrow the most and wait for their money.


So in turn their workers have to wait as well.


Legal Protection


The government has set about forcing contractors to settle outstanding pay packets.


Despite appearances, there are laws designed to protect the weak, explained Chongqing lawyer Li Rao Jun.


Workers can complain to the local government labour office if employers violate workers' rights, he explained.


Companies can be held liable if they reduce or delay without reason the employees salary, if they refuse to pay the workers their salary or overtime payments, or if the employees salary is less than the normal local salary, he said.


Debt Spiral


But in reality, the laws are regularly flaunted.  Enforcement takes time.  And the poorly educated migrants are often ignorant of their rights and wary of going to the authorities.


But China is so big, and the non-payment of migrant labour so widespread, that there seems no end to the plight of the poor, especially when there is an oversupply of labour.


The contractors themselves are caught up in a chain of debt.



This story comes from BBC with its link as: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/3413279.stm




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Wei Jingsheng Foundation News and Article Release Issue: A49-L3



Release Date: January 22, 2004



Topic: China's Workers Face Unhappy New Year by BBC














BBC驻北京记者 林慕莲







中国总理温家宝最近下令所有公司确保它们的工人得到工钱。 但在现实中,这并不是那么简单的事。





























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