Unpaid and angry, some Chinese workers ditch holidays to protest

Thu Feb 4, 2016 6:23pm EST
 
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By Natalie Thomas and James Pomfret

QIAN'AN/DONGGUAN, China (Reuters) - This year, laborer Fan Fu and 20 or so colleagues working on the Zixia Garden apartment complex in Hebei province have not joined China's legion of migrant workers returning home to celebrate new year with their families.

Instead, they have camped in the offices of the property developer's subcontractor, demanding almost a year's unpaid wages and too angry and proud to go back to native towns and villages empty-handed.

With China's economy growing at its slowest in 25 years, more workers face Fan's predicament and labor unrest is on the rise, a concern for Beijing as it seeks to avoid social unrest even as financial pressures build.

"The developer has kept using the fact that they have no money as an excuse. As of now they haven't paid us a single penny," said Fan, who brought others from his home town in the western province of Sichuan to work on the apartments.

"We really don't have any other options," he told Reuters in the subcontractor's offices, crowded with bedding and personal possessions.

The group had earlier petitioned local authorities for redress and staged protests outside government offices in Qian'an, a city in Hebei in China's north.

When water and electricity were cut to the dorm where they lived, the subcontractor allowed them to move in temporarily.

Fan and about 530 other workers on the apartment project are owed paychecks of between 20,000 and 50,000 yuan ($3,000-$7,500). They said the government had offered each non-local laborer 2,000 yuan in cash if they left for the holidays.   Continued...

 
A migrant worker shows a banner inside a building that is under construction as a part of the Zixia Garden development complex in Qianan, Tangshan City, Hebei province, China January 28, 2016. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj