The last few months before Spring Festival are when most people are preparing to return home and unite with their families.
For China’s migrant workers, the season marks a yearly battle to recover withheld pay – especially in the engineering and construction industries.
On October 25, Xia Renchun and her coworkers went to Anshun Donglian International Mingche Square to ask their employer for unpaid wages. They were chased away by a group of 20 men armed with knives and bats.
Seven of Xia’s coworkers were injured and four required hospitalization for further treatment.
Lin Qiao, the head of the group of migrant workers, was struck in the head and stabbed in the leg, severing his nerves.
Lin told ThePaper.cn that the developers still owed 30 million yuan for the project and 5 million yuan in unpaid wages.
Xia said she and her husband came to the construction site in March 2015 and finished their work in September. But Xia and her husband never received their pay even before returning home.
Xia said she thought they could get the money in 2016. “We went back home with no money last year. This year we had to get the money to buy something for the family and for the newborn grandson,” she said.
Xia and her husband found another part-time job in Zhijin, Guizhou province.
Recalling the incident, Xia said several of the men broke her ribs and taunted with a knife after Lin collapsed under his wounds. She said she hid behind several cars during the remainder of the melee. Her husband’s hand was injured during the attack.
Xia was required to stay in bed for four months while her husband went back to work. “Staying in bed meant losing hundreds of yuan each day. I don’t know whether we can still afford tickets,” Xia said.
Liu Yunsheng, 55, was also among the migrant workers who were attacked. Another coworker, Zhang Daobin, 41, suffered a fractured tailbone.
Lin Qiao said the developers paid 4.6 million yuan to the workers, which was 80 percent of the total after the local Labor Supervision Department helped to negotiate.
Lin said that since March 2015, the developers halted the project while ordering new materials. In November 2015, two workers died and three were seriously injured in an accident that caused a second stoppage.
Lin said the developers kept saying money was coming soon and would only be available after the homes were sold.
Xia Renchun’s group was one of tens of thousands to seek their missing wages this season.
In March 2016, Prime Minister Li Keqiang spoke about unfair treatment of workers during the Jiangsu Representative Group Conference. It was the first time the problem of migrant workers was mentioned during the National People’s Congress and Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference.
Li Yan, deputy director of the Trade Union of Changzhi, Shanxi province said such disputes are the result of a complicated relationship between developers, contractors and workers. Usually workers have an oral contract with the company that signed a contract with the developers.
According to the report on migrant workers’ withheld wages in 2014 by the Focus on New Generation Migrant Workers Plan and Beijing Xingzai Renjian Culture Development Center, more than 97 percent of construction projects are contracted to multiple companies. Migrant workers always end up on the bottom of these complex relationships.
In December 2016, Qiaoxi Court Enforcement Command Center in Shijiazhuang, Hebei province helped migrant workers to recover 14,000 yuan in unpaid wages.
As of November, Shijiazhuang helped more than 60,000 migrant workers to recover 560 million yuan in unpaid wages. The justice department also opened a legal hotline to help migrant workers.