More than 130 construction workers on one project owed 3.4 million yuan

27 June 2019
A dispute between local villagers and a property developer in the northern city of Baoding has resulted in a group of migrant workers being owed 3.4 million yuan in back pay, China’s premier radio station reported on 27 June.

The Voice of China reported that the more than 130 plumbers, electricians, bar benders and carpenters had been hired to work at the city’s Chaoyang Gardens development. However none of the workers had received any payment for their labour.

The property developer admitted they had the money to pay the workers but could not pay them because local villagers had allegedly locked them out of their own offices. The villagers were reportedly angry at only receiving some 30 million yuan of the 70 million yuan promised by the developer for their land.

Additional problems had been caused by the fact that the developer had not acquired planning permission or completed other necessary planning procedures, the radio station reported.

The city government itself blamed the system of hiring workers through labour contractors, nearly all of whom it said had no formal qualifications and did not sign contracts with the workers. According to one government official this made it difficult for the wage arrears issue to be resolved, although as the labour contractors themselves pointed out, if they were paid what they were owed, they could pay the workers.

The Baoding incident is just the latest in a series of wage arrears cases reported in the official Chinese media since early May when officials in the south-western city of Chongqing dispatched a SWAT team to resolve a wage dispute at a construction site there. This suggests that, despite government pledges early this year to more effectively tackle the issue of wage arrears, the problem is actually getting worse.

In another case reported this week, a labour contractor allegedly smashed a construction worker in the head with a brick when the worker complained that he and his son were still owed more than 30,000 yuan in back pay. When the police failed to properly investigate the incident, his son jumped from the second floor of the construction site in protest. However, the police still did nothing and the labour contractor is still at large. The contractor even allegedly went to the hospital and boasted to the injured workers that it was pointless for them to make such protests because he was “connected” and had nothing to fear
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