Sanitation workers get compensation from old employer, hit roadblock with new employer

27 June 2019

The more than 200 sanitation workers who have been on strike at Guangzhou’s University Town since 26 August have been compensated by their old employer but are refusing to sign contracts with their new employer unless the entire workforce is hired as promised.

The previous employer, Guangdian Property Services, whose contract with Guangzhou University Town expired on 1 September, finally agreed on 12 September to pay the workers a lump-sum compensation package for their numerous years of service. The exact amount of compensation was not officially disclosed but the workers’ chief representative, Wang Ruolong, said they were happy with the result - so far.

“We finally got what we asked for but the battle continues,” he said. “The new company has refused to honour their promise to take everybody in. I think they are trying to divide us and get rid of the trouble-makers.”

Local media reported on Friday that new contractor, Suicheng Property Services, only agreed to employ local residents, not migrant workers, and reserved the right not employ some of the older workers because of “health concerns.”  However, the local government tender states that the contractor must agree to “unconditionally” take on every single employee from the old contractor.

“It is a dirty trick designed to weaken the workers’ solidarity,” said Wang, who is from the neighbouring province of Hunan but has been working at University Town for nine years. “In our mind, there are no locals or non-locals, the striking sanitation workers at University Town are a big family, and we stand together.”

Striking workers gathered outside the collective bargaining venue on 2 September.

As the workers continue their strike and the garbage piles up in the late summer heat, the university students who have been signing letters of support and sending bottled water to the striking workers are calling on the local government to put pressure on Suicheng to honour its agreement.

“Nearly a thousand students have signed the letter, and many came to show their support in person,” said Chen Weixiang, a medical student from Sun Yat-sen University. “I hope more students will join me and send postcards with the striking workers on them to the University Town authorities. Each letter can make a difference.”

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