Chinese migrant workers in legal battles over paychecks

World Today

Millions of migrant workers in Chinese cities are scheduled to return home for the Chinese New Year. They should also be taking home the money they earned in the last year. Every year, however, a number of these workers go unpaid. CCTV America’s Audrey Siek reported the story from Washington, D.C.

Chinese migrant workers in legal battles over paychecks

Millions of migrant workers in Chinese cities are scheduled to return home for the Chinese New Year. They should also be taking home the money they earned in the last year. Every year, however, a number of these workers go unpaid. CCTV America's Audrey Siek reported the story from Washington, D.C.

In 2012, construction worker Yang Minghong and some 40 workers took a project in Central China’s Henan Province to build cow sheds for a local company. The construction work went smoothly as planned, but Yang never got paid. For over two years now, the workers have been chasing Yang for their wages, but Yang is unable to deliver anything for them.

“Yang said he would pay us soon at that time. But up to now, all we have got are empty promises,” one worker said.

“If I can get my construction payment, I will immediately pay my workers. But without that, I can do nothing,’ Yang said.

In desperation, Yang sued the hiring company at a local court. He demanded for the project payment and interests, which totalled 3.2 million Yuan (about $513,318) all together. The court later ruled in Yang’s favor.

However, as the hiring company’s legal person went on the run, the court order become essentially ineffectual.

“All we can do now is to find another company which can buy the leftover assets, and hopefully use that money to pay for Yang’s contract fees,” Court Officer Wang Xilu said.

For Yang, it seems all he can do is to wait, but with workers coming into his home asking for money every day, its taken a toll on his mental health.

“I cannot sleep well. I wake up over eight times every night. There were only nightmares,” Yang said. “I dreamed about people asking me for money all the time. I even thought about committing suicide.”

Unfortunately, Yang Minghong’s case is not the worst. Other cases of wage earners demanding pay owed to them ended in tragedy.

Last December, in North China’s Shanxi Province, a woman was beaten to death in a local police station for demanding her wage. In January of this year, after a failed attempt to recover the wages her father and other workers, a 14-year-old girl jumped to her death from the 16th floor of a building still under-construction in Hebei province.