Construction workers become desperate in run-up to Golden Week holiday

There were nearly 100 incidents of construction worker collective actions in the month of August, all protesting wage arrears.

Incidents have been on the rise in construction before the “Golden Week” holiday  that began on China’s National Day on 1 October. Similar to the months leading up to the Lunar New Year, though on slightly smaller scale, migrant workers hope to not go home empty handed, after construction projects go bankrupt or bosses simply refuse to pay them.

While using official dispute resolution channels can take years, and are often ineffective, workers often take more drastic measures in hopes to get the attention of government. In both September and August, the Strike Map recorded more incidents of construction workers threatening suicide over wage arrears than any other month on record.

Three groups of jumpers, two days, one building in Sichuan

Three cases of threatened suicide over wage arrears occurred at the same building in Neijiang, Sichuan on 14 and 15 August.

On 14 August firefighters responded to emergency calls of a woman threatening to jump from the roof of a newly built 31 story development. The woman, driven to the roof by unpaid wages, was eventually talked down by police and firefighters who arrived at the scene.

The following morning, a group of five workers climbed to the roof of the same building and sat on the edge of the roof and sat on the edge of the roof passing hard liquor between among themselves; they too were owed wages in arrears. Workers only came down after firefighters begged them to bring their case to the local government. Later that evening, a pair of workers climbed to the very same spot over nonpayment of wages, and again firefighters spent several hours convincing them not to jump.

Anhui workers left out in cold seeking government help

Construction workers in Fengtai county, Anhui went to a government “Migrant Workers Rights Defence Centre” seeking seeking unpaid wages, and occupied the building as no officials turned up to answer their demands.

Workers claimed that the developer and construction company that owed them wages was under the protection of local government officials, and that they had been left without money for food or a place to live. They brought makeshift bedding and camped out in front of the building during the day, and moved indoors during the evening.

Workers also took to social media they spread the word about their protest. Fengtai court replied to the workers via Weibo and asked them to trust put their trust in the legal system. Workers responded “For so long the local government never protected the rights of migrant workers. We can’t even trust the Rights Defence Centre.”

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