Chinese construction workers protest in Trinidad and Tobago

22 October 2009
Around one hundred Chinese construction workers staged a roadside protest on the Caribbean island of Trinidad last week demanding they be allowed to return to China after being forced to live and work in appalling conditions, with no pay for the last two months.

Newspapers in Trinidad and Tobago reported that the demonstrators caused a major traffic jam on the morning of 13 October until they were taken away by local police to the Immigration Office where they were met by representatives from the Chinese embassy.

The workers, all working legally, were employed by the Trinidad branch of Beijing Liujian Construction Corporation (北京六建集团公司), a major state-owned conglomerate with an annual turnover of around two billion yuan.

The protest is merely the latest by Chinese workers recruited to work on construction sites overseas. In the spring of 2009, several hundred construction workers picketed the Chinese embassy in Bucharest, Romania, for several months in a wage arrears protest.

And the Trinidad protest follows a well-established pattern of labour protests within China itself, whereby workers with no effective collective bargaining power stage strikes, roadblocks and sit-ins in an attempt to force the local authorities (or in this case the Chinese embassy) to intercede on their behalf. See CLB’s latest research report on the state of the workers’ movement in China.

The media and general public in Trinidad and Tobago have been largely sympathetic to the workers. Rather than complain about immigrants taking local jobs, commentators, including local trade union leaders, have instead condemned the treatment of the Chinese workers as “modern day slavery,” and demanded that the government take action to address situation.
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