More migrant workers ask for open-chest surgery in compensation bid

Following the lead of Zhang Haichao, who famously underwent open-chest surgery to prove he was suffering from pneumoconiosis, 13 migrant workers from Yunnan have applied to have the same operation to examine their lungs, according to the local Chinese media.

The 13, all employed in a machinery factory in the provincial capital Kunming, are also seeking some two million yuan in compensation from their employer, Xuxin Machinery because it refused to provide them with free medical check-ups.

A worker’s representative told the Yunnan News (云南信息报) that because the migrant workers did not have a formal labour contract, the factory did not feel obliged to provide them with medical checks.

The workers’ extreme move reflects both the wide-ranging and often intractable problems migrant workers have in getting work-related illness compensation, and the huge payout Zhang Haichao received after he became a media celebrity earlier in the year. Zhang was awarded 615,000 yuan in September 2009, and workers all over China have taken note.

Zhang’s work colleagues however have not been so lucky. Five employees who all worked with Zhang in the company workshop from 2003 to 2004 were all diagnosed with abnormalities of the lung, but the company refused to give them any compensation, reportedly saying: “You won’t get any money from us because we have paid in to the social security fund. You better get back to work, if you don’t, you will be fired.”

The local social security bureau however also refused to pay the workers compensation on the grounds that the company only started paying into the scheme in the last few months.

Legal experts stress however that if companies are contributing to the social security fund at the time of diagnosis, the government is responsible for paying compensation. However, the local government also has the power to order delinquent companies to pay all social security contributions dating back to the start of an employee’s contract.
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