Chinese Factories Pay Migrant Workers in Bricks After Union Pressure

A man searched for his child, one of hundreds who have been kidnapped, at this brick kiln in China’s Shanxi Province. Credit Color China Photo, via Associated Press
Color China Photo, via Associated Press

Workers at a factory in China have agreed to receive part of their wages in bricks, China’s state-owned Xinhua News Agency has revealed.

Around 30 employees working at a brick factory in Nanchang, the capital of central China’s Jiangxi province, were collectively owed 90,000 yuan ($14,050) by their employer who had failed to pay them on time.

The employees were reportedly forced to live “by candlelight, with wood fire heating” due to their lack of payment.

After asking for assistance from their local labor union, the employer eventually agreed to a payment of 290,000 bricks in exchange for the 80,000 yuan they are owed.

It remains unclear whether the workers are satisfied with their payment, while the factory owner tries to figure out to pay off the remaining 10,000 yuan (£1,118) he owes.

The case has reportedly sparked fierce debate on Chinese social media platforms, with people criticizing the treatment of the workers.

“Why is it always rural migrant workers that are paid in arrears?” asks one user.

Another user joked about the bursting of China’s housing bubble, pointing out that bricks may actually be a valued asset.

The All-China Federation of Trade Unions claims to have helped more than five million migrant workers receive unpaid wages of up to 30 billion yuan ($4.5 billion) over the past five years.

The plight of China’s poorest communities has received increasing attention in recent months, amid reports that peasant communities are experiencing freezing temperatures and a lack of basic heating across China’s major cities after the Chinese government significantly limited access to traditional energy to reach higher environmental standards. Despite its role as a major global polluter, the Chinese Communist Party has been at the forefront of international efforts to impose global environmental regulation.

In December, the communist regime consequently reversed a ban on coal in an effort to help ease the pressure of sub-zero temperatures, although the decision is not a long-term solution.

The Chinese government has previously expressed fears of a rebellion by migrant workers should the country’s export-driven economy continue to decline. According to Stastista, in 2016 there were “around 76.7 million migrant workers in China who had left their homes to find work in another province.”

Last December, China received international condemnation for running a “ruthless” campaign to evict migrant workers from Beijing, amid claims of hundreds of “illegal structures” being run across the city.

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