Wuhan: Workers who built hospital are not paid

About 25 labour protests have taken place this month. Some 233 million workers in small- and medium-sized enterprises are the most vulnerable to the effects of the epidemic crisis. Layoffs, non-payment of wages, high commercial rents are the main cause of protests. Taxi drivers demand the suspension of cab rental fees.


Rome (AsiaNews) – Construction workers recruited to build an emergency hospital in Wuhan, the epicentre of the coronavirus, have started labour action because they have not been paid.

More labour protest has been reported in other parts of China. In Zhoukou (Henan), workers at one construction site were beaten for staging a protest to get their wage arrears.

In the first two weeks of March, 25 protests took place across the country, mostly by self-employed workers or employees in small businesses, the China Labour Bulletin reported. Economic hardships related to the coronavirus outbreak are the main reason.

No labour protest took place during the first two months of the year, during the lunar New Year or the shutdown of economic activities to fight the spread of the infection.

In addition to construction, the sectors most affected by recent labour action are services and transport.

In early March, small business owners protested demanding a cut in rents as they are the most affected by the country’s economic lockdown and lower sales.

China has 63 million self-employed businesses, like family-run restaurants and kiosks. About 233 million people are employed in small- and medium-sized companies.

Dissatisfaction is brewing over layoffs and the failure to pay wage arrears.

On 10 March, workers at a snack food company in Beijing staged a protest after the company refused to pay three months' wages. An arbitration court ordered the company to pay the workers arrears worth almost 400,000 yuan (US,000).

In the Chinese capital, workers at an online service provider demonstrated against the company after it said it would give them only 80 per cent of the local monthly minimum wage.

On 9 March, medical staff at private hospital in Zibo (Shandong) staged a protest because they were owed three months of pay. They also said that the hospital was using expired medical supplies.

However, the loudest labour action was taken by taxi drivers. The lack of customers because of the lockdown in many provinces has significantly reduced their earnings.

On 10 March, a thousand of them demonstrated in Liuzhou (Guangxi), demanding the suspension of cab rental fees and the right to sell their vehicle back to the cab company with no penalty.