03/12/2021, 09.15
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Tajik workers revolt against Chinese 'slave owners'

by Vladimir Rozanskij

Labour conditions violate rights, but those who complain are fired. Many migrants - unemployed due to the pandemic - are ready to replace the sacked. Labour Code violated: lower wages and overtime; only 4 (and not 8 public holidays per month); fines for those who are even 10 minutes late. The Chinese win every tender.

Moscow (AsiaNews) - The Tajik companies working on the construction of the new parliament building in Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan, are in revolt against the employers of the Chinese company Chiangdu (江都 建设) over "slave-like labour conditions” and the violation of their rights.

The Ministry of Labor said they were unaware of any infringement, while the Chinese company executives did not answer reporters' questions. The correspondents of Radio Ozodi, who reported the news yesterday, were not allowed on the site.

Some workers confide that colleagues who dared to complain were immediately fired. According to one of them, who wished to remain anonymous, "all the heavier jobs are assigned to local workers, who wear yellow helmets, while the Chinese with red helmets are all passed off as engineers or construction foremen, however they are sitting in the office.”

According to the anonymous worker, the Tajiks on the construction site work at least 9 hours a day: "for a very heavy day of work we receive a pay of 70 somon (about 6 dollars), we have nowhere to have lunch, even when it rains or temperatures drop below zero ".

According to art. 67 of the Labor Code of Tajikistan, the working week must not exceed 40 hours, and with the conditions of the Dushanbe construction site the workers should enjoy at least 8 public holidays per month, but the Chinese bosses do not allow more than 4, and those who disagree are fired.

According to another worker, "the Chinese know that there are many people desperate for work and they are taking advantage of it." In recent days, the journalists of Radio Ozodi have witnessed various gatherings of dozens of people in front of the doors of the offices of the company, eager to get a job. The policemen who controlled the area prohibited any photos or videos being taken.

Another worker, speaking to reporters, recalled the work he carried out on the Moscow and St. Petersburg construction sites a few years ago, where he was not obliged to such inhuman conditions, and relations with the managers were not so difficult. In his opinion, “most of the workers at the Dushanbe shipyards are ex-migrants, who, due to the closure of the borders due to the pandemic, were unable to travel again to look for work in Russia; as soon as the borders reopen, not even a worker remains here”.

The workers also say that a total of 10 somons are paid for 4 hours of overtime per night shift, again contradicting the Tajik regulations, which for night-time overtime require "at least one and a half times the regular hour pay". Many workers live outside Dushanbe, in Bahdat and Gissar, and half of their pay is used for traveling from home, not to mention that fines applied for being 5-10 minutes late. This is also why many stay at work even at night.

The Ministry of Labour say they are ready workers’ requests provided, " it is officially presented in writing with the workers' signature", as stated by a collaborator of the ministry, Shaklo Sattorova. "If necessary - it is specified - the names of the signatories will remain confidential", but workers are suspicious of publically exposing themselves. Already last month the workers of the Pokrud gold mining site, also run by the Chinese, were forced into a harsh quarantine regime by the local administration, allowing them to return home once every three months, and banning all protests.

In Tajikistan, all the major works are in the hands of the Chinese, who have also recently completed the construction of the National Library and the buildings of the Tajik Foreign Ministry. In Dushanbe, in addition to the parliament building, the construction of the new seat of government is also planned. All international tenders, formally public and regular, are regularly won by Chinese companies.

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