The story of a migrant worker named Zhang in Shandong province has gained nation-wide media attention after he reportedly asked his boss for owed payment on behalf of 70 other workers, a total of 200,000 RMB, and was kicked out of the company, only to be arrested later in his attempts to get back what he was owed.
Zhang started working as a miner at an iron-ore factory back in 2011. Employees were meant to be paid on a fixed-time schedule. However, around the time of the Spring Festival, the company stopped the payment, reportedly owing some of the workers 10,000 to 20,000RMB–a lot for the miners who were making 40,000 to 50,000RMB per year.
Zhang had paid visits to the Labor Supervision Corps Construction Committee for help, but they claimed that it was none of their business. While he and other workers were trying to sue the company, they got kicked out from the factory and replaced by a group of new workers. They refused to leave the factory and even broke out in physical fights with the factory managers.
Zhang was arrested by the police after provoking a fight. The police detained him for 12 days and sent him to prison. Thirty-eight days later, he was released on bail.
After his release, Zhang did not give up on getting back the money the company owed them. He called the factory asking for his payment, to which his boss replied: “Go to hell”.
In August, Zhang’s fate worsened. The police obtained receipt proof from the factory saying that they had paid the workers, and Zhang again faced criminal charges.
Usually, receipts from the iron company were hand-written, but these four receipts were printed. When Zhang called the finance department of the factory to ask about the receipts, he was again denied help.
Zhang went to the police station and asked if the receipts had been looked over by anyone in the justice department who could give an expert opinion to their authenticity. It turns out that the police had sent them straight to the People’s Procuratorate without proper testimony. The police had to withdraw charges against him.
It’s not hard to tell who is lying in this case, but as of now, there hasn’t been a convincing official statement. Cases like these are common among migrant workers, but because they have such little power in labor disputes, it often flies under the radar.
What makes it worse is that the functioning departments that should provide support and protection to the workers are not fulfilling their duties. Some departments are known to cover up for companies and purposely cause difficulties for the workers.
The case is still being investigated.
[Screenshots via CCTV]
By Isabel Quan