Long Journey Home for Migrant Workers in Wage Battles

(Xinhua News Agency, Jan. 28, 2016. Complete text:) Changchun - Lyu Qingfa is making his 16th trip to Tonghua in two years in order to demand wages held in arrears for him and his employees.

He boarded a full coach on Tuesday [Jan. 26] and departed from Changchun, capital of northeast China's Jilin Province, to travel 400 km to Tonghua. During the trip he was surrounded by migrants on their annual exodus home.

The Chinese Lunar New Year holiday is 10 days away and festivity is in the air: all other passengers were hauling huge trunks and gift boxes. Lyu, 60, was the only one traveling empty-handed.

He misses his family desperately. But he cannot go home knowing 20 of his employees are still waiting for a total of 3.25 million RMB ($494,000) in wages that have been withheld for three years.

Demanding pay.

Lyu, a subcontractor, employed about 100 construction workers for a civil construction project in Tonghua in October 2011. "The project was to be completed in two years and three months, and the contractor would pay me 7.85 million RMB in wages according to our contract."

But the contractor, a subsidiary of the state-owned Beijing Shougang Construction Group Co. Ltd., paid only 4.6 million RMB

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after the project was completed, and told him to "wait a while" for the rest of the money.

The "while" has dragged into two years. Lyu paid most of the workers out of his own pocket so that they could either go back home or find a new job. Soon enough, he ran out of cash himself.

His latest trip to Tonghua was prompted by news that the head of the contractor's headquarters in Beijing was traveling to Tonghua. "The big boss might help settle the payment in arrears," said ...

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