All work and no play

Updated: 2011-05-02 08:38

By Zhang Xiaomin, Cheng Yingqi, Guo Shuhan and Wu Yiyao (China Daily)

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All work and no play

Policewoman Liu Na directs traffic in Dalian, Liaoning province. Holidays just mean a busier day and more work for her and many others who have to stay on duty. [Photo by Zhang Xiaomin / China Daily]

While most people are celebrating the Labor Day holiday, spare a thought for those who still have to work. Zhang Xiaomin, Cheng Yingqi, Guo Shuhan and Wu Yiyao find out more.

The costal city of Dalian in Northeast China's Liaoning province is a popular tourist destination during public holidays, and for the traffic police in People's Square that means they will be busier than usual. "It is the same work, but there are more tourists who come to ask for directions, take photos with the police podium in the background, or just come up to say: 'You're so beautiful,'" said, Liu Na, 27, who was a professional dancer before she became a policewoman. Liu is one of the officers that directs traffic at the crossing of Zhongshan Road and the People's Square, right in front of the municipal government building. She also deals with traffic violations and accidents.

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Since she joined the traffic police in 2003, Liu has always been on duty for one or more days during national holidays. Labor Day is no exception.

On a normal working day, Liu will wake at 5:40 am and start directing traffic at 7 am, hoping that the weather will stay fine.

"Bad weather means more working hours - with no extra pay," she said. "But we have become used to it, just like we've got used to not wearing masks. That is what the citizens expect of the traffic police."

Liu said she loves the job despite the bad weather, fumes and the grumbling of her boyfriend, who wants her to get an office job.

"I really enjoy the outdoor work and the morning exercisers who help me push the podium into place, the anonymous strangers who send me bouquets of roses, the pedestrians who give me bottled water when it's hot, and the drivers who salute me."

And Liu is not alone in having to work the holiday. Taxi driver Sun Yongquan will also be running the meter.

For Sun, who drives one of the 66,000 taxies in Beijing, a public holiday is no different from any other working day, except it will be quieter, because half of his passengers are working people who take cabs to commute between their home and office.

"The job has no holidays," Sun said. "Of course I can take a break any day I like, but in my mind, every day not working means a loss of at least 500 yuan ($77)."

During the Qingming (Tomb-Sweeping) Festival in April, his earnings fell by nearly 200 yuan a day.

The Beijing native earns a little more than 3,000 yuan a month after deducting nearly 3,400 yuan a month for his cab rental and 300 yuan for gas every day.

On Labor Day, he will get up at 8:30 am as normal and, starting at noon, will work continuously for the next 24 hours, before sleeping for another 13 hours.

He said he seldom has time to talk with his wife and son, nevermind time to go on outings with them, as he is either working or sleeping.

Sun has lost 10 kilograms since he began driving his taxi three months ago and has also started to suffer waist pains. But despite all the hardships, he is still passionate about his job.

He enjoys chatting to his passengers and is proud of his familiarity with the capital, which enables him to help his passengers find any place they want to go.

"A simple 'thank you' from passengers lets me feel all my pains are worthwhile," Sun said.

For some, however, working during the holiday does have its rewards.

"Working during holidays is always busier," said He Yamei, a 23-year-old woman from Central China's Henan province. "But I like to work during holidays because I can get triple wages and still get my holiday back on another day. That's quite a good deal for me."

All work and no play

Sun Yongquan is one of Beijing's 66,000 taxi drivers working long hours without holidays, but he said he's still passionate about his job. [Photo by Guo Shuhan/ China Daily]

For those workers who must toil on public holidays, China's labor laws stipulate that their employers have to pay them three times their normal daily rate. Statutory holidays covered by the rule include New Year's Day, Spring Festival, International Labor Day, Dragon Boat Festival, Mid-Autumn Festival and the National Day Holiday.

He Yamei has been working at the Shanghai Zhabei RT-Mart as a cashier for three years, which makes her among the most experienced employees in the store.

"Being a cashier is actually a very tiring job due to standing for hours and the monotony," she said. "Most of the cashiers are young women from outside the city. The majority of them leave within one or two years, moving to other professions or back to their hometowns after getting married."

The work of a cashier is actually quite strenuous, especially during the holidays, as there are more promotions and discount offers.

Although her job is physically demanding she always tries to greet customers with a smile. During holidays, she will serve up to 700 consumers during her eight-hour shift, 100 more than usual.

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