Micro blog helps migrants get paid

Updated: 2012-01-14 08:28

By Zheng Jinran (China Daily)

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BEIJING - The first Chinese migrant worker to use a micro blog to try to obtain wages owed him went to court on Friday to confront the company he had worked for and is now awaiting a decision in his case.

"I don't know when it will come," said Liu Zhongfan. "Honestly, I am disappointed they didn't reach a decision immediately. My family needs the money for this Spring Festival."

Liu, 50, worked as a mason at Yingzhongying Interior Decorating and Design Co Ltd for five months before leaving in September without receiving more than 13,000 yuan ($2,000) owed him. When he asked for his wages on Sept 20, the manager of the company, Dong Chuanghua, refused to pay him, citing the poor quality of one project that Liu had worked on. Their dispute turned violent and Dong beat Liu, leaving him with a broken nose.

Liu complained to the government but received little help during the first few months following his injury.

Eager to obtain redress for him, Chen Jiajing, his son-in-law, helped him use his micro blog account on the Internet portal Tencent to put up a poem describing his plight.

The post received thousands of comments expressing support for Liu.

"We didn't at all expect to get attention from other people and from government departments so quickly," Liu said. "It really helped a lot."

He said he received a call the next day from an official with the Jiangbei district's human resources and social security bureau. The bureau tried to persuade Dong Chuanghua to pay him and, failing in that attempt, suggested that Liu sue his former employer for maliciously withholding his wages.

The online uproar over the case has brought the company economic losses.

"My company hasn't received orders since then," Dong said. "That's true even though I haven't given him a reply because that's not the right way to solve disputes. I believe in the law.

"I think he has a purpose in trying to become famous, other than getting his money back."

In court, Dong said Liu should help repair the faulty project Liu had worked on before he receives the wages owed him. "I will obey the court's decision," Dong said. "But maybe the court should take part of his payment for compensation."

Liu said the problems with the project were solved on Dec 18.

"He signed a note, confirming that he should pay me 13,057 yuan in September," Liu said. "He should give me the money that he promised."

He Li, a lawyer with the Beijing-based Yingke Law Firm, which has worked on cases involving wage disputes, said: "Posting stories on micro blogs may be an effective way to attract attention and obtain wages in certain cases. But when many similar cases pop up, people may stop taking notice.

"To help more migrant workers get their pay on time, improvements should be made in arbitration."

He said labor disputes in Beijing always take more than 6 months to come to an end. That can make life difficult for workers, who depend on receiving their pay as soon as possible.

In China, the weeks leading up to the Spring Festival holiday are typically a time when many migrant workers attempt to obtain their pay and when cases of payment defaults become more common.

In a similar case, a labor contractor in Shanghai drew a lot of attention by posting an open letter to Premier Wen Jiabao on his micro blog on Thursday.

In the letter, Yu Baosong, the contractor, sought help in obtaining about 30 million yuan in contract money from Dong Du International Group, a Shanghai-based real estate company. He needed the money, he said, so he could pay his employees.

By Friday afternoon, the company had begun to negotiate with Yu and Yu's employees had received some of the pay owed them.