Link of the original report：http://epaper.jinghua.cn/html/2013-08/05/content_15557.htm
A Migrant Worker Fighting for Migrant Workers’ Rights
August 6, 2013 Beijing Times
Wei Wei is providing training for the migrant workers
Wei Wei experienced all the twists and turnssuch as unemployment, suffering from unpaid wages and cheating as a migrant worker in Beijing. He once worked as a carrier, a salesman and also tried to start his own business but failed all the same.He thought to himself that although the migrant workers made contribution to the city, when they were in trouble and danger who on earth can came to help them?
Therefore, Wei Wei decided to be such a person. He opened a mutual-aid hotline for the migrant workers aiming to help them solve problems. Since then, the young man from Henan Province has been on his own way of protecting the migrant workers’ rights.
Reported by Li Jin from Beijing Times.
Giving up starting a business and opening the Mutual-Aid Hotline for Migrant Workers.
Wei Wei came to Beijing in 1997 and tried to do everything from being a carrier in the construction site to a salesman in an advertisement company. He had a good taste of life’s hardships and helplessness during the two years. In his memory, there was nothing to do with happiness but economical embarrassment. In the worst situation what he had was only two coins.
At the end of 1999, Wei Wei decided to run a restaurant and placed an advertisement in which he expressed his will to start the business with others. Soon, many people gave their responses. “The budget was RMB50,000 at that time. With everyone contributing RMB50, this idea can be realized. ” But before long, Wei Wei found that things were not as easy as he thought. Lack of trusts, many people wereonly in the hope of looking for a job instead of giving the money.
“The need for a job is commonly seen. When I first came to Beijing, I was also one of them.” Wei Wei clearly knew the confusion and eagerness of the migrant workers who came to Beijing first. So he decided to give up running a restaurant. What he wanted to do was to provide help for them as possible as he could.
In May 1st, 2000, Little Bird Mutual-Aid Hotline for Migrant Workers(Little Bird for short) was opened in a boarding room under the Xinxing Bridge in Haidian District.
At the primary stage of opening the hotline, only Wei Weihimself was busy answering the call. One day, there were more than 200 calls. Sometimes, the telephone would keep ringing until 3:00 to 4:00 a.m.. Some of them were for jobs, some for claiming their unpaid wages and rents and there were also some wanting to telling their stories.
Gradually, the hotline came to be known by many people. So there were volunteers coming to help. But the rent and telephone charge fees were still on the shoulder of Wei Wei himself.
In order to keep the hotline open, Wei Weionce wholesaled bananas, sold fried cakes and set up stalls to earn some money. Even so, it was difficult for him to keep the hotline open. He often borrowed some money from his friends and some of his friends were even afraid of receiving Wei Wei’s call.
In the first 5 years, Little Bird moved 12 times and was faced with the risks of survival. But every time, Wei Wei got it through.
Wei Wei just had a simple mind that as long as he lived, Little Bird would exist.
“Government Authorization”makes it easy to claim back unpaid wages and protect rights for migrant workers
Besides the demand for a job and renting, Wei Wei also helped the migrant workers claim back their unpaid wages which also needed the professional knowledge of lawyers. Therefore, many volunteer lawyers were recruited through the media by Wei Wei.
Before the year of 2003, Little Bird didn’t have an official identity and its rights protection work also encountered an embarrassing situation as not being authorized. Wei Wei often did on-site mediation with familiar lawyers and journalists. But due to the situation of identity problem, he felt that he was not given enough rights and reason to do this and what he could do for the migrant workers was also limited. Sometimes, he did the rights protection work only by himself. After that, he couldn’t imagine how dangerous to do that only by himself.
In the year of 2004, Donghuamen Street Community Service Center got touch with Wei Wei and expressed that they wanted to establish Little Bird Mediation Committee which excited Wei Wei so much. It meant that Little Bird was able to take advantage of the government authorization to do the mediation work. What’s more, Little Bird also had its volunteer lawyers team which made the rights protection work better.
The first time Little Bird went to do the mediation work with the identity was in a clothing factory in Jiugong. The worker called the hotline and said his boss didn’t give his wage of RMB 600. Wei Wei went to the factory and demonstrated his identity.
On another occasion, Wei Wei and a lawyer went to acclaim salaries for five or six workers in a factory in Daxing district and the boss asked the police to come. After telling Little Bird’s identity and situation, the police stood by Wei Wei and urged the boss to give the workers’ salary, and finally the workers successfully got their salary back.
Since then, Little Bird was known by many police stations. When the police got calls about acclaiming salary , they would tell them to go to Little Bird.
Little Bird will first mediate on telephone when receiving migrant workers’ call and visit, 50% of the cases can be dealt with in this way. If the telephone mediation failed, Little Bird’s staff and volunteer lawyers will directly conduct the on-site mediation, about 30% of the cases resolved. And if the spot mediation also failed, Little Bird will guide the migrant workers to complain to the labor department or to provide legal aid by lawyers to follow the law suit.
“We have met complicated situations like the lack of proof or employers’ disappearing among our mediation cases, thus in general, the success rate remains at 80%.” Wei Wei said.
Want to change the situation of no labor contract for workers
With the improvement of popularity, more and more foundations, enterprises and embassies in China found Wei Wei and were willing to provide fund for Little Bird, which let Wei Wei had more ability to do more things.
Since April of 2013, Wei Wei and his team had conducted a questionnaire investigation among 10,000 construction workers in eight cities like Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, etc. To Wei Wei’s surprise, 99% of the construction workers didn’t have the labor contract from the feedback of questionnaire.
Signing labor contact means contributing social insurance, while the contractors don’t want to undertake the due obligations. In the meanwhile, many workers followed the labor contractor to come to the construction site, but they are not the legal entity and not qualified to sign labor contract. In addition, workers are not aware of signing contract, which further give the contractor a chance to avoid the responsibility.
During the questionnaire investigation, the problems that construction workers frequently mentioned are poor sanitation and bad diet. What’s worse, shower facilities are not available and their salaries are not paid in month.
There are no shower conditions in summer on most of the twenty odds construction sites in Beijing. The workers are bitten by bugs with pustules everywhere on their body because of the poor sanitation of their living places. And fake medicines are sold in the living quarters. Although the workers’ salary increased to RMB 3000 to RMB6000, it is paid in half of the year or one year.
“The construction sites should not like sweatshops.” Wei Wei was very sad about it, he wanted to buy several containers and install some heaters to resolve their shower problems first.
There are 40 million construction workers in China who lack the basic guarantees. It is impossible for Little Bird to help all of them. Thus, Wei Wei decided to draw a report from the results of the questionnaire and submit to the government for policy suggestion.
“Only the construction companies taking their social responsibilities and signing labor contracts become the only legal entity of construction workers, will the problems be solved.” Wei Wei said.