An appeal to support the protests of Tianbaoge Restaurant workers
Text/ Voice of Hammer
To comrades who care about labour conditions,
On 1 June 2015, the owner of the Tianbaoge Restaurant, which locates in Xiangjiang Area, Southern Village Town, Panyu District of the Guangzhou City, has suddenly disappeared. Its workers heard that the restaurant has changed ownership, and received no compensation. Among the 52 staff, some of them were already very senior (over 10 years). All along, the employer has not paid for the social insurance and housing allowance fund, and escaped from responsibilities for their severance pay. The new boss took over and claimed ownership of the Restaurant without taking up the social insurance and severance pay. Thus, the 52 workers decided to put their faith to collective actions to secure their rights.
On 4th and 5th June, the workers reported the incident to the Panyu Labour Inspection Team. But after 2 days the Team refused to accept their case. Then, the workers sent out a collective bargaining request to the employer, and started negotiation. Although the workers made compromises, the employer delayed actions and revoked his promises. He kept rejecting any liability for the workers’ resettlements and finally hid behind the parent company, Wai Xin Limited and in the end, simply disappeared.
After that, the helpless workers sought help from the government authorities. Under the rain and in sweat, they petitioned at the Guangzhou Municipal People’s Congress Petition Bureau, Guangdong Provincial Government Petition Bureau, the Center of Petition and Stability Maintenance of Southern Township Government , Panyu District Petition Center, the Government of Panyu District… They have all advised arbitration. The Labour Inspection Team also advised litigation but has ironically refused to pressure the employers, in accordance to the laws. Workers have expressed imminent concerns over the long dreadful periods of waiting to arbitration – the employer may have simply run away to escape liability!
On 22th July, the landlord came to the restaurant site to follow up as the tenancy expired. The water and electricity supply was cut off, and the new owner still did not show up. It was a Wednesday, as well as an official day for petitioners and officials to meet. Workers arrived at the southern gate of the Panyu government headquarters, and petitioned in silence, in the hope that the government would investigate the inspection of the Labour Inspection Team. They also hope that the government can request the employer to come and negotiate with them and to pay back their wages, compensation, payment in lieu, etc. But after a long day’s waiting, there was not even a slight hint of the officials coming. They even cut off thewater and electricity supply of their quarter.
It was the fiftieth day of their protest on 23 July. Workers felt nothing but helpless and ignored by all parties. Those more emotional ones broke into tears – they were in desperation. But nobody gave up. No matter how defeated it was for labour groups to be ignored by the authorities, the workers exhausted all means to spread the message. While they called the media to report the incident, all their responses were empty words such as “awaiting for editors’ approval”. Instead, workers spread the news by their personal weibo and summaries.
As some activists have said:
“What we were told was true – people outside rarely know of the situation of this group of workers (Tianboge workers). The workers have overcome the long waiting hours under the hot sun or heavy storm, and in tears of desperation…. So many times the workers are put to cut-offs from resources, and to difficulties in making a living… But they have only bared this all and remain persistent! The workers have now stayed at the government headquarters for 2 days already, but no one comes to care for us. Please, please think of new ways to save us workers.”
40 workers have gone to the Panyu government Headquarter to seek help again in these two days. We therefore hope that you will support these workers in the following ways:
- Go to the southern gate of the Panyu government headquarters, and support the workers
- Bring workers food or water
- Post a photo on weibo to show your support to the workers.
23 July 2015