A large number of public transit staff, including drivers, staged a strike in a Chinese city as they struggled through being unpaid for at least eight months.
On Nov. 1, crowds of public transit workers rallied at the headquarters of their employer, Pingdingshan Public Transit Group, and its subsidiaries, in the city of Pingdingshan of central China’s Henan Province, state media outlets reported. The group had not paid its drivers for eight months and other logistical staff for more than 12 months. Moreover, the employer had suspended paying premiums for their social insurance programs since 2017.
Footage posted online shows protesters from the group were on sit-in strike. A shrill feminine voice can be heard shouting that they could no longer keep a living after they hadn’t received wages for so many months.
The Epoch Times reached out to demonstrators on Nov. 2, but only one of them disclosed they had received part of the unpaid wages on the same day of the strike. The rest were hesitant to accept an interview due to widespread censorship in communist China.
However, an insider that requested to remain anonymous told The Epoch Times that about 1,000 front-line drivers attended the event. The 1-day rally lasted until around 6:00 p.m., paralyzing the whole city’s public transportation system.
By the end of the same day, protesters had received two months of unpaid wages to placate the crowd, said the interviewee. A second payment for another two months would follow within the week, and the remaining part would be cleared by the end of this year, the interviewee added.
A local resident surnamed Lee said during the protest a team of riot police arrived at the scene and attempted to arrest one protestor. However, fellow demonstrators successfully pulled him out of police hands.
The Epoch Times reached out to the transit group for a comment, but the receiver in the office claimed they knew nothing about the event and suggested contacting their publicity and education department. The department did not answer calls despite repeated attempts.
“I heard there was a shortfall of 190 million yuan [$29.7 million] unpaid for staff social insurance programs,” said the insider.
Affected employees had previously organized a similar event, but they were interrupted, the insider told The Epoch Times. “Whoever went on strike would be downright fired,” he remembered.
“The unpaid front-line drivers have to make money by serving as delivery or substitute drivers after their regular daytime shift,” said Lee. “Or they cannot be breadwinners for their families.”
“You may not know, the government of Pingdingshan City has great power,” Lee said. “But regular citizens live a miserable life,” adding the workers were at their wit’s end.
State media attributed the unpaid wages to the pandemic impact, low bus fares, and delayed governmental subsidies. However, the interviewees blamed the local government for inaction to handle the incident.
Public data shows China has many local debt crises. The total debts of the country’s local governments had surged to 25.5 trillion yuan ($3.91 trillion) by the end of November 2020, according to China’s Ministry of Finance.
Gu Xiaohua contributed to this report.