Sanitation workers win pay raise after protest

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Sanitation workers' salaries will be increased by 10 percent this year in Guangzhou, the capital of South China's Guangdong province, following recent protests demanding higher pay.

Cleaners on a Guangzhou street on March 23. The city has more than 38,000 sanitation workers. [Photo/China Daily]

A report recommending an increase in sanitation workers' subsidies, sparked by a recent protest by more than 300 workers in the city's Liwan district, has been submitted to the local people's congress for approval, said Huang Xiaojing, deputy Party head of Guangzhou Urban Management Committee, and a member of the Guangzhou political consultative conference.

"The salary of sanitation workers will be increased by 10 percent this year and the government will also boost other subsidies, for example, housing allowances," Huang said.

A group of sanitation workers from the city's Liwan district continued to protest on Sunday demanding a pay rise, following another large protest by more than 200 workers early this month.

Guangzhou has an estimated 38,840 sanitation workers, who earn an average of about 1,300 yuan ($209) a month, almost equal to the city's minimum wage.

Following the protests, local urban management authorities have called on 18 companies, authorized by the government to carry out sanitation work, to give "adequate salaries and other subsidies" to workers, as required by the law, Huang said.

Li Tinggui, a former head of Guangzhou Urban Management Committee, said most sanitation companies had won their government contracts with low tenders.

"But the low bids have led to low pay for sanitation workers," said Li, also a deputy to the Guangzhou people's congress.

"The companies have tried to use less workers and facilities to do more cleaning work as the demand for sanitation has risen," Li said.

He added that some government authorities have also failed to honor their promises of pay rises for workers, many of whom had worked considerable amounts of overtime two years ago when the city was engaged in efforts to win the title of "national civilized city".

"Companies have paid little attention to pay rises for workers after being hired as contractors for the city's sanitation work," Li said.

During a protest on Jan 10, workers demanded overdue overtime pay of 1,000 yuan, dating back to the Guangzhou Asian Games more than two years ago.

"Along with increasing the investment in workers, the government should also strengthen the supervision of sanitation companies," Li said.

A worker surnamed Xu told the Southern Metropolis Daily that he had been waiting for overtime pay of 1,000 yuan for two years.

"We hope the government will fulfill its promise of a pay rise.

"As far as I know, the salary of sanitation workers are double in other big cities such as Beijing, Shenzhen and Shanghai," Xu said.

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