Chinese Workers Take to Streets Over Wage Debt

Chinese Workers Take to Streets Over Wage Debt


The backpay protests of Chinese workers at Rosneft's Komsomolsk refinery have entered the second month. The Chinese who had come to Russia as guest workers said they had no money to return home.

Dozens of Chinese citizens accompanied by law enforcement officers, Rosgvardia and cars marched through Leninsky District of Komsomolsk-on-Amur on November 6. They did not have an interpreter but Google Translate helped find out that the protesters' demands were the same as last time. They asked to pay their wages and let them return to China.

This was not the first protest action by workers of Petro Haihua, a subsidiary of the Haihua industry group from China, employed at the construction of the hydrocracking complex at the Komsomolsk refinery.

October 2

The Chinese workers who were hired by contracting organizations to upgrade the Kuibyshev Oil Refinery first went on strike on October 2. Clad in the uniform of oil refinery personnel they walked along Leningradskaya Street, then moved to Pobedy Avenue and stopped at house No.20. The police and Rosgvardiya (National Guard of Russia) arrived there in vans.

According to the Chinese workers, they took to the streets because they had not been paid. The Komsomolsk-on-Amur mayor, the city attorney, representatives of the oil refinery, contractors, and subcontractors came to the scene to talk with the protesters. The oil refinery officials pledged to clear the wage debt shortly.

Residents had stormy discussions on social media; apparently, the Chinese workers had somehow agreed this large rally with the city administration, otherwise, it is impossible to explain why law enforcement officers “did not see violations of the law” in their actions.

November 6

A group of Chinese workers wearing jackets with the Petro-Haihua logo once again took to the streets of the city.

“We conversed with the protesters to find out that they had not received wages for four months. Since the situation has not changed, they are making new demands that the company return their passports and let them go home,” the local Komcity portal reported.

Petro-Haihua's press service confirmed that on November 6, about 50 people “left the temporary construction workers' camp without permission.” The Chinese company said that “the workers who went to town were not allowed to work at the Komsomolsk refinery by Petro-Haihua due to their low qualifications and poor quality of work.”

“The fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic is sweeping across the world, and it will take time to resolve the issue. As for wages, as far as I know, the company always pays the workers,” said Li Jianchen, a representative of the Chinese branch of Petro Haihua, noting that no one forces people to work for the company.

Meanwhile, Petro Haihua made an official comment on the rally. The 71 protesters had previously been suspended “due to numerous gross violations of safety rules or other occupational safety rules, as well as low output and failure to meet plans.”

“Even though these people were suspended from work, wages were fully paid under the terms of the employment contract. Passports were not taken from them. They cannot go home due to the closed borders. Charters have been denied by airlines,” Petro Haihua said.

The Chinese workers say that the administration has taken away their foreign travel passports under some pretexts such as visa renewal or keeping the documents safe.

Who owes whom?

The Komsomolsk refinery where the Chinese work belongs to Rosneft. It is the key supplier of oil products for the Russian Far East.

The Chinese workers were hired by contractors to upgrade the refinery which annually processes 8.5 million tonnes of oil coming through the Eastern Siberia-Pacific Ocean pipeline.

The refinery administration claims that it pays its contractors on time. After the previous protest action in October, city officials said that the refinery was meeting all its obligations.

“Contractors and subcontractors who have some problems recently had a meeting at which they promised to clear the outstanding debts in the near future,” Komsomolsk-on-Amur administration spokesman Ivan Lavrentyev said.

It was not the first wage debt protest.

The Far Eastern Zvezda shipyard problems got wide coverage as a recalculation showed that the workers owed money to the company. A year ago, legal proceedings were initiated over delayed payments at the Tagulskoye field in the Krasnoyarsk territory. At that time, workers who went on strike were simply fired without being paid. Two years ago, workers of a subcontractor at the Russkoye field in Yamal staged protests.

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