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Covid test workers strike over unpaid wages in China

IANS | July 22, 2022 03:44 PM

SHENYANG: Workers at test centres in northeastern China have been holding strikes over unpaid wages in a nationwide Covid-19 testing industry that has expanded far beyond its sources of funding, RFA reported.

Unverified photos circulating on social media showed test centres in the northeastern city of Shenyang with notices in the windows reading "On strike; suspending (operations) due to unpaid wages, " or "On strike, service suspended, " with testing equipment visible in the background.

Social media posts from "dabai" white-suited Covid-19 enforcement and testing staff said they were later ordered to delete the photos, RFA reported.

A journalist familiar with the mass Covid-19 testing industry in China, who gave only the surname Li, said the claims of unpaid wages come amid massive profits for companies carrying out endless rounds of mass PCR tests across Chinese cities, in pursuit of ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leader Xi Jinping's zero-Covid policy.

A resident of Shenyang, who gave only the surname Wang, said several of her neighbours had started out working as testers, but gave up due to the excessive stress of the role.

She suggested the amount of testing being done was out of proportion to the number of local cases.

"There's no longer an outbreak, and yet they're still forcing people to do PCR tests, " Wang added.

"You have to show a negative PCR test certificate just to use public transportation, " she said, RFA reported.

Jiangsu-based current affairs commentator Zhang Jianping said massive profits are being made from the zero-Covid policy.

"Zero-Covid is definitely having a lot of knock-on effects, " Zhang added.

"It has to be supported by large-scale PCR testing, which will inevitably cause problems of its own."

Local media reports have typically referred to the white suits as "volunteers, " but the role is generally paid, involving around 12 hours a day, with wages and various social subsidies due, as well as overtime pay.

The Hong Kong-based China Labour Bulletin has recorded 14 Covid-19-related worker protests since March, eight of which occurred in Shanghai during lockdown, RFA reported.

"Poor working conditions under strict lockdown measures led to protests not only by doctors, nurses and white-clad pandemic workers, but also factory workers, taxi drivers and others, " the group cited its Strike Map database as showing.

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