Undocumented Chinese Workers Protest in Saipan

On 22 March, a Chinese construction worker died from a fall at the Imperial Pacific Casino construction site in the American Pacific island of Saipan. Soon after, Federal  Bureau of Investigation agents raided the construction site and discovered hundreds of undocumented Chinese construction workers employed by a company named Suzhou Gold Mantis Construction and Decoration. They had been brought to Saipan illegally under a tourist visa programme, after being enticed by the false promises of the labour contractors. In April, United States prosecutors filed criminal charges against individuals connected to the Chinese labour contractors for illegally employing these workers, and the construction projects soon stalled. Investigators also discovered substandard working and living conditions. Out of job since early April, the undocumented workers fought for unpaid wages, staging public protests in front of the casino. On 16 May, over ninety unpaid workers received their salaries and placement fees, and flew back to China. On 1 June, another group of thirty-five Chinese workers staged a protest at the construction site to demand unpaid wages and reimbursement for medical fees for workplace injuries. Again on 22 June, forty-three unpaid workers protested at the same place against unpaid wages. After rejecting an offer of five thousand USD each from the company, the protesting workers insisted that unless all workers are paid the full wages owed to them, they will not return to China. Only in March 2018, following persistent efforts by the workers and as part of the investigation of the US Department of Labour, four Chinese construction companies agreed to pay 13.9 million USD in back wages and damages to 2,400 Chinese workers employed for the construction of the casino. KL

(Sources: Saipan Tribune 1; Saipan Tribune 2; Saipan Tribune 3; The New York Times; The Paper)

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