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Workers Miss Heat Bonuses
Summary:The laws of several Chinese Provinces require employers to pay laborers a heat bonus during hot summer months or on days with extremely hot temperatures. But interviews at work sites in three provinces revealed that most workers don’t receive these bonuses or even know that they should be getting them.

July 5, 2013
Translated by: Dou Yiping

“Fierce” is probably the first word that comes to Hunan people’s mind when they talk about summer; especially if they’re outdoor workers.

On July 2, the temperature at a construction site in the provincial capital of Changsha (长沙) rose above 40℃ (104°F). A plasterer on the site named Cai Mingbo works every day from 6am to 6pm with an hour-and-a-half break in the afternoon. He makes 150 to 180 yuan per day, never expecting to receive additional pay.

“We heard there’s a policy requiring additional pay for working in extreme temperatures, but no one mentioned this on our site,” he told People’s Daily.

Cai heard correctly. Laborers in Hunan Province should receive no less than 150 yuan extra per month during the hot summer period. And Hunan isn’t alone. Several provinces and municipalities have laws in place requiring extra heat pay for workers. Some have a flat rate for the entirety of the summer months, while some require that if the temperature exceeds a certain threshold, a bonus should be paid just for that day.  

Cai says the extreme temperatures actually make workers more efficient. For instance, if a job usually takes a day-and-a-half, they’ll hurry to get it done within a day. They get a small bonus for completing work ahead of schedule, but Cai says to expect higher pay because of the heat is an “extravagant hope.”

“It’s pretty much the boss’ call,” Cai said. “With private projects like the one we’re doing now, we basically have no chance for any additional pay.”

Another worker said that last year on another site he worked at, the boss made it very clear upfront: “If you want the extra pay, you can hit the road now.”

“Who are we to complain?” the worker said.

The story is a bit different at a construction site for a hospital across town. Liu Qing, a migrant worker who’s been on the site since last May, received his legally mandated extra 150 yuan last month, and he’ll continue to get it until September. His work schedule on his site has also been changed since mid-June. Now work starts an hour earlier in the morning with a longer lunch break that cuts total working time by one hour.

Liu has worked for over a hundred companies during the past 20 years. He says actually receiving a heat bonus is very rare, and risking your job to complain about it isn’t worth the risk. “The construction field is a relatively small circle,” he says. “If you complain, you’ll probably have a hard time finding another job because no contractor wants trouble.”

Few Subsidies in Nanjing

On July 2 in Nanjing, the capital of Jiangsu Province, temperatures reached 35℃ (95°F). For three days in a row, the high-temperature alert was issued.

When asked about receiving additional pay for working outside on such a day, two workers just looked at the reporter blankly and said this was the first they’d ever heard of a heat subsidy. 

Mr. Guo, a steel fixer who’s been working on the site since last year, is the only one who reported receiving any kind of heat bonus. He works from 6am to 6pm. with a two hour break. He said he’ll get an extra 200 yuan each month from June to August or September. This is in line with the law of Jiangsu Province.

“I was informed that the money had been deposited on my bank card, and I got mung bean soup, medicated oil and some sun screen that afternoon,” Guo said.

Mr. Guo works for China Railway No.3 Group Co. Ltd. (中铁三局). He says those who didn’t get extra pay are probably newcomers or temporary workers not affiliated with the company.

Guo said the extra pay isn’t a large amount of money, but it’s comforting and makes him feel he’s taken seriously. He hopes everyone can get the subsidy regardless of whether they’re affiliated or not.

In Fuzhou, Water Instead of a Bonus

On July 3 at 11am in Fuzhou, Fujian, workers labored in 37℃ (98°F) heat building an office complex.

“I’ve been working on different construction sites for seven years and I never knew there was any subsidy required,” said a worker surnamed Lin. He and the other workers currently work from 7am to 6 or 7pm with a 30 minute lunch break.  

According to Lin, they’re paid between 200 and 500 yuan per day according to the type of work. On hot summer days, there will be cold tea or bottled water provided, but there has never been extra pay.

A supervisor said that they’ve taken measures to deal with the extreme temperatures, like rescheduling the work time and providing water to prevent heatstroke. But he admitted that they don’t give workers any extra pay.

According to the Department of Human Resources and Social Security of Fujian Province, regulations were adjusted in August 2011 to require outdoor workers to receive 8 to 10 yuan extra on days that the temperature exceeds 33℃ (91°F). Workers who don’t receive the subsidy have the right to demand it from their employer and complain to their local labor bureau.

“It’s not easy to find a job now,” said a worker surnamed Chen. “So we don’t dare even ask about additional pay. We don’t want to lose our jobs.”

Links & Sources
People’s Daily - 多地工人没有高温津贴 怕炒鱿鱼不知道也不敢问


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