Monday, October 19, 2020

This Is Not the First Protest By Chinese Workers. Why This Protest Is Unusual

Nearly one hundred Chinese workers from The Pointe Resort, demonstrated in front of the Chinese Embassy on Tuesday morning, demanding to be sent home because their work at the resort is near complete and the rise in the coronavirus cases worries them, said Embassy Counsellor Haigang Yi.

Pointe workers protest at Chinese embassy, demand to return home – EyeWitness News
Chinese workers after protest at the Chinese Embassy. (Photo credit: Eye Witness News)

Speaking Mandarin, with hard hats on their heads and masks over their mouths, the orderly group of men walked in a single file to the Chinese Embassy on Shirley Street and camped on the lawn, while Yi addressed their concerns.

Who are they?

The protesters are workers at the $250 million harbor-front project, The Pointe, employed by China’s state-owned company called China State Construction Engineering Corporation, also the builder of the Baha Mar mega-resort.

P-1.jpg
Photo credit: The Pointe

The state-owned company imported hundreds of workers into the country, as 500 work permits were granted for work on the project.

The protesters represent more than 229 Chinese workers at the site, representative of China’s model of doing business for overseas construction projects. The disproportionate number of Chinese workers to Bahamian workers was in contravention of the Heads of Agreement which promised 70 percent, Bahamian workers, to 30 percent foreign labourers.

Can you Pointe out the local workers? | The Tribune
Chinese workers at The Pointe. Photo credit: Tribune

They say some of their coworkers have been in the country, working at the site for three years.

The workers usually eat their meals at the construction site and sleep nearby in temporary camps, rather than eat and live in local establishments.

They are often seen walking from the construction site to their accommodations across the street. A yellow school bus has been seen transporting workers from the site.

Why is the protest a surprise?

Chinese workers talk to Embassy Counsellor Haigang Yi. Photo credit: Eye Witness News

The public display of displeasure by the workers caught the public by surprise as it is unusual to see the Chinese partake in a public display of frustration in the Bahamas. And even though their worksite is in the center of town, they are never seen on the nearby Long Whalf Beach or walking the commercial stretch.

Secondly, the demands to go back to China because of the rising cases of COVID-19 in the Bahamas, was unusual, since the infectious disease originated in China. The Bahamas once imposed a travel ban on people coming from China because of surging cases in the Asian country.

However, over a few months, China claimed that it gained control of the virus because of its mandatory lockdowns and strong adherence to social protocols.

Now, the Bahamas has been labelled high risk for the virus as Chinese numbers seemed to have dwindled.

What are we not told?

Workers at the protest spoke in Mandarin and the interpretation was done by a representative of the Embassy. The public is not told if payment was another concern of the Chinese workers too.

This is not the first time Chinese workers have demonstrated against the China State Construction company.

Chinese workers protest in 2014 outside of Chinese Embassy after nonpayment by China Construction Company after work on Baha Mar (Photo credit: Tribune)

Back in 2014, workers gathered on the lawn of the embassy seeking six months of payment after work at Baha Mar, and seeking to be repatriated.

Workers claimed that they had sought the security of the Chinese Embassy after they were threatened when they complained.

What will happen?

The worker’s ability to quickly organize a protest among themselves resulted in the successful bargain of a flight back to their home country. Embassy Counsellor Yi said a flight would be arranged for 200 workers.

These demonstrations attest to the ability of self-organization among foreign workers, where unions are not present in the midst of situations that may seem unfair or unpleasant.

 

Featured picture credit: The Nassau Guardian

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