China: Hunan workers' leader dies from pneumoconiosis, labour group says compensation too little too late

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11 October 2018

China: Hundreds of construction workers struggle to claim for compensation after getting pneumoconiosis upon prolonged inhalation of silica dust

Author: Mimi Lau, South China Morning Post (Hong Kong)

"Dying for China’s economic miracle: migrant workers ravaged by lung disease, fighting to pay for their funerals", 10 Oct 2018

Wang…found he has terminal stage-three silicosis – lung disease – linked to his years of exposure to silica dust on the job. Rather than quietly accept his fate, he has been petitioning the Shenzhen government for compensation. He is among more than 600 workers from Hunan alone seeking money for medical care and to support their families – a reflection of the forgotten human cost of turning Shenzhen, in Guangdong province…

Silicosis is an incurable form of pneumoconiosis, a lung disease caused by prolonged inhalation of airborne silica dust. Pneumatic drill operators drill holes deep into the hard granite beneath Shenzhen to prepare sites for building foundations…China’s most widespread occupational illness, pneumoconiosis, is commonly found among coal miners but is suffered in varying stages by an estimated 6 million-plus Chinese migrant workers, according to Love Save Pneumoconiosis, a Beijing-based charity dedicated to helping them…

 “A lot of them got ill with pneumoconiosis simply because they had been breathing in dust all day every day with no protection,” said Geoffrey Crothall, a spokesman for…China Labour Bulletin…Crothall…said that although there were legal measures workers could take, they were time-consuming and required them first to establish that there was an employment relationship…Research in 2016 by Love Save Pneumoconiosis showed only 9.5 per cent of migrant workers with pneumoconiosis had signed labour contracts with their employers. This means most would struggle to prove they might be eligible to claim compensation for a job-related illness.

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29 August 2015

Workers’ leader Xu Zhihui finally loses his battle with pneumoconiosis

Author: China Labour Bulletin

Xu Zhihui, a pioneer and leader in the struggle of China’ workers to get compensation for the deadly lung disease, pneumoconiosis, has passed away. He was 55-years-old…Xu was one of around 180 construction workers from Leiyang in Hunan who made national headlines in the summer of 2009 when they travelled back to Shenzhen to demand compensation for the pneumoconiosis they had contracted while working as drillers and blasters on the city’s construction sites in the 1990s.

After staging several protests and threatening to sue to Shenzhen government, the majority of workers were awarded various levels of compensation…The compensation award was a major breakthrough at the time and inspired many other groups of migrant workers across China to pursue their demands for compensation as well…

However, for many of the Leiyang workers, the compensation they received was too little too late. In 2013, China Central Television’s News 1+1 returned to Leiyang to find that several workers had nothing left after paying off their debts and medical expenses…It is not known exactly how many of the original 180 Leiyang workers are still alive.

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