For most Chinese workers, the ongoing Mid-Autumn and National Day holidays have been a welcome opportunity to relax, but 43-year-old Chen Yonglun prefers to work over the holidays.
Chen works at a feedstuff factory in Guiyang, capital of southwest China’s Guizhou Province. Unlike previous holidays when workers could get a chance at overtime, the factory decided to suspend production during this year’s holidays spanning Sept. 30 to Oct. 7.
The break, however, did not please Chen.
“We want to earn money. That’s what we’re working for,” he said, not knowing where to go during the holidays.
Chen left his hometown in Sichuan Province a decade ago, and since then, he has always worked through holidays.
“I was happy that I could earn over 500 yuan as overtime salary in the past,” he said. (500 yuan is equal to 79 U.S. dollars.)
According to Chinese law, employers have to pay three times workers’ daily wages if they demand that employees work on national holidays, which, under the current unfavorable economic situation, is too heavy a burden for many enterprises.
Wei Jian, chairman of the feedstuff factory, said the factory had prepared enough inventory ahead of the holidays so it could save on doling out overtime salaries for the 100-plus workers it employs.
“The prices of grain and raw materials have kept going up and production costs have been increasing, making it difficult for the factory to survive,” said Wei.
He said pork prices have been down since the beginning of this year due to an oversupply from last year, resulting in farmers being unwilling to raise pigs and, thus, a decline in feedstuff orders.
Chen and his colleagues filed an application to the factory to allow them to continue working during the holidays. “Eight days is quite a long period, and we can’t just sit there, doing nothing,” said Chen.
Through negotiations, the factory finally agreed to let them work during the holidays.
“Overtime means 10,000 yuan or more in extra salaries. We probably cannot make a profit this year,” sighed Wei.
Mid-Autumn Day, which fell on Sept. 30 this year, is supposed to be a Chinese holiday for family reunions, but Chen was reluctant to return home, as travel costs and others expenses would have cost him more than one month’s salary.
“My son will enter college soon, and I have to save money for his tuition,” he said.
Despite the news that he could continue to work over the holidays, Chen did not feel relieved. “The problem was solved this year, but what about next year?”