In a press release, the Beijing Liujing Construction Company (TT) Limited also distanced itself from reports of the conditions under which its employees live at a camp at Ramsaran Trace, Cunupia.
The unsigned press release, which did not bear a company header, was hand-delivered to Newsday’s offices on Chacon Street, Port-of-Spain. However Daisy Feng, assistant to the managing director of Beijing Liujing, subsequently confirmed that the release was authentic.
“For the record, the company would like to indicate the following: Beijing Liujing Construction Company (TT) Limited is a Chinese state-owned company that operates in conformity with other state enterprises of China,” the release reads.
“The payment of workers’ salaries directly from the head office in China to their families at home (minus approved allowances to employees at the work site) is an accepted practice for workers contracted on oversees projects,” the company argues.
It is unclear whether the workers were told that they would not receive their salaries while in Trinidad and that these would be paid to their families in mainland China instead.
Asked yesterday if the workers were told that they would not be paid directly while in Trinidad, Feng referred all queries to company attorney Phillip Lamont. Asked the same question, Lamont said, “I don’t know. I have no instructions on that.”
The United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organised Crime, to which this country became a signatory on September 26, 2001, defines human trafficking as, “the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation.”
To date the State, including Attorney General John Jeremie, has not responded to specific queries over how it will deal with the issues of human trafficking raised by the claims of the Chinese workers.
In relation to reports of the conditions under which its employees live, Beijing Liujing said, “the conditions we see being portrayed in the media are not recognisable to us as conditions provided to our employees.”
Yesterday, officials of the Ministry of Health ordered shut a kitchen at the camp in Cunupia where the company’s officials live.
In its release yesterday, the company also said it “has paid all salaries due to these workers and is making arrangements for their travel back to China at the cost of TT$17,000 per person. It should be noted here that these workers enjoyed wages of TT$24 an hour which was attractive and highly competitive with what is paid in China.”
And while the workers do not appear to get their salaries as cash in hand, the company added, “all workers are provided with accommodation and meals free of charge; meals are prepared by cooks brought in from China to ensure that workers get food to which they are accustomed; workers operate on an eight-hour work day, although an additional two hours are added to cover transport to and from the work site as well as breaks.” It added, “in the event of over-time, the workers are paid the agreed rate.”
The company also argued that the workers had “elected to terminate” their contracts of employment and, as such, are no longer entitled to their two-month deposits which was linked to the project completion time for the Aranjuez and Five Rivers government Secondary schools.