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Embassy grills Chinese companies over alleged abuse

Embassy grills Chinese companies over alleged abuse

The Chinese embassy in Addis Ababa called an unprecedented meeting with all Chinese companies operating in the country last week following repeated events such as labor issues and abuse of accusations involving Chinese companies working in the country, The Reporter has learnt.

The embassy confirmed such a communication had taken place but refused to go into details.

However, according to sources, the embassy went further and warned some of the companies regarding the consequences of their actions in the country.

Sources also confirmed that recent incidents involving the China State Construction Engineering Corporation (CSCEC) that had seven of its employee’s burn to death and dozens severely injured within what is to become the biggest stadium in the country - Adey Ababa Stadium was one of highlights of the discussion in the embassy. This was as a result of a fire that was started from a makeshift dormitory that was ordered to have been taken down on the order of local authorities’ weeks before the accident.

Neither the company officials nor the embassy were willing to confirm that the accident was what prompted the meeting that took place last week.    

Nevertheless, workers at the stadium project accuse the contractors of substandard treatment of employees which number about 200 Chinese and 650 local workers. They accused the company of not providing them with adequate gears to do their work and that has resulted in various injuries and falls.

The Reporter conducted random examination of the work environment for several days and found, among the hundreds of workers, there was no one that had a steel toe boots or gloves, while the Chinese workers were in full gear for a construction environment.

The company claimed, later rescinded that it provided gloves and shoes to all the local workers.

The Deputy Manager of CSCEC, Zheng Chun Hua, told The Reporter last week of some of the action that company will take forward, including offering jobs to siblings of the deceased and investment on safety and dormitories.

But that is music to the ears of some of the workers as CSCEC denied knowing the temporary dormitory was used as a living quarter and not the change room that it was intended to.

“That is not true,” said Desta Zeleke, an employee of the company that was severely burned more than half of his body. “The housing was built with their knowledge, in full view and they were comfortable with the living condition of all of us”.

Desta and Belete Mekuria are the last two left at the hospital. Belete is being taken care of by his brother, Mekuasha Mekuria, whose tale of what happened on the night of the accident is an exhausting one. Along with three other victims, Belete was transported to Abet Hospital and the burn unit was at full capacity.  According to Mekuasha, they were not seen by a doctor for 11 days.

The first night, Belete slept on a wheelchair and was then transported to a temporary bed the second day. He claimed his brother was given a minimal care and much time and effort was spent before he was transferred to Balcha. “We had to beg to even give him the most basic care,” Mekuasha said.

Among the seven that died at the semi constructed stadium, five were cousins and two were siblings. All the dozen injured were sent back to their hometown with a one way ticket courtesy of the company and pay for the hours worked and no additional benefits to those that are still recouping and are unable to work.

 “The Chinese workers are provided better pay, work condition and adequate protection, but nobody cares about the local workers, a worker told The Reporter.