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Eatery forced Chinese chef into 'slave labour'

Joel Linde · 13 Oct 2011, 15:55

Published: 13 Oct 2011 15:55 GMT+02:00

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In May of 2010, 37-year-old chef Jiang Zhaloin came to Sweden from China to work at a Gothenburg restaurant.

He left his own restaurant and two children behind to spend two years in Sweden, planning to return with more money than he could ever make in his home country.

He paid his Chinese employment agency 70,000 kronor ($10,500) to set up the job in Sweden and was promised he would soon have earned that money back.

But reality ended up being far removed from his initial expectations.

“I started at nine in the morning by cleaning the bathrooms,” Zhaloin told the hotel and restaurant union (HRF) magazine, Hotellrevyn.

“Then I did kitchen work all day and then I had to do the dishes until late at night. It was completely different, a lot tougher.”

With Zhaloin’s experience, the restaurant should have paid him 20,835 kronor a month, according to union standards.

Instead he worked 80 hours a week, for 14,000-15,000 kronor, 7,700 kronor of which he gave straight back to pay for the housing the restaurant had set up for him.

And while, 7,700 kronor a month would normally pay for a sizeable flat in a central Gothenburg, Zhaloin was only offered a bed in a cramped two room apartment that he shared with four other Chinese workers employed by the same restaurant.

“They’ve been brought here to do slave work. This is pure slavery,” the union’s ombudsman Mats Kjellberg told Hotellrevyn.

“They’ve been working 80 hours a week without overtime or other compensation.”

Kjellberg had been in contact with Zhaloin in May of 2011, when he showed up at the union official's office to seek help.

He didn’t speak a word of Swedish, but with help from an interpreter the message got across.

“He wanted to know if his employer was allowed to hit him for being in the union,” Kjellberg told The Local.

“He wasn’t afraid of his employer anymore and he said he wanted to go back to China because it was better there than here in Sweden.”

Kjellberg explained how foreign workers are often made dependent on their employers since they don’t speak the language and get their housing through them.

“If they argue with their employer he can just tell them ‘well then I’ll fire you and kick you out from the flat', and of course that deters many when you’re in a foreign country,” he said.

But Zhaloin had had enough, and was hoping to return home as quickly as possible.

Later in the summer he collapsed on the street in Gothenburg from exhaustion, and after a visit to the doctor he was put on sick leave due to stress related psoriasis.

Kjellberg now wants to see better regulations for such labour exchange programmes to prevent similar cases in the future.

“These Chinese agencies are in contact with similar agencies here in Gothenburg, and sometimes they buy and sell workers almost like cattle,” Kjellberg said.

Story continues below…

“Labour migration is meant to allow for highly educated people to come and work here, but now they will fly in a dishwasher from China to work in Sweden. And the reason they’re doing that is wage dumping.”

The HRF union called Zhaloin’s employer to negotiations and demanded he be compensated for all of his overtime hours, sick leave benefits, and vacation allowance.

The union also helped him move out of the crammed apartment.

The employer has now agreed on the proposed terms, and Zhaloin will be compensated to the tune of 391,000 kronor, including back pay and compensation for his suffering.

The restaurant will also pay an additional 100,000 kronor in compensation to the union for violating labour agreements.

Zhaloin has now returned to China and will have received his compensation by October 15th.

Joel Linde (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

17:03 October 13, 2011 by nmian
glad to see that rules & regulations are in place & they help the under dog , that is great & more power to those that bring those violators to justice.
17:29 October 13, 2011 by Svensksmith
Help me, please. My wife makes me go to work every morning for the last 30 years.
17:50 October 13, 2011 by Great Scott
This kind of practice is loved and welcomed by the Moderate government. They have even copied the scheme and put a name to it, it's called phased 3. However this slimy fat cat government doesn't have the balls you compensate the slaves working under phase 3.
17:55 October 13, 2011 by hatim
0.5 million SEK out of the bank for the employer, do you think its an enough of a sting?
17:57 October 13, 2011 by jacquelinee
Gee these lazy immigrants really sponge of the taxpayers don't they?
19:10 October 13, 2011 by Migga
Gee these lazy immigrants who set up "legal" businesses and then import cheap labour from their homecountry sure are slavedrivers aren`t they?
20:22 October 13, 2011 by StockholmSam
I hope this has no connections with Chinese organized crime because if it does, he won't live to see that money arrive.
21:08 October 13, 2011 by Keith #5083

Respectfully, I don't think the kind of fringe benefits you have been receiving are what is meant by 'union' in this article :-)

Nice to see that this man has received justice. Kudos to the Union for their integrity and willingness to fight the case to a succesful conclusion.

I hope the man has a better opinion of Sweden now.
04:41 October 14, 2011 by Grokh
Screwed by his own people , they shouldve been arrested for slavery like forced labour.
07:38 October 14, 2011 by canuk
i believe execution is still commonly practiced in china.
09:37 October 14, 2011 by OUIJA
What was the nationality of the slave driver? Chinese? Swede? Chinese-Swede?

It is good that he received justice and it is irrelevant how much money he was awarded. The point is justice, something that far too many do not receive in Sweden. Just read and/or ask around.
15:32 October 14, 2011 by tadchem
Nothing about slavery has changed except the names we give it. This is exactly the same sort of mistreatment of workers that led to the rise of Labor Unions and labor riots in the US in the late 19th and early 20th century.
18:50 October 14, 2011 by SuperTulle
They should have done what the Egyptians did to their slaves, WHIP THEM INTO SUBMISSION!

I hear that worked out pretty well for a while.
17:42 October 15, 2011 by pollyadm
The situation of the chef suffered is quite common among those asian workers in UK. Normally, the slave drivers are Chinese or other Asians holding permanent resident permit or citizenship, running Asian restaurant, massage spa or oriental medicine clinic. I happened to know something like this heard from friends, let me dig the dark place a bit deeper.

1. Those workers are directly recruited from China or some other Asian countries through agencies by paying an amount of "introducing fee"(normally 60000 to 100000 kr), and pictured them a heaven like place. And the recruiter intentionally choose those, who can't speak English and easy to control.

2. The workers can't talk or have very limited understanding of English, they are constantly brainwashed and threatened to follow orders. The slave driver threaten them, most frequently this: if you do something wrong you will be expelled by migration office, or arrested by the cop.

3. Workers receive the salary monthly yes, according to the contract in their bank account. But that is just to comply the law and cheat the external accountant. The salary, more than a half, will be forcedly retrieved from ATM and handed back in Cash! The holiday pay and tax surplus, which the workers have never heard before, will be surely extracted by the boss, of course in Cash.

4. Workers are not allowed to talk to strangers, and in fact they don't have chance to. As in this case they need to work 80 hours per week. Slave owner is quite cunning. He talks to to each individually and uses some tricks or "reward" to make the workers watch each other. If a worker has some "abnormal" activities, for instance, talked with a stranger, in finding another job or came late to work, he will be immediately reported to the boss by his college.

5. If the slave drivers find the workers are no longer under control, they will terminate the contract and let the worker back home immediately, and recruit new, which has already planned before replacing the old. The boss will also fire the workers before they are qualified to apply for the permanent resident permit.

6. The slave drivers let them sign an "internal contract", I've actually seen one like this: Your salary and working conditions are business secret protected by the labor law, if you dare to expose it to a third party, you are subject to break the law, a fine of 50 0000 kr will be charged. And if you leave the company, you are not allowed to work in the same type of business in 5 years, or same fined will be applied.

It sounds very horrible. The true situation is much more complex and it's quite difficult to conduct an investigation. If you question the workers, you will probably got nothing because they have too much to worry about.
13:26 October 27, 2011 by robban70226
There is no such thing as a free meal, or in this case a cheap meal, Somebody somewhere must pay in the name of the good old greed, no different that the people that bitch about child labour but love to pay their cheap prices, hypocrites!!
22:22 January 20, 2012 by janeway
This case is not an isolated incident. Check out the blockade against Berns in Stockholm and how they used undocumented workers for years, payed them peanuts and had them work 20 hours per day. Read the stories from the people being used and abused at: https://www.sac.se/Aktuellt/Fokus/Bernskonflikten/Bakgrund-till-den-fackliga-blockaden-av-Berns-salonger
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