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Family plans lawsuit in teen worker's death

By Zheng Caixiong in Guangzhou and Zhao Yinan in Beijing | China Daily | Updated: 2013-06-04 02:22

Boy's grandfather says he died after working overtime since March 1

The family of a 14-year-old boy who died in the dormitory of a Dongguan electronics factory plans to file a lawsuit against the company after being unable to reach an agreement on compensation.

Liufu Kuanyuan, the father of Liufu Zong, said his son's employer in the city's Chang'an township refused to talk with him about compensation and that township departments have given him the runaround.

"I arrived in Chang'an to seek negotiations with the employer (on compensation) on May 21 after I was told my son had died, but I have received no compensation from my son's employer so far," Liufu told China Daily on Monday.

"I was very disappointed."

Liufu Zong, who came from a poor village in Huazhou city in the western part of Guangdong province, was found dead in a dormitory of an electronics factory in Chang'an on the morning of May 21.

He was pronounced dead at a hospital.

Chen Zhaocai, Liufu Zong's grandfather, said the boy died of exhaustion after working more than four hours a day overtime since he started work on March 1.

"The employer has violated labor laws and regulations when it employed an underage child," Chen told China Daily.

Chen, 75, a retired civil servant, is now handling the case on behalf of Liufu's family.

"The employer ... has refused to negotiate about compensation," he said.

Liufu's family asked for 1.2 million yuan ($195,600) in compensation, and the employer offered 20,000 yuan, he added.

China's labor laws allow no company or factory to employ workers younger than 16. Liufu, however, was sent to the factory through a third-party employment agency using an identity card in the name of Su Longda, who is older than 18.

Authorities have been unable to find the employment agency since Liufu died.

Government agencies are arbitrating the case and have issued a notice asking companies that employ underage workers to correct their mistake.

A female official from the Chang'an branch of Dongguan city bureau of human resources declined to answer questions from China Daily on Monday afternoon.

China has prohibited companies from using underage workers since 1995, when the National People's Congress passed the Labor Law.

The regulation stipulates that government organs, companies, social groups and household businesses cannot hire children younger than 16.

Wu Youshui, a labor lawyer in Zhejiang province, said employers are responsible for verifying the information on an ID card to see if the worker is underaged.

"In Liufu's case, although the child provided another person's ID card, the employer failed to distinguish the child from the cardholder. So it should also be held accountable for the incident."

Wu said regulations stipulate that companies that hire underage workers should be fined 5,000 yuan per month for each child laborer, and anyone who coaxes or coerces underage laborers to work must face criminal charges.

Since China currently does not have a compensation standard for underage workers who die on the job. Liu suggested punishing the employer according to the injury-death standard, which is up to 60 months of the average wage in the region.

That means the parents of the victim would be able to receive about 86,960 yuan in compensation, since the annual average salary in Dongguan was 21,740 yuan in 2011, according to city government statistics.

"Statistics in 2011 can be used as a reference for compensation until the end of June," Wu said.

It is not the first underage labor abuse in Dongguan, a city known for labor-intensive industries.

"These companies dare to use underage labor although it is legally prohibited, since local labor protection authorities have failed to do their job," he said.

"The labor inspection team under Dongguan's labor protection bureau should be held accountable for dereliction of duty."

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