Chinese government warns companies on Ethiopian labour abuse

The Chinese embassy in Ethiopia has summoned Chinese companies operating in the country to warn them about their treatment of workers.

The meeting last week follows an incident in August in which seven Ethiopian workers were killed and as many as 12 seriously injured in a fire on site at the Adey Abeba stadium, which is being built by the China State Engineering Corporation (CSCEC).

The fire is reported to have started after a gas canister exploded in a dormitory hut made from corrugated iron and plastic sheeting, of a type said typically to house around 20 workers. The local authorities had ordered the makeshift structure taken down several weeks before the tragedy.

The Chinese embassy confirmed that the meeting had taken place, but declined to say what had been discussed, reports local news site The Reporter.

Quoting unnamed sources, The Reporter said some of the companies were warned about the consequences of their actions.

Ethiopian workers at the stadium project have accused CSCEC of poor treatment of its 200 Chinese and 650 local workers. In particular, they claimed that Ethiopian workers were not given personal protective equipment such as boots with steel toecaps or gloves, whereas Chinese workers were fully kitted out.

Zheng Chun Hua, the deputy manager of CSCEC, told The Reporter that the company would offer jobs to relatives of the deceased men, and would improve their safety and living conditions.

Chinese investment has become an important factor in Ethiopia’s drive to build up an industrial base on the back of modern power and transport infrastructure. However, Ethiopia has also been the site of bloody protests against aspects of that development.

Image: The design of the Adey Abeba stadium (MH Engineering)

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