Employees at a brick factory in southeast China who were collectively owed some 90,000 yuan (US $14,050; £10,080) had their unpaid wages topped up in bricks, it’s reported.
According to the Xinhua News Agency, some 30 factory workers in Nanchang, Jiangxi province, agreed to receive 290,000 bricks in exchange for 80,000 yuan of their owed earnings.
Jiangxi Daily reports that the workers, all of whom were migrants, came from mountainous regions of Yunnan province in the southwest, and had no choice but to live “by candlelight, with wood fire heating”.
After their local labour department intervened with the help of the courts, the employees agreed to receive bricks from the factory in exchange for their unpaid earnings.
Xinhua says that their employer, who has not been named by local media, is still trying to figure out a way to repay staff the remaining 10,000 yuan that they are owed.
The story has ignited lively debate on Chinese social media, with many users of the Sina Weibo microblog expressing concern. “Why is it always rural migrant workers that are paid in arrears?” asks one.
Others make jokes at the expense of China’s housing bubble, saying that the situation has become so bad that bricks constitute a decent substitute for finances.
Disputes between migrant workers and their employers are particularly common during the winter months, especially in the lead-up to Chinese New Year, which this year falls on 16 February.
The All-China Federation of Trade Unions says that it has helped more than five million migrant workers in China receive unpaid wages totalling 30bn yuan ($4.5bn; £3.36bn) in the last five years.