The workers returned home to the coastal province of Shandong in mid-April after the factory closed down in the wake of the devastating earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan in March. They were part of a group of 19 workers hired on a three year contract beginning October 2008.
Even though placement companies are not permitted to collect security deposits from workers sent overseas on top of their fees and commissions, as CLB showed in its new research report on Chinese trainees in Japan, this is a widespread and common practice. Moreover, placement companies will use all manner of devices to avoid repayment of the deposit if they possibly can.
In this particular case, the placement company, based in Qingdao, claimed it could not refund the deposit because of an on-going dispute between the workers and the factory over the payment of living expenses. Until that dispute was resolved, a company representative told the Peninsula Metropolis Daily (半岛都市报), the deposit would not be returned.
Not only do placement companies regularly refuse to return trainees’ deposits, many will threaten legal action against trainees if they fail to complete their three year contract in full and without any violations of contract provisions.
It is possible that up to 100,000 trainees returned to China in the wake of the tsunami and the subsequent radiation threat from the Fukushima nuclear power plant. While many will eventually go back to Japan, those who cannot return to their old jobs face uncertainty about payment of the wages owed by their Japanese employer and the fees, commissions and deposits already paid to their placement companies.