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January 26, 2011

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Wife's long fight reaps reward

At 2am in a small rented room in Shanghai's Anting Town, Ni Yumei, a 44-year-old woman, wakes to get ready for her street corner breakfast stall business.

For the past year, she has been living simply and earning just enough to get by so she could use every spare minute to campaign for medical costs for her husband, who developed pneumoconiosis, or dusty lung, after working in a local glass factory.

The management of the company that hired 44-year-old Wu Qirong disappeared after a court ordered them to pay 84,000 yuan (US$12,761) compensation and to cover future treatment. The 84,000 yuan was paid but Ni now fears that future medical costs will not be met.

Wu needs life-long treatment to control the lung condition, which means a huge medical expense for the family from a village in Anhui Province.

But their hopes have been raised after the town government yesterday promised to help the family track down the ex-employer and if that was unsuccessful, to pay the family's future medical expenses.

Wu and his wife had worked for about 10 years in the glassware company in Jiading District's Anting Town, after the couple moved to Shanghai to look for work in 1996.

Wu's job was to polish glass and metal objects for about 10 hours a day. His wife worked as a welder.

Ni quit the job in 2005 -because of the poor pay while her husband was sacked in early 2006.

"The company gave no reason. For fear of the long-time exposure to glass and metal dust, my husband requested a specific lung examination before agreeing to leave," Ni said.

It took the couple months before they could persuade the company to pay for the examination at a government authorized medical center.

The final report arrived in November 2008. Doctors said Wu was suffering from dusty lung and that his work environment was to blame. They said he would need treatment in hospital every one or two years for the rest of his life.

"A patient in the sickbed next to my husband's suffered a pain like hell. He's a late stage dusty lung patient," Ni said, recalling the treatment her husband went through in 2008, before the couple returned to Anhui.

"At that moment I was determined I must get the company to take responsibility. I want my husband to have timely treatment to avoid suffering like that," she said.

Last January, a Shanghai court ruled that his ex-employer, Taiwan-invested Zhengbao Co, should pay 84,000 yuan to Wu and be responsible for future medical care.

"After we finally got the money from the company, 10 months after the verdict, the management disappeared and could never be reached again," Ni said.

After her husband returned to their hometown, Ni began her campaign, studying law, consulting government agencies and filing lawsuits.

Sun Yaming, Anting Township's mayor, said yesterday: "The company ended operations months ago due to a lack of business and we have not been able to contact the management since then. But we had already learned about the worker's situation and we can make sure he gets due -compensation in future."


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