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SHENYANG - When Wang Xiaoming and three of her co-workers had to work on the first day of the lunar Year of the Dragon, cleaning up the tons of firecracker refuse left on ground, it wasn't the potential danger or sub-zero temperatures that occupied their minds.
Instead, as the women toiled in a residential community in Northeast China's Shenyang, they wondered whether their company would pay the extra money owed them by law for working on a national holiday.
Days after the nation finished celebrating Spring Festival, their worries proved well founded. Not one of them got a single extra cent, even though under law, workers are entitled to at least two to three times their normal daily wage for holiday work.
"You can't imagine how painful it is to work on national holidays," said Wang, 59, a cleaner for a property management company. "You miss almost every family celebration."
What's more, after she worked five and a half days of the weeklong holiday, which ended on Jan 29, she only got her regular 1,000 yuan ($160) monthly salary at the end of the month.
She said that small companies in the region rarely pay employees the extra money owed them by law.
Wang's grievance, shared by many workers on the bottom rung of society, underscores the prevalence of labor rights violations in this segment of China's labor force despite the nation's persistent efforts in the past decade to protect workers.
Aside from the missing holiday pay, workers at small private companies often work long, intensive hours for low salaries, and get no social insurance or adequate protection from work hazards, workers' advocates and lawyers say.
Small, privately owned companies typically have more labor rights violations than large factories because investments or orders from foreign companies bring pressure from the overseas owners or clients to eliminate sweatshop conditions, workers' rights advocates say.
Small businesses are also less likely to come under scrutiny from the media, trade unions and law enforcement agencies.