Street cleaners in Xi'an, Northwest China's Shaanxi Province, stand in front of the cigarette butts they collected on October 24, 2017.(Photo: VCG)
A district government in Northwest China's Shaanxi Province came under fire after a newspaper reported that it penalized a street cleaner more than a third of her monthly salary, charging one yuan ($0.15) for each cigarette butt she failed to collect.
A sanitation worker, surnamed Zhang working in Yuhuazhai subdistrict, Xi'an, capital of Shaanxi Province, was fined more than 900 yuan ($135) of her total monthly salary of only about 2600 yuan ($390), according to Shaanxi-based newspaper Chinese Business View.
Twenty other sanitation workers in the subdistrict were also fined varying amounts for this offense, as their performance evaluation standard assigned a fine of one yuan for each cigarette butt found on the street in the area where each cleaner is assigned, according to the report.
"If someone comes [behind me] and leaves a cigarette butt on the ground, I will be fined," said the helpless Zhang in her fifties.
"No matter how fast I clean, there is no way I can handle smokers' unending littering," Zhang told the Chinese Business View.
The city cleaners were also working overload because the local sanitation department "could not recruit enough people," an unnamed staff member at the Yuhuazhai subdistrict office told the newspaper.
Xi'an is known for its high sanitation standards. It has allowed no more than five grams of dust per square meter on city street since 2017, and "most of the city is up to code," according to local sanitation officials, reported Beijing Youth Daily on May 16.
The Yuhuazhai subdistrict government has suspended its personnel performance evaluation standard and plans to revise it.
Moreover, salary deduction caused by cigarette butt problems is prohibited, said the local authorities in a statement.