A new monitoring system for street cleaners has sparked a social media outcry in Nanjing, China.
More than 500 sanitation workers in the city were asked to wear smart watches that tracked their location and recorded when they clocked in. And if the wearer stopped moving for more than 20 minutes, the device would bark out the order: “Please continue working! Keep it up!”.
This alarm feature has been disabled after outraged employees and supporters took to social media. But the location-tracking functions of the watches remain – and street cleaners are still expected to wear them.
The move has been condemned as “inhumane” on Chinese microblogging site Weibo. ‘It’s not easy being a sanitation worker, they are always overworked,” said one user. And: “As long as the streets are clean and the worker has done their job, I don’t think the constant monitoring is necessary,” said another.
Information from the watches is transmitted to a command centre where supervisors can see the street cleaners’ locations represented by dots on a wall-mounted screen. According to command centre employee Yang Haiping the programme aims to increase workers’ productivity, reduce management costs and enable sanitation workers to be monitored. And it also offers a safety function since each device features an emergency button in case the worker is ever in danger.
Vice president of the sanitation company behind the system Zhang Dongzhong claims the watches are only activated during work hours and will not infringe on the workers’ privacy. And he added that no one so far had been punished for any information they have provided.