While many receive sumptuous Tet bonuses, a large number of workers are vexed by having months of salaries being held in arrears and are increasingly concerned about how to spend the upcoming Tet (Lunar New Year.)
Many workers have been promised payments again and again, but they have received no or only parts of their salaries for several months on end or even up to a year.
Truong Thinh Plastic Co., of Tan Phu Trung Industrial Zone, located in Ho Chi Minh City's outlying district of Cu Chi, has ceased operations for around six months and owed several-month salaries to almost 200 workers.
The workers have repeatedly gathered at the company's headquarters for several days on end since early September last year. They shared they only received a small part of their salaries, between VND400,000 and 900,000 (US$18 to 42) since February 2014.
The company ceased operations in July, and owes around VND10 million ($461) each to many of the workers.
Phan Trinh Giang, one of the workers, lamented the company has not paid him several months' salaries, totaling roughly VND19 million ($876,) and expressed desperate hopes to be paid the sum to provide an adequate Tet preparation for his family.
Tet begins on February 19 this year, with festivity lingering on around one week after that.
Similarly, Hao Duong Co., located in Hiep Phuoc Industrial Park in HCMC's suburban district of Nha Be, also fails to pay salaries to over 300 workers.
Over 100 workers of Thai Thuan Co, inside Linh Trung 1 Processing Zone, are still denied their December 2014 salary.
With salaries being unduly late, Tet bonuses are a luxury for such workers.
Over 200 workers of a company in Ho Chi Minh City went on strike to protest against the company's unfair salary policies late last month. Photo: Tuoi Tre.
Nguyen Vo Minh Thu, head of the labor management of the HCMC Export Processing Zone and Industrial Zone Authority (HEPZA,) told a January 2015 press meeting that around 15 companies who are plunged into financial difficulties are very unlikely to offer Tet bonuses to more than 700 workers this year.
In the past several days, dozens of workers at Ben Tre Transportation Works Construction Co. have also protested repeatedly against the company’s overdue debts in salaries and social insurance since early last year.
The company directorate gave in, but only made nominal payments before completely ceasing the payment in July last year.
Tuoi Tre (Youth) reporters repeatedly contacted Truong Thinh Co.’s directorate and board chair, who kept shifting responsibilities.
Meanwhile, Tang Van Duc, board chair of Hao Duong Co., said the company is seeking ways to pay its workers parts of their salaries for the upcoming Tet.
Duong Van Phe, deputy CEO of Ben Tre Transportation Works Construction Co., promised the company will pay off its salary debts by April this year.
A senior official of the Ho Chi Minh City Federation of Labor is seen handing over gift packages to needy workers. Photo: Tuoi Tre.
Labor unions’ intervention
The only aid provider the workers can turn to is labor unions.
According to Pham Ngoc Le, of the provincial Confederation of Labor, the confederation has provided 52 needy workers of Ben Tre Transportation Works Construction Co. with VND300,000 ($14) each. “We will also work closely with the provincial Department of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs and the companies’ leaders to settle out the problem. If the companies refuse to do so, we will help workers take legal actions,” she added.
Nguyen Tran Phuong Tran, deputy chair of the Ho Chi Minh City Confederation of Labor, said her confederation has consulted the workers regarding the legal actions they can take against the companies.
However, the workers are not really keen on taking the matter to court, as a number have found new jobs and can’t afford the time to pursue lengthy court proceedings. Their scattering locations make it particularly difficult to gather them, Tran explained.
Employers in Vietnam are required to incur bank interest if they are tardy in paying salaries to their employees, according to a government decree issued last month.
Under the decree, which details and guides the implementation of a number of articles of the Labor Code, those employers who compensate their employees 15 days – or more – late have to pay an additional sum consisting at least of the overdue amount multiplied by the ceiling interest rate for one-month deposits set by the State Bank of Vietnam (SBV) at the time of payment.
If the SBV does not stipulate such a rate, the interest applied will be that fixed by the commercial bank where the employers have opened their accounts.