Saigon sanitary workers fear gloomy Tet holiday over wage, bonus cuts

The already tough life of sanitary workers is getting just harder as their salaries have been cut and no bonuses are in sight

A sanitary worker cleans a street in District 1, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Tuoi Tre

Workers of various public service companies across Ho Chi Minh City are looking to the Lunar New Year (Tet) holiday with grief as their salaries have been slashed, while no bonuses are likely to be given.

While Tet, Vietnam’s biggest public holiday, is only four weeks away, many sanitary workers have been dismissed or voluntarily quit their jobs as their employers failed to provide them with sufficient wages or cash bonuses.

The director of a public service company said that nearly 60 workers have left over the last 12 months and the firm is struggling to find suitable replacement despite putting huge effort in recruitment.

Le Van Luong, a seasoned sanitary worker, was fired by the Public Service Company of District 12 late last year, after 18 years working in the field.

Luong’s company had to lay off half of its workforce since July 2017 as it received much fewer contracts.

“The company still owes me nearly a year worth of social insurance and other allowances of around VND5 million [US$220],” Luong said.

The laid off workers may also fail to receive their unemployment insurance, Luong added.

With the public service companies slashing their wages and taking away bonuses, yet assigning bigger workload for them, many sanitary workers have switched to working in factories as.

Hai, 53, a former sanity worker, quit his company in 2016 and now works as a driver for a greenery park company.

His younger brother, who is also a sanitary worker, plans to follow suit later this month, he added.

Changes needed

The sanitary companies cited insufficient state budget allocation for public service as one of the main causes for their hardship.

With smaller allocation from the municipal coffers, the companies have had to downsize their workforce or slash employee wages and bonuses.

However, Nguyen Hoang Dung, director of the Research and Development Department of the Ho Chi Minh City Institute of Economics and Management, believes that the problem also lies partly in those public service companies themselves.

“Many of these firms lack capacity, vision, as well as the will to change to adapt to new demands from the market,” Dung explained.

The government have implemented “bidding for contract” scheme in the public service sector, setting up higher standards for the participating companies with the hope to bring up the service quality.

In many public service companies, it used to be the case that sanitary workers, with little education background, can be promoted to team leader and supervisor after gaining years of experience.

However, under new regulations, one must have a college degree and possesses suitable labor safety certificates to be selected as team leader or supervisor.

Other higher requirements for public service companies include having a modern fleet of garbage trucks or employees within the young age range, which many firms fail to meet.

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