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Reopening poses challenges for southern businesses

By Duc Minh, Tat Dat   September 17, 2021 | 03:56 am PT
Reopening poses challenges for southern businesses
A staff makes drinks in a beverage store in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo by VnExpress/Quynh Tran
Businesspeople longing for a reopening in the southern region are now facing challenges in recruitment and material sourcing as the economy slowly unfreezes.

Wood furniture maker Happy Furniture in Dong Nai Province is struggling to recruit enough employees to resume operation.

"Most candidates are those who have suffered heavily because of the pandemic," said said Le Xuan Tan, member of the director’s board.

"If they could, they would prefer to stay in their hometowns and wait for the outbreak to be completely contained."

Many candidates test Covid-19 positive and therefore cannot be recruited. The company has around 20 percent of its employees yet to be vaccinated due to health issues, and therefore it does not want to risk bringing the virus from outside.

An organic rice producer in Ho Chi Minh City’s District 7 is facing a similar plight amid staff shortages after seeing half its employees, or 40 people, contract the novel coronavirus in June.

Looking for new staff has been challenging, as people do not want to be forced to stay at the company as the city requires, said a spokesperson.

In three recruitment sessions, the company always found someone who tested Covid positive. It was not until the fourth session that the company found an appropriate Covid-free candidate.

HCMC businesses are waiting for regulations on who are eligible to return to work, said Chu Tien Dung, chairman of the HCMC Union of Business Association (HUBA).

"Guidelines should be provided early so businesses can prepare," he said, adding the fourth quarter is key for recovering.

There needs to be consistency in lifting mobility restrictions nationwide so workers can commute to work easily, Dung said.

Businesses should not overlook former Covid-19 patients who have recovered at home. This is a big and safe source of recruitment for factories, he added.

Other companies in the service sector are struggling to fulfill HCMC regulations in resuming activities.

A spokesperson for bubble tea chain Gong Cha said its restaurants are not designed for accommodation so the chain takes time to arrange living space for workers to stay on-site as ordered.

Employees are also reluctant to return to work and need to be encouraged, he said.

Gong Cha is among 11 food and beverage companies operating over 1,300 locations that had recently requested HCMC to reconsider some of its regulations including requiring staff to stay at work and testing for Covid-19 every two days.

These regulations are making F&B companies reluctant to reopen, they said.

Dung added some companies could only resume when others resume since they are part of the supply chain.

Wood furniture, for example, might need 50 parts sourced from different locations, including foreign, and if only a few businesses are allowed to reopen there would be a shortage of supply, he said.

"If mobility restrictions are not lifted there would not be enough materials to keep production going."

Cash is another concern. Many companies will face severe capital shortage when resuming operation, he stressed.

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