Workers facing job loss to Covid seek financial relief

By Le Tuyet   September 24, 2021 | 05:17 am PT
Over the past two months, about 300,000 informal workers couldn't access the government's support package worth VND26 trillion ($1.13 billion) due to eligibility procedures.

Over the past month, the family meals of Nguyen Thi Ut, a worker at footwear maker Samho Vietnam in Ho Chi Minh City's Cu Chi District, consisted mainly of vegetables and fish sauce. Ut and her husband, who works as a bricklayer, have lost their jobs and had no income for the past two months. Now, even their rent is overdue by 10 days.

On July 14, her company was temporarily closed due to Covid. In the first 14 days, she still received the regional minimum wage. But at the end of the month, due to financial difficulties, the company announced the suspension of contracts with all staff. The factory announced it had already signed workers who had lost jobs over a month prior up for government financial aid, meaning each person could get VND3.7 million support.

"But it has been nearly two months now and I have not received any financial support," Ut said.

Workers facing job lost long for Covid-19 financial relief package

Nguyen Thi Ut (R) and family members eat lunch in their rented room. Photo by VnExpress/An Phuong

While she did not have money to buy food, her landlord rushed her to pay the delayed rent. So for the past ten days, she has repeatedly called the company's human resources department for a proper answer.

She said if this situation persists, her whole family would find a way to return to their hometown in southern An Giang Province.

Nguyen Thi Thuy Hang, a representative of Samho Vietnam, said Ut is one of 9,200 employees who had lost their jobs but had not yet received financial support from the VND26 trillion pandemic relief package issued in July.

On July 28, the company submitted worker applications through the national public service portal. After that, they had approved the application and transferred it to the Cu Chi District's labor department for consideration, but got rejected.

"Every day, I receive hundreds of phone calls from workers complaining they haven't received financial aid while freelancers have received their third package. Many workers are pressing to go back to their hometown since they can't hold out in the city any longer," Hang said.

Explaining the return of the dossier of Samho Vietnam Company, Le Dinh Duc, vice chairman of Cu Chi District People's Committee, said at the time, HCMC People's Committee had not authorized the district to approve financial aid requests.

When HCMC leaders authorized the district to approve requests on Sept. 13, the company continued to send in documents, but the District People's Committee has not yet received the instruction from HCMC's labor department on how to roll out the payment for employees swith uspended labor contracts or that took unpaid leave.

Similarly, from July 15 to now, Tan Thanh Trading Mechanic JSC, which manufactures and distributes containers in Thu Duc City, temporarily suspended labor contracts with 180 employees. They will receive financial support of VND3.7 million from the package.

To help workers receive the aid, the human resources department had to contact local authorities many times to supplement records, said Tran Van Hung, chairman of the company's trade union.

In particular, the most difficult was providing a hand signature list of each worker. However, more than 50 percent of these workers had already returned to their hometown.

In that situation, the business owner must sign the confirmation instead and commits to supplement the employee's signature when they return to work. The procedure was approved, but so far no one has received any money.

Currently, HCMC has nearly 23,000 enterprises and businesses with more than 300,000 employees on unpaid leave or temporary suspended labor contracts that have not received financial support from the VND26 trillion package.

According to the disbursement progress of support packages for people facing difficulties due to the epidemic of the People's Council of HCMC, nearly 76,000 workers received VND1.8 million each as of Sept. 12.

People living in a residential area in Dong Hung Thuan Ward, HCMCs District 12, receive support from benefactors. Photo by VnExpress/Le Tuyet

People living in a residential area of Dong Hung Thuan Ward, HCMC's District 12, receive support from benefactors. Photo by VnExpress/Le Tuyet

Application documents receiving help under the VND 26 trillion package still have to wait because districts and Thu Duc city have not yet received further instructions on payment roll out.

On Sept. 15, the city's labor department sent a document to the Ministry of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs asking to answer some problems in approval and disbursement.

Responding to VnExpress, Vice Chairman of HCMC People's Committee Vo Van Hoan said that at the beginning, supporting workers with temporary suspension of labor contracts and unpaid wages faced difficulties because businesses were not proactive and afraid of cumbersome procedures.

Currently, the city is speeding up support packages for workers who lost their jobs because of the pandemic. The city's labor department will provide further guidelines to localities.

HCMC currently has more than 4.7 million employees, of which over 3.2 million are informal workers at nearly 287,000 big enterprises and more than 465,000 at small companies.

In the past two months, aside from a government’s relief package of VND26 trillion that came out in July, the city has issued three of its own packages valued at VND11.5 trillion in total to help the poor as well as businesses hit by the pandemic.

Saigon in Covid-19 battle. Video by VnExpress/Vu Tuan

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