Green light for blue collar workers: HCMC readies return-to-work plans

By Le Tuyet   October 3, 2021 | 04:45 am PT
Factories in Ho Chi Minh City are preparing plans to bring employees living in neighboring provinces back to work after prolonged disruptions and lockdowns.

Huynh Truc My Kha, 41, was very happy when Taiwanese-invested footwear maker Pouyuen Vietnam, based in HCMC's Binh Tan District, announced that fully vaccinated employees can resume working.

Kha lives in Tan Tru District in HCMC's neighboring province of Long An. She has been taking the company shuttle to commute 50 km to work for years.

After nearly three months of suspension, the factory where she has worked for 20 years is gradually restoring production. However, even when it halted production because of the latest Covid wave, it supported employees with a part of their salary to help them survive and stay afloat.

"I hope the shuttle bus service will resume so I can go back to work and be able to earn a full salary and take care of my two children," said the single mother.

She received her first dose of Covid-19 vaccine early September and will receive the second dose soon.

Kha is one of 16,000 employees of Pouyuen living in the provinces of Long An, Tien Giang, Ben Tre, Tay Ninh. Many have been absent from work for nearly three months since localities restricted travel to curb the Covid-19 spread.

Workers make footwear products in Pouyuen factory in Ho Chi Minh City in June 2021. Photo by VnExpress/Le Tuyet

Workers make footwear products in Pouyuen factory in Ho Chi Minh City in June 2021. Photo by VnExpress/Le Tuyet

Cu Phat Nghiep, chairman of the company's labor union, said that the factory has more than 56,000 employees, of which laborers living in neighboring provinces account for 30 percent.

Earlier, to meet pandemic safety requirements, the company had increased the number of vehicles to transport its employees, ensuring that each 45-seat bus carried no more than 20 people. The buses were also disinfected before and after workers get on and off the shuttle.

"We have also prepared a sufficient number of vehicles to bring workers back to the factory. We are just waiting for a unified decision from HCMC and the provinces' authorities," he said.

He added that when workers in the neighboring provinces return to work, the company will be able to meet order deadlines again after work has piled up over several months.

About 35 km from the Pouyuen Vietnam factory, automatic data capture and process automation service provider Datalogic based in Thu Duc City's Hi-Tech park is looking at ways to bring 80 workers living in Binh Duong, Dong Nai and Ba Ria - Vung Tau provinces back to work in the coming days.

The company cannot organize shuttle buses for them since the workers live in many provinces and far from each other. Before the outbreak, the workers mainly traveled to work on their personal vehicles.

While the company is finding ways to bring relocated workers back to the city, some employees have been unable to get back to their hometowns.

Tran Tien Phat, general director of the company, said that after more than 2.5 months of implementing the "stay-at-work" model, on the morning of Oct. 1, the factory inoculated more than 400 employees living in HCMC with the second dose so they could return to their hometowns.

More than 100 workers who have not meet the required conditions leaving the city have had to stay back. Most of them live in provinces bordering HCMC.

Some workers living in Binh Duong Province who decided to go back since they were too homesick could not pass the inter-provincial checkpoint despite having a negative Covid test certificate, travel declaration and a certificate of two doses of the vaccine.

"In such situations, we will let workers continue to live at the factory," Phat said.

A worker work under Covid-19 prevention measures at Datalogic, HCMC. Photo by VnExpress/An Phuong

A worker work under Covid-19 prevention measures at Datalogic, HCMC. Photo by VnExpress/An Phuong

Datalogic Vietnam's 80 employees are among more than 6,000 workers of the Thu Duc Hi-Tech Park living in neighboring provinces.

When the fourth Covid wave hit Vietnam in late April and localities tightened travel restrictions, most of these workers had to temporarily stop working.

Le Bich Loan, deputy manager of the hi-tech park, said that in addition to facing difficulties in traveling back to the city, about 3,000 people have only received the first vaccine dose. She said these people need to get fully vaccinated soon in order to travel back to the city and resume working.

Coordinated efforts

Pham Thanh Truc, deputy head of the management board of Ho Chi Minh City's export processing and industrial zone, Hepza, said there were about 31,000 employees working for factories in the city's industrial zones that live in four neighboring provinces.

Hepza was prioritizing coordination with the city and other provinces to welcome the employees back to work and trying to decide on the most convenient ways of transportation for workers, he said.

Vo Van Hoan, vice chairman of Ho Chi Minh City People's Committee, said in addition to being shuttled by companies' vehicles, workers living in five neighboring provinces working in Ho Chi Minh City will be facilitated to travel by personal vehicles if they are fully vaccinated and has a QR code for travel.

"The city will work with the provinces to unify ways and create conditions for people living in these localities to come and work in the city and vice versa," Hoan said.

For workers who have not been vaccinated or have only had one jab, firms can make a list for the city to organize their next dose, he added.

On Saturday, the HCMC People's Committee sent a draft plan to the provinces of Dong Nai, Binh Duong, Long An and Tay Ninh on how to organize trips for workers between the five neighboring localities for consideration and agreement by next Monday.

Under the plan, people will be allowed to travel between Ho Chi Minh City and the four provinces when they have recovered from Covid-19 less than six months before date of entry or have received at least one dose of Covid-19 vaccine 14 days prior. They also need a valid negative test for Covid-19 within a week.

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