HCMC companies keep workers close amid Covid restrictions

By Le Tuyet   August 28, 2021 | 04:26 pm PT
HCMC companies keep workers close amid Covid restrictions
An employee of a company in HCMC delivers food to one of its workers. Photo by VnExpress/An Phuong
Amid coronavirus restrictions and orders to suspend operations, HCMC companies are holding on to their workers by paying salaries and providing food.

Trieu Thi Van, a worker at Longrich in Linh Trung Export Processing Zone of Thu Duc City, saw her neighborhood put under lockdown just one day after her workshop had been suspended. Having yet to stockpile food for the coming days, Van was worried for the future of her family of five.

But the company union gave her rice, salt, milk and vegetables to help, enough for one week, taking some weight off her shoulders.

"Even though I have to stay off work because of the pandemic, I feel lucky," Van said, adding the firm still pays her salary, ensuring that her family would not plunge into poverty.

Nguyen Thi Thuy Van, head of the company union, said there are over 4,000 workers at the factory. Coupled with the presence of several coronavirus cases, it could not allow staff to work and stay on-site, so it had to suspend operations starting July 14. Salaries are still being paid, however.

"Despite meeting difficulties due to delayed orders and generating no revenue, the company tries to pay enough salaries to its workers so they could hold on and stay in the city," said Van, adding the firm also provides food to staff in difficult circumstances and those living in locked down areas.

Similarly, Vina Kitchenware in Tan Binh Industrial Zone of Tan Phu District still pays full salaries to its workers.

"Without an income, workers would find it hard to hang on in the city," said Nguyen Manh Dung, general director of the company. The firm has prepared to pay its workers their full salaries for four months should the pandemic persists, he added.

Phan Thi Thanh Xuan, deputy chairwoman of Vietnam Leather, Footwear and Handbag Industry (Lefaso), said the entire sector has over 2,000 businesses and around 1.5 million workers. The fourth coronavirus wave has forced over 90 percent of companies to suspend operations, yet they still try to support their workers with incomes.

"However, salaries alone won't be enough to keep workers. What they need is to be fully vaccinated, return to work and receive their full salaries to support their families," she said, adding Lefaso and other industrial associations have been looking for Covid-19 vaccine sources for their staff since May.

To keep paying their workers, several companies have had to take out loans and rely on their production budgets. But if the coronavirus situation persists, companies would not be able to hold on for long. Therefore, they wish to be supported, for example by reducing rent, electricity and union fees, as well as bank interest rates this year and the next, she said.

Ngo Duy Hieu, deputy chairman of the Vietnam General Confederation of Labor, said the job market is expected to be turbulent post-pandemic, making recruitment much harder. By paying and supporting their workers, companies could keep them on much longer, he said.

"It also showcases a company's sense of responsibility, as letting workers return to their hometowns may risk letting the coronavirus spread even further," he said, adding that letting workers leave the city or switch jobs would make it more difficult for companies to resume operations.

During the fourth coronavirus wave, with over four million workers in Ho Chi Minh City and the neighboring Binh Duong and Dong Nai, only around 400,000 have been allowed to work, stay on-site and receive full salaries, while the rest have had to stay off work and had their incomes reduced, pushing many into poverty and prompting them to leave the city.

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