Vietnamese interns claim overexploitation without pay in Japan

By Minh Nga   November 17, 2022 | 02:00 am PT
Vietnamese interns claim overexploitation without pay in Japan
Vietnamese interns at a garment firm in Japan in 2019. Photo by Reuters/Linda Sieg
A group of Vietnamese interns told the press that a Japanese garment firm in Ehime Prefecture owes them 27 million yen (US$193,000).

The group of 11 women held a meeting with the press on Wednesday and said KoshimizuHifukukogyo company in the western prefecture of Ehime declared bankruptcy without paying them 27 million yen as payment for overtime work since 2020 as promised, according to an NHK report.

The interns said the company indicated on Nov. 7 that it would declare bankruptcy after initially saying it would gradually pay each between 2.2 and 2.6 million yen, including compensation for late payment.

According to work records provided by the interns, it was common for them to work in excess of 100 hours in overtime each month, which is illegal in Japan.

Due to the tough working conditions, they approached a nonprofit organization (NPO) supporting Vietnamese people in Japan for help in August.

All 11 of them left the firm on Nov. 4, and they are set to start new jobs at a textiles firm in Gifu Prefecture in central Japan.

Speaking at the press conference, Doan Thi Thu Nga, 32, said "whatever happens I want them to pay us."

A representative of the NPO said it will "continue to work to have their human rights protected," Kyodo News reported.

KoshimizuHifukukogyo's lawyer says the company has total liabilities of around 60 million yen.

Japan established its technical internship program in 1993 to transfer knowledge and skills to developing countries, but the program has been criticized as providing cover for companies to import cheap labor from across Asia.

As of the end of June, there were around 328,000 people residing in Japan as technical trainees, according to Immigration Services Agency.

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