Vietnamese workers abandoned by S. Korean employer promised new jobs

By Phuoc Tuan   March 5, 2018 | 05:47 pm PT
15 companies have agreed to take in the unfortunate workers after their employer disappeared without paying them salaries.

Authorities in the southern province of Dong Nai have made arrangements to protect the rights and interests of nearly 2,000 workers at a local garment factory.

Workers at Texwell Vina Company have been in limbo since their South Korean employers reportedly left Vietnam right before the Lunar New Year holiday without paying their January salaries.

At a meeting with the provincial People's Committee on Monday, Dong Nai Labor Union said it would help the workers terminate their contracts with Texwell Vina and apply to other firms in accordance with the regulations.

"15 companies have agreed to take in the workers. Tomorrow morning, their HR people would come to Texwell Vina to receive their applications," the leader of the union said.

Workers at Texwell Vina garment factory wait for their turn to receive half of their overdue salaries from local authorities on February 11. Photo by VnExpress/Phuoc Tuan.

Workers at Texwell Vina garment factory wait for their turn to receive half of their overdue salaries from local authorities on February 11, 2018. Photo by VnExpress/Phuoc Tuan.

The workers' crisis first grabbed headlines early last month after hundreds of workers gathered outside the Texwell Vina factory at the Bau Xeo Industrial Zone in Trang Bom District for days to demand their pay. The protest prompted provincial authorities to fork out VND7 billion ($308,000) to cover half of the workers' overdue salaries so they could come home and celebrate the Lunar New Year (Tet).

After the holiday, the factory's leaders still did not return to Vietnam and the South Korean Consulate in Ho Chi Minh City told authorities the factory's parent company in South Korea has also been shut down.

This is the latest in a series of cases where employers have absconded from Vietnam’s southern industrial zone ahead of Tet to avoid paying holiday bonuses to their workers. Earlier this year, more than 600 workers at a garment firm in Saigon staged a strike for more than a week to demand their wages after their South Korean employer disappeared.

According to the HCMC Labor Federation, as of January 2018, at least five businesses still owed wages and social insurance contributions from 2017 to around 900 workers, who were unlikely to be able to celebrate the upcoming Lunar New Year (Tet), which started on February 16, due to empty pockets.

Another 200 businesses claimed they had a difficult year and would have problems paying holiday bonuses, it said.

Vietnam’s economy grew by 6.8 percent in 2017, the highest rate in a decade, but that hasn't benefited everyone.

Vietnam raised its minimum wage by around 7.3 percent last year to VND3.75 million per month, the lowest nominal jump on record. The government has approved another increase of 6.5 percent from mid-2018.

Last year, a third of the 2,600 workers surveyed by Vietnam’s Institute of Workers and Trade Unions said their income was barely enough to live on, while 12 percent said their wages simply did not cover basic expenses, forcing them to work extra hours.

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