Pandemic response: do what's right first, profit can wait

By Dang Quynh Giang   August 17, 2020 | 04:11 pm PT
“In these tough times, we should all stay righteous, do the right things, and profit will come after,” our corporate head wrote a few months ago.
Dang Quynh Giang

Dang Quynh Giang

He explained righteousness as abiding by all necessary measures prescribed by the corporation and the government to survive the pandemic.

Just a few days ago, the company announced our annual holiday trip, one of our favored perks, was being canceled due to the increased risk of catching infections from traveling and the difficulties of maintaining work during the pandemic. Furthermore, in an unprecedented move, it also said the usual travel bonus would not be paid.

"In this tough time, the corporation needs to maintain a certain level of emergency funds" so that "in all ways possible, we are able to keep the staff employed and pay their salaries."

For over six months, while maintaining safety measures against the Covid-19 pandemic throughout its offices and factories and continuing production, our employer was upfront about the difficulties in keeping and paying the employees.

After a break from the first wave, Vietnamese companies had to confront the second wave of the deadly pandemic, with the full package of difficulties experienced the first time. My employer was not excluded. Yet, even as the crisis sunk our corporate profits again, not a single staff member was let go, giving them a blissful certainty in this trying time.

Our director also stressed the responsibility of continuing to produce and provide services, especially to business-to-business customers in pandemic-critical areas like the medical sector. By helping our customers work efficiently, our corporation would contribute to the national fight against the pandemic, he said.

Even as a strong company with good financial resources, we have struggled for survival in these dark days. Instead of keeping the standard 24-hour production, we cut it down by one third to minimize costs. Planned investments and spending were reconsidered.

Sacrifices were made individually at all levels. The director decided cut into his private transportation perk to save VND10 million ($433) a month.

"So many face masks and so many self-made hand sanitizers we can get from this reduced car rent," he commented, after deciding to make hand sanitizers for our staff under self-production guidelines of the World Health Organization.

Workers at an industrial park in HCMC have their temperature checked before receiving Covid-19 tests, April 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Quynh Tran.

Workers at an industrial park in HCMC have their temperature checked before receiving Covid-19 tests, April 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Quynh Tran.

Passing the luck on

I consider myself lucky to be working for such a responsible employer, knowing that many around me did not have the same luxury.

Operating a family-owned rented dormitory as a side job, I witnessed the dire situation of many young workers struggling with sudden unemployment. To ease their difficulties, I lowered their rent as much as possible, though, on some occasions, it was still not enough.

Recently, a girl who recently moved into our dormitory, asked to borrow VND200,000 ($8.65) from my spouse for subsistence, as she’d been dismissed last month from work. Having no family in the city, and no money, she did not have any alternative but to ask others for help.

Job security is a fundamental issue for pandemic-hit Vietnam. With over 9,000 firms filing for bankruptcy each month of late, over 30 million Vietnamese, or approximately 60 percent of the working population, face the risk of unemployment.

Instead of laying off their staff, employers should show compassion and understanding, since they are responsible for the survival of millions. They should consider all potential alternatives before making a decision.

Reciprocity is the heart and soul of a good employer-employee relationship. Only by answering the needs of employees in tough times can they be expected to stand by their employers through thick and thin. Every company and employer should know that like charity, loyalty begins at home.

*Dang Quynh Giang is a lawyer working for a Japanese company in Vietnam. The opinions expressed are his own.

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