Trash collectors wade through life as salaries delayed

By Ngoc Thanh   July 3, 2021 | 01:00 pm GMT+7
A family in Hanoi's Phuc Tho District has barely made ends meet these past seven months as their employer, a trash collection company, delays salary payments.
Trash collectors wade through life as salaries delayed

Doan Van Dang, 58, and his wife Nguyen Thi Son, 53, have resided in their small home in Phuc Tho District for the last couple of years.

Every day, Dang collects grass from the fields around his house to feed his fish.

"We have a pond of fish here, so we can make a living... Our old home in Vong Xuyen Commune (about eight kilometers away) has been left to deteriorate - the fields there are too dry and small," he said.

Trash collectors wade through life as salaries delayed

"The first year I spent breeding fish, I got VND10 million ($434). But in the past two years, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, I was unable to sell any. Last year, I only got VND1.8 million," Dang added.

Trash collectors wade through life as salaries delayed

Without recourse, Dang and Son relocated to Hanoi where, for the last three years, they have been working as trash collectors for Minh Quan Hi-tech JSC.

But since the firm has delayed salary payments for the past seven months, the couple has been plunged into a precarious situation.

"I've been working for the company without a contract for a long time. I only officially signed one in 2017. Recently, my health has grown worse, and combined with the fact that salaries have been delayed, I've been staying home full-time. Both my wife and daughter-in-law, who work the same job, have had their salaries delayed for six-seven months," said Dang.

Trash collectors wade through life as salaries delayed

Son holds up an employment contract.

"They already signed me, but for the last two years, have not paid my salary in accordance with the contract, which is between the 5th and 10th day of each month. In 2019, the company delayed my salary for three months and only paid me at the end of the year. Last year, seven months passed without a salary check, and still no word from them," she added.

Trash collectors wade through life as salaries delayed

The couple's house only has a makeshift bed crafted from wood.

A few days prior, Son got into a traffic accident and fractured some ribs, forcing her to stay home. Now, she and her husband can only rely on money earned as scrap collectors, and from harvesting vegetables from their garden.

Trash collectors wade through life as salaries delayed

Dang is now the sole breadwinner of the house. Every morning, he straps on his prosthetic leg before hitting the street.

"In 2017, when I was working as a brick maker, a machine took my leg. When I worked as a farmer in the past, every year I had to replace my prosthetics as they spent too much time underwater. Now as a scrap collector, I only need to replace them once every two years. A replacement costs about VND5.5 million, roughly an entire month of salary," Dang said.

Some time ago when Dang had to go to the hospital to have his body scanned, he left without even waiting for the results fearing he didn't have enough money to cover the expense.

Trash collectors wade through life as salaries delayed

At 3:30 p.m. every day, Dang catches a bus and travels 30 kilometers to Nam Tu Liem District to collect trash. Since the beginning of this year, his contract has been transferred to Hanoi Urban Environment Company (Urenco), where his insurance and salary is paid on time, to his immeasurable relief.

Trash collectors wade through life as salaries delayed

His shift usually starts at 5:30 p.m., and mainly involves collecting trash at apartment complexes. Each person typically collects two tons of trash per shift.

Trash collectors wade through life as salaries delayed

The trash would then be loaded onto a truck and transported to the company facility.

Trash collectors wade through life as salaries delayed

With dawn yet to break, Dang returns to his tent to check for missed calls during the day. He earns around VND174,000 per shift, coupled with another VND20,000 as a bonus.

Trash collectors wade through life as salaries delayed

The makeshift tent is erected by Dang and his wife near Hanoi Indoor Games Gymnasium, where Dang often returns after work. He would change his clothes and take a nap until 5 a.m., before hopping onto a bus to return home.

Dang said Minh Quan Company has promised to pay him three months’ worth of salary, with the other four months’ worth to be paid on July 10.

 
 
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