[Reading level: C1 – Advanced]
Cheating and overexploitation of workers are among the myriad of negative impacts FDI has had on Vietnam.
Large corrugated metal roofs, small corrugated metal roofs and farmland.
Satellite images of Tan Vinh Hiep Commune in the southern province of Binh Duong don’t show much more, but on the earth, these pictures are worth more than the proverbial thousand words – they tell a thousand stories, and counting.
The commune stands just an hour’s drive north of Ho Chi Minh City in Tan Uyen Town, and the satellite images are typical of Vietnam’s economy in the 21st century.
The large corrugated metal roofs are those that cover factories spanning thousands of square meters. Such factories have been the core economic component of both Tan Uyen and the whole Binh Duong Province for decades. And most of these factories belong to foreign direct investment (FDI) companies.
Surrounding the factories are the small corrugated metal roofs, just over 2 meters wide, dozens of meters long, branching out from the roads and alleyways around the factories. These are the roofs of dormitories for migrant workers – the main workforce component in industrial parks across the country.
A male worker doing the laundry in a neighborhood near an industrial zone in Ho Chi Minh City. – Một công nhân nam đang giặt giũ trong một khu phố gần một khu công nghiệp ở Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh.
The large and the small roofs are set against the background of patches of farmland – reminders of a not-too-distant rural, agricultural past.
Huge swathes of farmland across rural Vietnam have been sacrificed to set up hundreds of industrial parks, attracting massive investments looking to exploit cheap labor made available by such sacrifices.
Oppressed workers – Những công nhân bị áp bức
Truong T.A, a 22-year-old man from a coastal district in the Mekong Delta’s Soc Trang Province, is one such rural worker.
In the recruitment announcement of the South Korean garment firm that T.A had applied for, which can still be found online, the promises are alluring: Dynamic, professional working environment; Promotion opportunities for dedicated, long-term committed employees; and most importantly, full entitlement to laborer’s benefits and rights in accordance with the Labor Code.”
These were the promises with which T.A. started working for the ironing unit of E.V, a South Korean-invested garment firm in Vietnam, on April 24, 2017.
He received a monthly salary of VND4.4 million ($190) and got to sign an official one-year employment contract on July 1, 2017. However, just six months later, he was dismissed for “repeated violations over many days of failing to meet ironing productivity during pay-rise period.”
T.A was not alone. On January 22 this year, the E.V company dismissed several workers of the ironing unit, citing the same reason.
However, the workers did not accept these dismissals, arguing that they couldn’t have committed “repeated violations” since they’d never received any disciplinary notice prior to being fired.
They sued the company.
In the lawsuit filed by the workers against the company at the Tan Uyen People’s Court, all plaintiffs are migrant workers from the Mekong Delta provinces of Long An, Bac Lieu, Soc Trang and An Giang. All of them received monthly salaries of around VND4 million ($171) and lived in dormitories near the company before being fired for “repeated violation over many days of failing to meet ironing productivity.”
The workers demanded that they be paid their salaries for the remaining months of their contracts, which they argued was illegally terminated without justification.
Lee Sang S., director of the company with the self-proclaimed “professional working environment” and his legal representatives did not attend any court hearing and the company did not reply to any of the court’s summons.
In the absence of the defendant – a multinational company just 20 minutes from the courthouse, the Tan Uyen People’s Court in May and June this year ruled that E.V.’s dismissals were illegal and ordered the company to compensate the workers.
An adult holds a child in the SinCo Street, Binh Tan District, Ho Chi Minh City. Một người lớn đang ôm một em bé ở Đường SinCo, Quận Bình Tân, Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh.
Whether the workers will get their compensation or not remains to be seen. It depends on how the judgment is executed, and whether a lengthy battle with foreign employers ensues.
The series of lawsuits against E.V are not the only ones on illegal dismissal of workers that the Tan Uyen court has received this year.
Tan Uyen, with a population of just under 200,000, has repeatedly made headlines for workers being fired illegally, the spread of illegal gambling games, a food poisoning case in a local factory with 300 victims and several cases of company owners disappearing without paying workers.
While the flow of FDI has brought to Vietnam in general and Binh Duong in particular undeniable achievements, they are accompanied by problems that have become inherent.
[TO BE CONTINUED]
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