At least four people were detained and one other injured as thousands of workers in Vietnam’s Binh Duong province went on strike last week over their company’s plan to lay them off due to a downturn in business from the coronavirus pandemic.
The five-day strike began May 26 and ended Saturday, as workers from the Taiwanese-owned Chi Hung Company Ltd., a producer of shoes for Adidas, were told that the company could only support them through June.
The company, in Tan Uyen town, had been operating as normal even when Vietnam began social distancing, but the lack of new orders is forcing the company’s owners to reduce its workforce. The company plans to close its doors starting Monday, while still paying its workers through the end of the month.
More than 10,000 workers joined the demonstration at the company’s headquarters. Strikers told RFA that four workers were arrested by police, while a pregnant worker fainted after a stun gun was used on her.
RFA spoke to authorities and several workers during the course of the labor action.
Lt. Col. Tan Phu, head of the town’s police department, confirmed to RFA’s Vietnamese Service that the police were working on the issue, but abruptly hung up the phone when the reporter identified his association with Radio Free Asia.
A striking worker who requested anonymity to speak freely told RFA the reasons behind the strike, saying, “During COVID-19, other companies announced that if there were no orders, the workers would be allowed to stay home and each worker could receive support of 170,000 dong [U.S. $7.28].”
“But Chi Hung is only supporting us through June, even though they think we’ll have to stay home in July and August, because processing contracts are said to have been canceled,” the worker said.
“So now, we can only stay at home and we’re not receiving any announcements about when we can return to work at the company, and it’s hard to find another job,” the worker added.
The worker also said that the company has a trade union, but representatives of the union did not explain anything about worker protections during the epidemic.
Several relevant agencies are cooperating to moderate the strike, according to Nguyen Dinh Khanh, the vice chairman of the province’s labor union.
“Right now the head of the provincial labor union, the Labor Department and the Tan Uyen People’s Committee are joining together to solve this issue with Chi Hung,” said Nguyen.
“That company has a trade union so the relevant agencies will be working together to resolve this issue,” he said.
The company issued an announcement to the workers at the end of the workday on Thursday, saying, “The company is presently working under normal conditions, hoping that workers do not worry and continue to join in on production.”
“Those reporting to work must scan their employee badge and confirm their names on the attendance list to be paid salary,” the announcement said.
“Amid the challenges of the COVID-19 crisis, the company will do its best to acquire orders in the hopes of maintaining employment for all workers and staff,” it added.
The announcement was signed and stamped by the company’s general director, Liu Yu Feng, and trade union chairman Nguyen Thi Ngoc Ha.
On Saturday, a Chi Hung Company representative told state media that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it planned to temporarily suspend labor contracts with some of its employees in July and August. However, as the company has not yet announced in detail its circumstances and support policies, there was confusion and misunderstandings among the workers, which caused the strike.
At present, the company’s production remains stable and management will announce support policies for workers on June 20 at the latest, the representative said.
Following this announcement, the strike ended and workers returned to work.
Chi Hung Co. Ltd was founded in August 2000 and employs over 10 thousand workers.
Another strike in same province
Meanwhile on Monday, Vietnam’s state media reported that 100 workers at a different Taiwanese-owned company in the same province began their unrelated strike, over the company failing to pay severance after laying them off.
Workers for the G.R.A. Company said they want to get refunds for the payments they made into an unemployment insurance fund, and they demanded severance and other related payments in compensation for layoffs.
A representative of police at the My Phuoc Industrial Park police station confirmed to state media that G.R.A.’s management explained in an announcement to laborers that the company would solve all issues with benefits for the workers, but they did not agree, resulting in the strike.
Most of the demonstrators joining the strike on Monday were previously laid off by G.R.A. according to Dang Tan Dat from the Binh Duong labor union.
They returned to the company Monday demanding unemployment insurance payments and severance, Dang said.
The labor union is working with the company to find a solution, he said.
Binh Duong province, considered the “gateway to Ho Chi Minh City” is home to many industrial parks and industrial clusters that manufacture goods for global companies.
Foreign investors from 64 countries and territories set up shop in Binh Duong, with 304 projects totaling U.S. $5.7 billion, Vietnam’s ministry of planning and investment reported in October 2019.
Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by Huy Le. Written in English by Eugene Whong