Viet Nam News
HÀ NỘI – At least 6,000 grass cutters are on the verge of losing their jobs following Hà Nội’s decision to halt the trimming work on most of the city’s lawn median strips.
The trimmers are employed by 24 companies, both public and private, which had contracts with the authorities to maintain the lawn strips, flowering bushes and ornamental trees on the roads’ decorative belts across the city.
Hà Nội, however, decided to terminate most of the contracts from July 1, asking the companies to stop trimming the grass and flower gardens, except in central areas like Hoàn Kiếm District.
A director of one of the 24 companies affected by the city’s cutback, who asked not to be named, told Vietnam News Agency that his company already had to dismiss 300 workers, or three quarters of its workforce after the decision.
He also said that the company was in financial trouble after it had spent a lot of money upgrading equipment to meet the city’s bidding requirements.
“The contract term was 45 months, but we only had the job for 10 months,” he said. “We don’t have enough money to pay off the debts”.
40-year-old Lưu Thị Hằng, who has worked for nearly 20 years as a grass cutter in the Hà Nội Zoo Ltd Co, said that she was anxious about her job after hearing rumours of downsizing in the company.
“I don’t know what I will do if I get sacked. My family has four mouths to feed and we rely on my job,” she said.
Hà Nội Zoo company has so far cut the monthly working shifts of each employee, from 26 to 14, but there was no guarantee that the number would not hit zero soon.
City People’s Committee Chairman Nguyễn Đức Chung last week explained the decision as a cost cutting exercise.
“The annual grass mowing expense for 24km of Thăng Long Avenue reaches up to VNĐ53 billion (US$2.3 million),” he said at a meeting with residents of Hoàn Kiếm District last Monday.
“I personally went over there to look and realised that they only needed to trim the grass, some oleander and hibiscus. VNĐ53 billion a year for such work is unacceptable”.
He said Hà Nội could save up to VNĐ700 billion ($31.1 million) a year by crossing the gardening work off of the city agenda.
Việt Nam Architect Association Chief of Staff Phạm Thanh Tùng agreed that the authorities’ decision to cut budget spending was necessary, yet a complete cutback would be over the line.
“Without trimming, the grass and plants will look really ugly and messy,” he said.
He suggested that the city consider other measures to cut costs, like using machines instead of human labour. – VNS