Viet Nam News
HCM CITY — Thousands of sanitation workers in the southern metropolis of Hồ Chí Minh City are finding their work particularly unrewarding, now more than ever, as they have been working practically without pay since the end of last year due to the dire financial difficulties of their employers.
A number of such firms say they have no money to pay their employees, let alone to carry out maintenance of garbage trucks and equipment, the Lao Động (Labour) newspaper reported.
According to Trần Thanh Tòng, Director of the Single-member District 12 Public Service JSC (operating in District 12 of HCM City), the firm has sent 10 official dispatches to concerned authorities, asking them to cover its costs to no avail. In April, Đậu An Phúc, vice chairman of District 12 People’s Committee, appealed directly to the city’s People’s Committee about the firm’s situation.
According to District 12 reports, the firm has accrued debts because they HCM City Urban Environment Single-member JSC (Citenco) owes it money for garbage transport costs as per a contract. Specifically, the latter owes District 12’s environment firm VNĐ 25 billion (US$ 1.1 million), with the debts incurred in 2013 reaching some VNĐ 7 billion ($308,000), debts in 2016 (from October to December) reaching VNĐ 10 billion ($440,100), and VNĐ 7 billion ($308,000) in the first two months of 2017.
In addition, Citenco has not approved past payments to District 12 for the period from 2014 to September 2016.
In 2017, Citenco did not renew its contracts with the District 12 firm, nor has it paid the money it owes the firm.
Đậu An Phúc said District 12 Public-service JSC has had to borrow VNĐ13 billion ($572,130) to keep its operations running. From February, the firm has been unable to pay salaries. The firm is also subject to a fine of VNĐ 750 million ($33,000) by the HCM City Tax Department for overdue tax payment that the firm remains unable to pay (VNĐ4 billion, or $176,000).
Similarly, Vũ Quốc Bảo, Director of Thủ Đức District Public-service Single-member JSC, said the situation in his firm “does not look any brighter.” From October 2016, the Thủ Đức firm has not received any payments for its work – garbage collection and transport – estimated at VNĐ31 billion ($1.36 million), Bảo said.
“From 2014 to 2015 as well as the first nine months of 2016, our work has not been recompensed either, since the HCM City People’s Committee hasn’t come up with a unit price for domestic solid waste transportation,” he added.
“Unit prices for street-cleaning have not been officially issued either, that’s why, from August to December 2016, the Thủ Đức District People’s Committee only paid us 80 per cent of what we should have received,” Bảo complained.
While authorities are skimping, clean-up works in Thủ Đức District – one of the oldest and crowded urban districts in the city – still need to be done. Thủ Đức Public-service JSC has had to borrow money from the banks exceeding the amount allowed by law, but has still come up short.
“Many benefits for workers, including holidays or New Year bonuses, among others stated under the collective bargaining agreement, have been either cut back or put on indefinite hold,” Bảo said.
Moreover, the director of the firm had to mortgage his own home to have enough money to pay the employees ahead of the 2017 Lunar New Year holiday.
The root of the problem
HCM City generated some 7,000 - 8,000 tonnes of waste every day, with 70 per cent being solid waste, and the sheer amount of works needs to be de-centralised: Citenco has oversight, but the waste collection and transportation works are relegated to local-level public-service firms.
According to a Citenco representative, in 2013 the company signed contracts with a number of district- and ward-level public service firms on collecting and transporting waste in their respective jurisdictions.
As per the contract, compensation levels for their works was to be decided based on regulations issued by the HCM City People’s Committee.
For example, the unit price stated in the 2016 contract between Citenco and District 12 still needs to be approved by the HCM City People’s Committee before Citenco can deliver the entirety of the payment.
However, at the moment of writing, even when unit prices have been approved, the city’s budget has not been disbursed, so Citenco still is unable to pay its district and ward-level firms.
Citenco said it hadn’t signed a contract with the city’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources this year and is therefore unable to renew its contracts with district- and ward-level firms. — VNS
The HCM City Labour Union said it has received reports from the sanitation firms and is aware of the situation. The city’s Labour Union has asked the HCM City Party Committee and People’s Committee to quickly settle the matter by directing concerned agencies to immediately pay the outstanding debts to district-level and ward-level public service firms, especially those struggling financially, like the District 12 environment company.
Instructions have been sent to the District 12 Labour Union to review the cases of unpaid sanitation workers and to deliver appropriate support if required. — VNS