Viet Nam News
HÀ NỘI — Overwhelming heat since early May seemed to signal a harsh and long summer this year. While many seek to hide from the heat in comfortable rooms cooled with fans or air conditioners, many workers dare not use too much electricity for the privilege. They are poor, and paying more for power than they should.
Đỗ Thị Linh left her mountainous hometown of Tuyên Quang for Hà Nội to work in the Bắc Thăng Long industrial zone. She rented a room adjacent to her company, and was irritated by the electricity price quoted by her landlord.
“I have to pay VNĐ3,500 (20 US cent) for a unit. Summer has come which means I will have to use more electricity, and that means more money will be spent for it while I still have so many other things to cover,” Linh said.
It was quite expensive compared to the highest rate possible a household should be paying if they use more than 401kWh, at VNĐ2,701 per unit.
Linh said that she questioned her landlord over such a costly rate, and the answer was not that pleasing to her ears.
“He said that all landlords here charged that amount, and if I complained about it, why I did not just go buy my own house,” she said.
“That’s how it is. I have to accept it.”
Phạm Thị Diễm and her family got an even worse rate when their landlord in HCM City announced that electricity this summer would cost VNĐ4,000 a unit, a steeping increase from the previous price of VNĐ2,500.
Diễm and her husband were both workers at the Tân Bình industrial zone, with a combined monthly income totaling only VNĐ8 million ($348).
“We have a small child, so the demand for power usage is quite big. With the new price, it is so hard for us,” she said.
Hard for landlords too
Many landlords leasing rooms specifically for the blue-collar workers admitted that the power price they quoted was beyond reasonable for the poor tenants, but they did not have much of a choice.
According to the Electricity of Việt Nam’s regulations, any households leasing rooms will have their power usage charged at business rate, which could possibly be doubled what a normal household using electricity in an unconstrained manner might have to pay.
Lê Văn Tiến in Hà Nam Province built 20 rooms to rent out for a total of 43 workers with their 16 children. He charged each room VNĐ3,000 per power unit.
“To ensure security in the area, my family had to install 15 high pressure sodium lamps and turn them on from 5pm to 7am the next day. We also give the workers a vacant land lot to grow vegetables, and run a pump to get the water to the land,” Tiến said.
He said with such regular power usage, there were several months where the average price for one unit already reached VNĐ2,700 after he divided evenly the total bill for his family and 20 household renters.
Tiến suggested that the Government should issue regulations supporting the landlords, for example allowing them to pay the bill at a normal household rate other than the business one, if it really wants to help the workers.
Another landlord named Tân in Hà Nội’s Đông Anh District said that he understood how hard it was for the workers with such high rate of power, but he must do it otherwise he would be at loss with all the initial investment for the rooms.
“Companies should raise the workers’ salary to help them, and the Government should stop charging the landlords at business rates to make the power and water price for the workers cheaper,” he said. — VNS