CAN THO — More than two thousand workers at the Binh An Seafood Joint Stock Company (Bianfishco) in Can Tho have been struggling to make ends meet for the last month after the company closed its doors to deal with loan issues.
Bianfishco, which had reportedly accrued a debt of VND1.54 trillion (US$73.9 million) has extended layoffs three times since closures began.
Early last month, more than 2,400 workers were laid off for a week when the company said it was unable to secure banks funds to buy raw materials. Workers were told to return to work after March 12. However, the workers were then asked to wait for another week, and then again until April 2. At that time, the company promised work would resume soon as it had won a contract to process salmon.
Duong Thi Mai, one of the struggling workers, said her life had been difficult since the company closed as she didn't have the funds to pay her rent and other bills.
She was happy to hear that the company would open on Monday after winning the fish processing contract, but then nothing happened.
Workers like Mai are still waiting for the company, which is on the edge of bankruptcy, to open while some others have given up and returned to their hometowns to search for agricultural jobs.
Huynh Van Tuan, Chairman of Can Tho Industrial Parks and Export Processing Zones' Trade Union said the company had consistently promised its workers they would get back to work with each extension of the lay-off, and many were facing a real dilemma.
"The company has yet to provide official information on when they will resume operation, and employees have no choice but to wait," Tuan said,
Although the company's new CEO Tran Van Tri, who replaced his wife and the company's president Pham Thi Dieu Hien, said workers might find new jobs to earn their living, the company owed more than VND3 billion (US$144,000) in employee salaries and the same sum for their social insurance, Tuan said.
"Workers who are staying have been promised 70 per cent of their basic salary, which is not enough to cover daily expenses. They will surely not receive unemployment insurance payment if the company doesn't pay back its loans," he said.
The trade union had asked the company to complete the procedures for loans to cover its workers and asked the workers to wait until next Thursday, he said.
"In the event of the worst case scenario, the trade union has contacted several aquaculture processing companies to help between 500 and 1000 of these workers find new jobs," he said.
Ho Tuan Tu from the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs said employees would receive unemployment insurance in accordance with their contributions to the fund.
The ministry promised to help relevant authorities support these workers in the event they lost their jobs permanently, he said.
Early last month, Bianfishco was repeatedly asked to pay back loans to banks, partners and local farmers. The company's president and CEO Pham Thi Dieu Hien has gone abroad to seek treatment for an ‘incurable disease'. Her husband, Tran Van Tri, is temporarily managing the company during her absence. — VNS