Tough choice: HCMC workers leave families, move to factories

HCMC factory workers are reluctantly making the choice to stay away from their families and live in their factories for weeks to keep production and livelihoods going.

Nguyen Thi Dieu Hien, employed by garments maker Viet Thang Corporation in HCMC, recently sent her mother-in-law and her two-year-old daughter to the countryside to be taken care of by relatives.

Hien and her husband work at the same factory and are required to stay within the factory during HCMC social distancing period. They did have the option to stay at home and receive minimum wages, but chose to work as their combined salary of VND16 million ($696) a month is needed to treat her ailing, immobile mother-in-law.

"Even if we stay with them in the city there is no guarantee that we will be safe as the neighborhood is densely populated," Hien said

Hien and her husband are among 350 of the 1,000 employees of Viet Thang who have chosen to stay within the factory and continue working.

Nguyen Thi Dieu Hien works during a night shift at garment company Viet Thang Corporation in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo by VnExpress/An Phuong.

Tran Thi Thanh Phuong, head of the corporation’s labor union, said that one of her biggest challenges was convincing workers to stay and work, because most of them have children and could not be parted from their family for two weeks or more.

Those who choose to stay are given VND1 million above their regular remuneration and the company ensures that they have proper accommodation and wifi to connect with family members. They are also tested for Covid-19 every week.

Forty kilometers away, Nguyen Dung, an employee of construction equipment manufacturer Dai Dung, is getting used to living in the factory.

Nguyen Dung works at construction equipment manufacturer Dai Dung in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo by VnExpress/An Phuong.

Two weeks ago, Dung and around 600 employees began living in the factory to ensure manufacturing is not disrupted. His wife has to take their four-year-old daughter to work every day.

"My only concern is the safety of my wife and kid as the Covid-19 situation is intense," he said, adding that he worries every time the phone rings. Some of his colleagues have decided to go home.

It is not clear if the workers staying on in factories can go home after the social distancing period is over. Some factories have decided to keep the workers on premises with food and accommodation till they can get vaccinated.

HCMC is home to 1.6 million factory workers. As of July 15, 165 factories had arranged accommodation space for nearly 9,000 workers to keep production going. Many factories that cannot do this have shut down due to the city’s regulations on pandemic precautions.

The city is in its 13th day of a 15-day social distancing period. It has recorded over 39,500 Covid-19 cases in the latest Covid-19 wave.


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