“Workers are not allowed to take time off even when they become sick. The leader will have his salary deducted if there are not enough workers in the line. Enterprises still tried to find loopholes to cut pay for their workers.”
“When workers of each line failed to meet a deadline allocated by the factory, they had to work extra hours. The money for these extra hours would be deducted from their bonus for failure to meet the deadline. In most cases, it was not the workers' fault but a problem with material or machines. By the end of the month, workers receive a deduction from their pay but no details are listed.”
“My daily routine revolves around working, eating and sleeping. I have no idea of anything else except for the factory and my room. We joke with each other that work makes it impossible to update the names of State leaders or events. We just sleep to have enough health to work."
(As told by Kieu, a female worker at the Yen Phong Industrial Park, Bac Ninh Province, Vietnam)
Kieu, 20, lives next to pig cages in a room with a bed and gas cooker that costs her VND700,000 (US$33) a month, one-fifth of her basic wage. All other appliances are on or under the bed or hung on the walls. Kieu says she left for northern Bac Ninh Province two years ago for a job in a mobile phone factory after her mother was hospitalised.
"I had no idea of the job in an assembly line but hoped that I could lead my own life and save for my mother's treatment."
However, on a wage of VND3.5 million ($167) per month she only has enough to live, though she's luckier than others whose basic wages are equal to the State minimum of VND1.65-2.35 million ($78.5-$111) for enterprises.
Kieu is among more than 15 million workers working in enterprises around the country who are suffering on the minimum wage. She said she worked 12 hours a day and seven days a week to earn the total income of VND5.5 million ($262), instead of the basic wage of VND3.5 milion ($167).
"Working extra hours burns all of our energy. It is exhausting and overloading. But most are forced to do it because they can't live on the basic wage."
More than 94 per cent of 2,000 surveyed workers worked overtime, which made up more than 20 per cent of their total income. With overtime, the total average income of the surveyed workers reached VND3.623 million ($172.50), just meeting the minimum living costs estimated at VND3.3-3.7 million per month.
A recent survey by the Fair Labour Association, an international organisation to protect workers' rights, showed 40 per cent of nearly 3,600 workers said their salaries failed to cover daily living costs if they worked under 60 hours a week.
Kieu said in her low voice:
"Living here, looking at the sky, I just see the colour of grey. I wish to go back to my countryside to see the blue sky and breathe the fresh air." "Earning money holds me back."