Promise of higher pay brings Vietnamese labor back to Libya

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Around 700 Vietnamese workers have returned to Libya with a promised minimum wage increase of 30 percent after fleeing the country due to the political upheavals in 2011, businesses said.

Nguyen Van Xuan, chairman of a private investment consultant company based in the Mekong Delta, said the company has sent 29 employees to a construction project near Libya's capital city of Tripoli, Saigon Tiep Thi reported Wednesday.

The workers have signed contracts which promise monthly wages of between US$270 and $350, but they can earn more than $5,000 a month by working an average of two extra hours a day. Their employer provides meals and accommodation, he said.

Xuan said the security within Libya is not as good as it was before the upheavals, but all business ventures, most of them construction projects, have resumed or started operating normally.

They are seeking for foreign employees with higher payment than before, he said.

The Hanoi-based International Manpower Supply & Trade Company Ltd. (SONA) and Vietnam Construction and Import-Export JSC, which were among six businesses that had sent Vietnamese workers to Libya, have also started sending them back.

SONA, who joined the Libyan labor market as early as in 1994, has sent nearly 300 workers back since late last year.

Representatives from the companies said they have checked the situation in Libya and the new contracts have been thoroughly checked by Vietnam's related authorities.

Vietnamese businesses once provided labor for 14 Turkish businesses that invested in many Libyan construction projects, according to a statement on the government website. But more than 100,000 were brought back home during the violent political crisis.

They said the good news is most of those Turkish businesses said they are eager to welcome back their old Vietnamese employees and promised to pay them wages that they still owed since the upheavals.

"Our Turkish partner in Libya said they are working on necessary procedures with Libya's government to reclaim their assets and demand compensation for damage during the chaos. Once they succeed, they will fulfill payments to Vietnamese workers and receive them back," Xuan said.

He said the partner has requested 100 Vietnamese workers but Xuan said he will only send them once the company pays out the previously unpaid wages.

Vietnam labor ministry said many local companies have asked for permits to send laborers to Libya after receiving big orders from foreign partners. But for the meantime, the ministry has only allowed those that have worked within the Libya labor market before to return to the country.

A survey by Vietnamese businesses showed that nearly 50 percent of the workers who were brought home during the upheavals wanted to return, given the stagnant state of the local labor market.

According to figures submitted by the Ministry of Investment and Planning at a government meeting in late December, 51,800 local businesses have been affected by the 2012 economic crisis. They either declared bankruptcy or had to shut down or scale back operations.

A total of 68,000 new businesses were established in the first ten months of 2012, down 10 percent.

Le Van Thanh, deputy head of the labor ministry's Department of Overseas Labor, said the ministry is favor of sending laborers to Libya, but businesses need to confirm both employment opportunities and security.

He said contracts have to hold the foreign employers in Libya responsible for the workers' safety. They have to buy insurance for the workers, keep them in safe places during natural or political disasters, and send them home when necessary together with full payments and compensation for any contracts being terminated before being fulfilled.

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