Vietnam power utility's salaries subject to further inspection

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The labor ministry will inspect salaries at the state-owned power utility Electricity of Vietnam (EVN) and some of its member companies, Tuoi Tre quoted Minister Pham Thi Hai Chuyen as saying Thursday.

Chuyen made the statement after the State Audit of Vietnam's inspection revealed that EVN failed to "guarantee harmonious benefits among its units," and to offer reasonable salaries to its employees, given huge losses it is suffering.

The minister said it is unknown when the inspectors will conclude their reviews, but the ministry will urge them to announce their findings as soon as possible, the newspaper reported.

It is impossible for corporations that don't make profits like EVN to offer high salaries, Chuyen stressed.

According to the state auditors' previously announced findings, in 2010 each employee of EVN corporation, or the parent company, was paid VND13.7 million (US$650) per month on average.

However, white-collar workers received nearly VND30 million ($1,400), while laborers received between VND7.8-10.8 million ($375-510), auditors said.

They said EVN could have reduced its losses, if it had adjusted salaries reasonably.

The utility's cumulative losses as of this December 31 would be VND35.981 trillion ($1.7 billion), auditors said. Meanwhile, EVN estimated it would be VND40.4 trillion ($1.9 billion).

Arguments

An EVN official who wished to remain anonymous told Tuoi Tre that every year the utility sends salary proposals to the Ministry of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs for approval

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Under the ministry's approval in 2009, for every 1,000 kWh of electricity sold, EVN would extract VND5,720 ($0.2) for its salary fund, he said, stressing that its salary payment was always in accordance approved figures.

He was quoted as saying that EVN did not pay salary in accordance with sales, because sales would increase whenever retail price goes up, causing people to misunderstand that it raises prices to increase salaries for its employees.

On the other hand, a source told Thanh Nien that: "The corporation's current salary distribution is very unreasonable. At the office, some people just play on the computers for the whole day but receive VND30-40 million per month."

There were 400 white-collar employees at the EVN corporation, and some of them were paid more than VND100 million ($4,700), meaning that every year it has to spend some VND144 billion ($6.8 million) on their salaries, the source said.

Meanwhile, in an interview with Thanh Nien, Nguyen Van Thanh, director of Hoa Binh Hydropower Company, a member of EVN, was surprised at the announced average monthly salary of VND13.7 million at the corporation.

He said his total income in a month was nearly VND10 million ($475), which was nothing compared with those of directors of small private companies.

Hydropower workers required to work in dangerous trenches were paid just VND3-4 million, while senior workers with long-term experience barely received VND10 million, Thanh said.

Since his company still depends on the corporation, it has to contribute its profits to EVN, which employs nearly 10,000 people, according to the director. Hoa Binh's workers could have received much better salaries, but due to the contribution, they were too low, he added.

Due to low salaries, competent people quit, Thanh said, adding that they had reported the problem to EVN many times, but the issue was never resolved.

A leader of Da Nhim Ham Thuan Da Mi Hydropower Plant in the central province of Ninh Thuan also said his workers received VND4-7 million a month, depending on their skills. Just half of the workers were paid high salaries, he added.

Since last month, people have been questioned about salaries at EVN, after its Director General Pham Van Thanh claimed at a meeting on November 19 that his employees were paid VND7.3 million per month in 2009, which he said was too low and that he was "heartbroken" about it.

The statement quickly provoked objections from the public and media, given that an EVN worker's salary is considered among the top salaries in the state-owned sector where employees are paid VND3.8 million per month on average.

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