1,000 workers strike for better wages in Hai Phong

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Workers at the Stella shoe factory in Hai Phong went on strike on November 12, 2014. Photo credit: Tuoi Tre Workers at the Stella shoe factory in Hai Phong went on strike on November 12, 2014. Photo credit: Tuoi Tre

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Nearly 1,000 shoe factory workers in the northern port city of Hai Phong struck on Tuesday morning to demand better payment.
Many police officers were deployed to stop the workers from blocking the gate of the Sao Vang Company's Stella factory.
By 9 am, most of the workers had begun heading home; several hundred stayed behind.
A group of workers told a Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper reporter that the years they've devoted to the company have not paid off.
The workers said many have quit the company due to low wages and long hours. The factory now has around 3,700 workers, according to the executives.
A veteran employee with over a decade of experience receives VND3.5 million (US$164.5) a month, they said.
They have to be present at the factory before 7 am to start work at 7:1 5am, they said.
The company allows them a one-hour break that begins at 11:45am and their day officially ends at 5 pm.
For years, they said, their lunch stipend has remained VND10,000 (less than half a dollar) per person per day, and their travel stipend is VND150,000 ($7) a month.
The workers argued that whenever an employee is caught making a minor mistake, they're sacked.
The striking workers are also fighting for a higher Lunar New Year (Tet) bonus after hearing that they might only receive VND1 million ($47) each.
The workers said they expect a bonus that's equivalent to at least one-month's wage. Vietnam’s government has no established parameters for the size of Tet  (Lunar News Year)bonuses.
Instead, it allows businesses to pay out their year-end bonuses based on company profits and staff performance.
Tran Van Do, Stella's director, and Nguyen Hung Manh, deputy director of Sao Vang, said they were surprised by the strike.
They said they have heard about the workers’ demands and are considering them, but any solution will take time.
Do said they pay their workers an average of VND5 million a month, and new employees receive up to VND3,5 million a month.
“Our lunch and travel subsidies are not low compared to other businesses’ in the area," Do said. “We understand that prices increase every day, but we have our own difficulties. Any payment increase cannot happen right away.”
Both men said the company hasn't settled on the size of its Tet bonus yet because they must evaluate the company's overall year-end performance before making that decision.
People living near the factory said Stella's workers usually strike for better pay, especially toward the end of the year.
Local authorities were informed of the strike on Tuesday.

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