Chinese boss forces Vietnamese workers into slave labor in Russia

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Around 40 Vietnamese workers have accused a Chinese - owned a shoe factory in Russia of having forced them into slave labor, according to a Wednesday report in Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper.

The laborers have informed their relatives in Vietnam of their plight and sought intervention from relevant authorities to rescue them, Tuoi Tre said.

Last October, the Hoa Viet Company, based in Russia's Yekaterinburg City, hired brokers Nguyen Van Nam and Nguyen Van Quang in Vietnam to recruit Vietnamese workers from some northern provinces for Russian shoe company L.E.O. Pard.

The brokers told the workers that each of them would be paid US$400-500 per month, excluding bonuses and overtime payment.

On January 3, around 40 laborers arrived in Russia on travel visas. They were taken to a leather shoe and garment factory in Yekaterinburg, some 2,000 kilometers northeast of Russian capital Moscow.

The factory is owned by a Chinese national, according to the workers.

Nguyen Van Thi and Trinh Dinh Quynh, two of the workers who are natives of Ha Nam Province, told Tuoi Tre on the phone that they were forced to work from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day.

They were fed with little food, sometimes just boiled potatoes. In the freezing weather, some of them fainted at work. Requests for sick leave were always turned down by factory managers.

Thi said each laborer had paid $1,500 in fees and VND20 million ($967) as deposit to the Hoa Viet Company to get the contract to work in Russia.

However, they were only paid 1,000 Russian rubles ($34) as "allowance" a month between January and April.

On April 17, six workers from Bac Giang Province quit their job and returned to Vietnam. They did not get any salary before leaving.

On Monday (April 30), the remaining workers went on strike, demanding that their employer pay them as stated in the contract or bring them back home.

The Chinese boss told the laborers to keep on working or they would be starved, Thi said.

He also said each worker must pay $1,000 in exchange for their release.

Also on Monday, Nguyen Van Dung, an employee of the Hoa Viet company that brought the laborers to Russia, introduced a man as deputy chairman of the association of Vietnamese people in Yekaterinburg to persuade the striking workers to resume work. The workers refused the request.

The families of the workers have lodged complaints against Dung, who represented the Hoa Viet Company in the contracts, with local police and authorities.

They have also sent their complaints to the Russian Embassy in Hanoi.

Nguyen Ngoc Quynh, director of the Overseas Labor Management Department at the Labor Ministry, told Tuoi Tre the case possibly involved a criminal gang.

He said his agency is investigating to find if the Hoa Viet Company has illegally sent laborers to Russia. The department will also ask the Consular Department in the Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs to step in, he added.

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