Chinese workers flood power plant in central Vietnam

By Que Ha, Thanh Nien News

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Chinese workers at the construction site of the Vinh Tan 2 coal-fired power plant in Binh Thuan Province
Chinese workers are taking manual labor jobs from Vietnamese at a power plant in the south central province of Binh Thuan.
The provincial Department of Labor, War Invalids and Social Affairs told the press that as of Monday there were 528 Chinese workers at the construction site of the Vinh Tan 2 coal-fired power plant in Tuy Phong District’s Vinh Tan Commune.
However, only 283 of the Chinese workers have work permits, it said.
There are four main Chinese contractors on the project.
According to Vietnamese regulations, foreign companies bidding for Vietnamese government contracts must give priority to qualified Vietnamese workers.
At the Vinh Tan 2 project, Vietnamese workers were not chosen because they are not qualified enough, Nguyen Ngoc Thanh, chief of the department’s Labor Office, said when asked why the contractors did not recruit Vietnamese.
In their personal files, the Chinese workers at the project are called “engineers” and “skilled workers” but in fact, they do any job from mixing up concrete and digging up soil to installing iron poles at the construction site.
“Maybe [because] Chinese contractors made the best use of their laborers,” Thanh explained.
Provincial authorities have complained that they have been unable to control the flow of Chinese workers into the project as Chinese contractors have many ways to "legalize" their recruitment.
Mai Van Anh, deputy director of the provincial labor department, said Chinese contractors have boasted they can train a normal worker to become an “engineer” or “skilled worker” in one year.
The contractors have also taken advantage of a Vietnamese regulation that states that a foreign contractor which takes part in several projects in Vietnam is allowed to bring workers from one construction site to another.
“We were surprised when they showed us hundreds of work permits licensed by Ho Chi Minh City authorities.
“With these permits, Chinese workers are allowed to move from HCMC to Binh Thuan,” he said.
Many workers arrived in Vietnam on travel visas. They then worked for around three months to work at the construction sites, as Vietnamese laws does not require foreign workers to produce work permits if they work in less than three months.
A decree on managing foreign labor which took effect on November 1 last year and supplanted a 2011 one scraps a provision allowing foreign manual laborers to work for up to three months without a work permit. This privilege will henceforth be extended only to those who come to handle complicated technical or technological issues that are beyond the foreign experts already based in Vietnam.
When the three-month period passed, these workers then left, and another group of workers came to Vietnam to work, according to an official from the Tuy Phong District People’s Committee, the local government.
Anh (the labor official) said his department was under a lot of pressure as the Chinese contractors claimed that they must catch up with the progress of the Vinh Tan 2 thermal power plant, which has been listed as one of several national key projects by the government, so they recruited a large number of Chinese workers.
On the other hand, the project management board has not cooperated with the department to control the flow of Chinese workers, he said.

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