Many people from around Ho Chi Minh City have rushed to the city hoping to find a job paying better than their paddy fields, only to be victims of false ads and labor dealers' scams.
One of the ads said that the workers will receive free vocational introduction and consultation and will get jobs with high wages plus free meals and accommodation.
Yet an agreement from HSQ Vocational Introduction Center in Binh Tan District does not mention any benefits of the workers, including wages.
It only said that people can ask the center to introduce a different job within six days, or have to pay the center VND250,000 (US$12) if they want to quit during the time.
And if the workers quit within three months, they have to pay VND600,000 of what the center calls "tuition fees."
Thanh Nien reporters last month found that the center is a small room linked to the street by a plank across a stinky canal.
The center asked the reporters, who pretended to be people looking for a job, to pay xe om (motorbike taxi) fee to get to the introduced workplace, which is a plastic recycle plant in the district.
But when the reporters said that the job would be bad for health and wanted to quit, an assistant from the center asked them to pay VND250,000 for a transport fee before returning their ID cards.
The reporters could only retrieve the cards when showing that they had no money left.
People coming to the city at major bus stations, such as Mien Dong, Mien Tay or An Suong, would be surrounded with xe om drivers, who also work as labor dealers.
The drivers at Mien Dong Bus Station would persuade to carry people to some vocational introduction centers for VND50,000.
But when a person cannot get an agreement with the centers, he or she would be forced to pay at least double. Sometimes the drivers even call their friends to come to threaten the job seeker.
Meanwhile, a number of drivers at Mien Tay Bus Station work for a bigger dealer named Do Quoc Han, 34, who keeps contacts of hundreds of factories and companies who need manual workers.
It took less than 10 minutes for Han to finish transferring the workers and their ID cars to a lunch restaurant owned by a man named Thach in the city.
He promised the workers that the job is easy.
But experienced workers said that the job is very harsh and they have to wake up at 3:30 a.m. to walk two kilometers from "the free accommodation" place to the restaurant.
When Thanh Nien reporters called Han saying that they didn't want the job, he said "You have to work there six days to pay the tuition," and hung up.
The house that accommodates more than 30 workers at Thach's restaurant has three rooms with no fans and the workers have to sleep on the floor.
Most workers have to accept the condition and work as hard as they can.
It's hard for them to leave because the boss would keep all of their ID cards, which they gave the job introduction centers earlier.
They have to work enough days, sometimes a week, to pay the tuition fee, and then have to earn at least VND500,000 to take the cards back.
"That's the rule here," said Thach, the restaurant owner.
He told his workers that they have to work 12 hours a day for VND1.8 million ($86) a month.
Extra hours will be paid VND5,000 each.
A group of workers who process the raw foods work from 5 p.m. to 5 a.m. the next day. Cooks work from 3:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., deliverers work from 5:30 a.m. to 5.30 p.m. and cleaners from 11 a.m. to almost midnight.
More than 30 workers of the restaurant work in a low-roof house of more than 100 square meters, where nearly 10 gas cookers and 10 coal cookers are burning.
Sometimes the cooks have to go outside to take a breath.
Many workers have fainted due to the lack of oxygen in the house.
A deliverer said that he would not agree to work if he knew it was a heavy job and for the whole day.
"I had to stand from the morning to the evening, carrying huge barrels of lunches to deliver," he said.
Meanwhile, most dish cleaning workers in the group of around 15 have developed rash on their arms and legs, said a 17-year-old worker from the Mekong Delta's Can Tho.
A 18-year-old worker from the restaurant said that "If I knew things were this miserable, I would rather stay at home working in the field with my parents."
The girl came to the restaurant after suffering bad working conditions at a candy factory that she was introduced when first coming to the city.
"This time, when I earn enough money to take back my ID card and for the bus fare home, I will stay home forever," she said.
Kieu Quang Chinh, a worker 27 years old from Ca Mau Province, said that many workers of the restaurant had told them that they want to leave this place but they didn't have money to take their ID cards back.
Thanh Nien reporters could only take back the ID cards after calling some police officers for help.
Better watch out
Following Thanh Nien investigation, Han, the job dealer, was caught Saturday last week by the city police with 52 ID cards and a permanent registration book of people he introduced to different workplaces.
The man was not licensed for job introduction, he told the police.
He paid xe om drivers at Mien Tay Bus Station VND150,000 for every job seeker they bring to him, and then receives VND300,000 for every worker he brings to factories and restaurants.
Huynh Van Phuong, a local police officer, said "Most victims of the labor scams have never reported their cases to the police."
Meanwhile officials at the city major bus stations said most of the cheating xe om drivers do not work for the stations.
They said speakers at the stations always send out messages asking passengers to be cautious with xe om drivers who do not wear uniforms.
Lawyer Nguyen Van Hau, vice chairman of HCMC Bar Association, said that it's illegal for the employers to keep the workers' ID cards to force them to work.
The long working time and low payments at Thach's restaurant are also illegal, Hau said.