Unlicensed Chinese workers could face expulsion in central Vietnam

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Unlicensed Chinese workers at an alumina plant in central Vietnam will face expulsion if they fail to submit the necessary documents within the next two months, Tuoi Tre quoted a local official as saying Friday.

Nguyen Duc Nguyen, vice director of the labor department of the Central Highlands province of Dak Nong, said the workers at the Nhan Co plant have been asked to submit their certificates of qualifications and criminal records.

If they fail to do so in two months beginning August 5, the department will ask the Ministry of Public Security to expel them from Vietnam, according to Nguyen.

He admitted that due to the shortage of labor inspectors, the department has been slow to discover illegal workers, although many undocumented workers have been at the site for four to five months.

"We have made many corrections. Not only the Department of Labors, Invalids and Social Affairs, but other agencies are also tightening the inspections and fining Chinese laborers for violations," Nguyen said.

Tuoi Tre reported last Thursday that 178 of 310 Chinese workers at the plant have been working for four months without licenses.

It said 190 Chinese workers at the site could not produce their certificates of qualifications, although they were registered by the China Aluminum International Engineering Co. (Chalieco) as "highly skilled workers."

Nguyen said that although Vietnamese law does not allow the import of foreign unskilled workers, his inspections found many Chinese workers doing simple jobs like fastening steel wires, and assembling scaffolds.

The contractor has admitted that these are simple jobs, but it argues that job assignments were up to the discretion of the contractor, according to Nguyen.

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Nguyen also said Vietnamese workers were not qualified to assemble scaffolds tens of meters under ground, and neither were they able to work 15-16 hours a day like the Chinese. He also said Vietnamese workers' discipline wasn't as good as Chinese.

He said that although the law does not allow foreign workers with no skills to work in Vietnam, it does allow those with at least five years experience to do so.

"The word "˜experienced' is very vague, because it doesn't define experience as unskilled or skilled work," Nguyen said.

He also said it was impossible to know who was really experienced or not, and the term "experienced" is assigned to foreign workers by local agencies in their home countries.

Meanwhile, Bui Thi Hoa, vice chairwoman of the Dak Nong People's Committee, told the newspaper that the provincial authorities are "determined to deal with" unlicensed workers, but at the moment the main solution is to fine violators.

Asked why few locals were employed by the project, Hoa declined to comment, saying that contracts with contractors always include commitments and authorities' responsibility is to remind them of complying with those commitments.

Work on the Nhan Co alumina plant started last year under an engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) deal between Vietnam National Coal and Mineral Industries Group (Vinacomin), and Chalieco.

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