Vietnamese labor firms deny exploitation claims

TN News

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Two Vietnamese companies Monday denied that they had deceived or unfairly exploited a team of welders sent to work in Houston, US.  

The Labor Export, Trade and Tourism Joint-stock Company (TTLC), and the International Investment Trade and Service group (Interserco), both headquartered in Hanoi, issued their statement three days after the Houston Chronicle reported that a group of Vietnamese laborers had filed suit against them in a US federal court.

Nguyen Tri Dung, deputy general director of TTLC, said that the workers, who were shipped off to the US by the two companies in December 2007, lied about their living conditions.

Dung further denied the workers' claims that they had been confined to their houses.

Dung showed Thanh Nien a letter which, he said, the workers had sent to the company in January 2008.

The letter claimed that each four men lived in a 60-square-meter room with all necessary furniture and equipment.

Last May a delegation from Vietnam's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Labor, War Invalids and Social Affairs visited the workers and toured their accomodations, he added.

The Houston Chronicle, meanwhile, quoted one of the workers as saying that he and three others shared a rat and cockroach-infested apartment with exposed wiring and filthy carpets.

They allegedly paid US$2,000 a month for the housing.

The paper reported that the men had been recruited to work in a Houston shipyard through a national TV advertisement campaign sponsored by the Vietnamese companies.

In 2008, they paid processing fees totalling $15,000 and were promised $100,000 for a 30-month contract. But, they were fired eight months after their contracts were signed in February 2009.

The workers asked the two Vietnamese firms to pay them $100 million in compensations, according to the news source. They were previously awarded the compensation of $60 million from two US labor suppliers at a court in Texas for being "unfairly exploited" the latter.

However, Dung claimed that the workers had to stop working after 10 months, because the US refused to extend their visas.

The Vietnamese workers had already had their visas extended once, but the US refused to extend them a second time. So the Coast to Coast Company, a US labor supplier, asked them to return to Vietnam in March 2009, according to Dung.

They expected that the workers would recieve their new visas next month, he said.

However, some of the workers refused to return as requested, he added.  

In their Tuesday response, both firms stated that their employees had all been accurately briefed about the length of their actual working contracts and the chance that their visas would not be extended.

The men worked in the US between nine and 14 months; each of them earned $12,000-30,000 during that time, the firms said without revealing the number of workers they'd sent to the US.

Dung said the workers broke Vietnamese laws and violated their contracts by illegally staying overseas.

In an interview with Thanh Nien, Sunday, Dung also denied that they charged the workers $15,000 in up-front processing fees as the workers alleged in their suit.

Also denying the allegations, Vu Thanh Hai, director of Interserco, said that under Vietnamese laws, employers are entitled to sue their employees in the event that they break their contracts.

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