The Ministry of Labor has asked the Vietnamese embassy in Algeria to help a group of workers who said a Chinese building contractor had starved and beaten them up after they refused to work when payment terms were altered.
The workers’ families sent a plea for help to Thanh Nien Tuesday, after the Hanoi-based Simco Song Da JSC, which sent them to Algeria, failed to stop the abuse that started in mid-September.
They said the Hanoi company had sent 55 workers from Hanoi and impoverished provinces in northern and north-central Vietnam to Algeria to work at a construction site in July.
They signed a contract for wages of $550-650 a month, depending on the working hours.
But after a month the company fixed a daily quantum of work a worker had to finish to receive payment.
The Vietnamese workers objected to the new condition and went on a wildcat strike on September 15.
The next night the company sent more than 200 Chinese workers with canes and other weapons to assault the Vietnamese.
They knocked down Dau Hoang Anh, a representative of the labor export company, while the workers ran into their room to hide.
Dao Ngoc Cuong of Ha Nam Province, one of the workers, told Thanh Nien by phone that the Chinese workers, led by a foreman, kept smashing their door and throwing stones inside, injuring several.
“We were terrified that whole night. They threatened to kill us if we stepped out,” Cuong said.
He was one of seven workers taken away for caning the next morning.
The Chinese company has stopped providing food to the workers.
Dau Hoang Anh, a representative of the Hanoi labor export firm in Algeria, was among the first to be beaten up. Photo courtesy of the workers
The workers said they arrived in Algeria on a three-month visa, and so if the current tension is not resolved soon, they would not be able to get their visas renewed and can be arrested for staying illegally.
Cao Thi Duyen, Cuong’s wife, told news website VnExpress after a meeting with Simco company on Monday that her family had borrowed more than VND47 million (US$2,100) to pay the fee for him to go to Algeria, hoping they would have a better life.
“Now I just want him to come home and get treated. I don’t need a better life any more.”
The workers’ families said officials at the labor company kept denying the workers were being beaten up.
In an interview to Thanh Nien Tuesday Do Van Hai, deputy head of a unit of the company, blamed the workers for agreeing to accept payment based on work and then backing out.
Pham Viet Huong, deputy director of the labor ministry’s Department of Overseas Labor, said the workers did nothing wrong when they stopped working after wage negotiations with their employer failed.
“It is the labor exporter’s fault for not being keen on resolving the problem.”
His department has ordered Simco to provide food to the workers and treatment to the injured, and to send its executives to Algeria to settle the conflict.
There are around 2,400 Vietnamese working in Algeria.