Workers say US factory lied, then fired striking employees

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Some of the workers who were fired by US-funded garment firm Environstar in Hai Phong on December 18, 2014 for going on strike to demand the wages and working conditions they were promised. Photo credit: Lao Dong Some of the workers who were fired by US-funded garment firm Environstar in Hai Phong on December 18, 2014 for going on strike to demand the wages and working conditions they were promised. Photo credit: Lao Dong

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A US-funded garment company in Hai Phong sacked nearly 50 workers on Thursday, following a two-day strike for better wages and meals.
Nearly 400 workers at Environstar Ltd. stopped work on Tuesday to demand an explanation from the company’s leadership about their wages, meals and other working conditions, Lao Dong newspaper reported.
The workers claimed they had been given a bunch of promises about working at the company when they were hired--none of which turned out to be true.
Management officials at the firm declined to comment for this article. 
The company is based in Thuy Nguyen District in the northern port city and produces clothing and accessories for export.
The workers were promised good working conditions and high wages by company bosses who proudly stated that they were funded by a US corporation.
Workers say the company cafeteria turned out to be so small that nearly half the staff had to sit on the ground, next to the company bathrooms, to eat.
They say the company's promises of performance-based bonuses and a travel stipends, never materialized, even after many workers took on extra night and Sunday shifts.
The company also failed to comply with a government mandated increase in the minimum wage.
On the second day of the strike, the company’s board invited a group of workers to a meeting and expressed their willingness to hear them out.
Hoang Thi Nhinh, one of the workers, told Lao Dong that she felt encouraged by the gesture and spoke up about her disappointments.
Le Thi Huyen, deputy director of the company, then asked them to end the strike and address their demands to management in the form of a letter.
Huyen said the workers could come back to work right away or the following morning.
Nhinh says she wrote out their demands that afternoon and had it signed by many of her colleagues. Then she brought it to the head of the manufacturing division.
The next morning, Nhinh and her colleagues returned to work only to learn they'd been fired.
She told Lao Dong in tears that a manufacturing assistant told her: “You are no longer suitable to work at the company. You’re officially fired.”
She was asked to stand outside the company’s gate, where the head of the human resources department, Trang, ordered her to sign a letter of resignation.
Trang promised that she would receive her last check for December on January 20.
“Had I refused to sign, I wouldn't have gotten paid,” Nhinh said.
“I’ve never felt so frustrated. The company is resolving this dispute outside the law.”
Vietnam’s labor laws allow an employer to lay off staffs only when they commit an act that seriously damages their employer, or when they fail to show up for five days out of a month or 20 days of a year without proper permission or a reasonable excuse.
She said around 46 workers who participated in the strike or spoke up at the meeting were sacked the same morning.
That doesn't include the many workers who learned of the news and did not come to the company the same day.
On Thursday afternoon, District Chairman Nguyen Tran Lanh said he has ordered related agencies to send people to the company to resolve the matter.
Local media reporters have arrived at the company and asked to speak with the company’s leaders, but they said they were “busy” and asked security to escort them off the premisses.
They were also prevented from approaching or speaking to the workers.
 

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