The Vietnam Consulate in Ekaterinbua in Russia sent a representative on May 7 to meet with 40 Vietnamese workers who had complained of 12-14 working hours each day, inadequate nutrition and non-payment of salaries while employed by the L.E.O Pard shoe factory.
They complained that they had not been paid for the past four months and appealed to concerned agencies in Vietnam for help. They also informed of their working conditions to the media.
When checking the status of all these workers, the Consulate representative certified that all were legal migrant workers as per Russian immigration and employment law.
However, the workers had not been recruited by any placement agency, but by an individual. In October 2011, the Hoa Viet Company assigned its representative, Nguyen Van Dung, to recruit Vietnamese workers for its shoe factory.
Relatives of the workers told the police that Nguyen Van Dung, who signed the work contract on behalf of Hoa Viet, had collected the fees and deposits from them.
The workers said that after arriving in Russia, they worked in the L.E.O. Pard shoe factory in Ekaterinbua, about 2,000 km northeast of Moscow.
Dung promised they would be paid a salary of US$400-500 per month along with bonus and overtime for extra work.
To be sent to Russia, each of them had to pay a fee of $1,500 plus a deposit of VND20 million ($960) to the Hoa Viet Company.
Some of the workers said that soon after arriving in Russia, they discovered that many provisions in their work contract were not carried out.
They said they were living like slaves and felt cheated by the Ekaterinbua-based Hoa Viet Company.
“We have to work from 8am to 10pm every day. Some of us faint at work due to the chilling cold and hunger,” one worker told the media.
Except an advance of 1,000 rubles ($32) paid to each worker, Hoa Viet has not paid them any salary over the last four months, according to some families of the workers who came to Russia on a tourist visa.
Thus, on April 30, the workers went on strike, asking the boss, a Chinese man, to comply with the signed work contract or send them back to Vietnam. However, the employer said if the workers did not continue working they would be left to face hunger.
Many relatives of the workers have asked Dung, who collected their money, to make a written commitment to repay the fees and deposits and send the workers back to Vietnam, but Dung has not done anything.
Meanwhile Dung, who is in Russia, explained, “The workers are living in good condition. I did not receive any complaints from them. Everything is still OK.”
Regarding why the company has not paid the workers in the past four months, Dung said that besides the deposit of $1,500, the amount of their three-month salary will be retained as an additional deposit to “create a binding between the employer and employee.”
The entire deposit will be returned to the workers when their contracts expire, Dung added.
However, relatives of the workers have sent a petition to the Vietnamese Embassy in Moscow asking for intervention.
Nguyen Ngoc Quynh, head of Vietnam’s Overseas Labour Management Department, warned that these workers might be victims of a swindling gang.
“The department will ask the Foreign Ministry’s Consular Department and the Embassy to take action,” Quynh promised.
On April 17, six other Vietnamese workers from Northern Bac Giang Province, who had also worked for the factory, returned to Vietnam and reported a similar situation to the local police, who are now investigating the case.
The Vietnam Consulate in Ekaterinbua has requested Dung to submit a report on the situation of the workers and bear all responsibility in ensuring the legitimate rights of these workers.