Vietnamese workers protest exploitation by their government

Taipei, Dec. 9 (CNA) Vietnamese migrant workers and their spouses gathered Monday at the Vietnamese Economic and Cultural Office in Taipei (VECO) to protest what they see as the Vietnamese government’s exploitation of its nationals who work abroad.

Members of the Migrant Empowerment Network in Taiwan and the Vietnamese Migrant Workers & Brides Office (VMWBO) under the Hsinchu Catholic Diocese rallied outside the VECO office to protest heavy fees imposed on the workers and a recent decree imposing stiff fines on migrant workers who violate their contracts.

The rally was held to mark Human Rights Day, which is annually observed on Dec. 10, to raise awareness of fundamental human rights.

VMWBO member Chang Yu-chuo said the Vietnamese government exploits its workers heading abroad in three different ways.

The workers have to pay US$5,000-US$7,000 (NT$148,000-NT$207,000) in brokerage fees to brokers in their home country before heading overseas and put up an additional US$800-US$1,000 in the host country as a guarantee they will not take flight while working there.

The Vietnamese government also requires migrant workers to subsidize a fee, set at US$1,500 for those working in manufacturing and US$800 for caregivers, paid by employers to brokers in the host country to activate labor contracts.

Monday’s protest took particular issue, however, with a decree issued by Vietnam in August that took effect on Oct. 10.

The decree stipulated that Vietnamese workers who illegally stay in the host country after their contract expires or violate their contracts will be fined the equivalent of NT$115,000 to NT$150,000 when they return home.

“This action demonstrates that the Vietnamese government does not think about human rights. The idea that Vietnam could even think about becoming a modern nation is a joke,” the VMWBO said in a statement.

Reverend Peter Nguyen Van Hung, executive director of the VMWBO, said the average Vietnamese only earns about NT$3,000 a month, and the hefty fees charged to grassroots workers who want to go abroad are disproportionate to their incomes and simply add insult to injury.

The VMWBO urged the Vietnamese government to scrap the new decree, help eliminate the key factors behind Vietnamese workers staying illegally in host countries, and reduce the onerous brokerage fees they face.