Monday, August 04, 2008

Thousands of workers strike in inflation-battered Vietnam

HANOI (AFP) — Thousands of workers have gone on strike in Vietnam, demanding higher wages to match the rising cost of living after inflation surged 27 percent year-on-year in July, media reported Saturday.

Nearly 5,000 labourers downed tools from Friday at the Kingmaker footwear plant in the Vietnam-Singapore industrial zone in southern Binh Duong province near Ho Chi Minh City, reported the Lao Dong (Labour) newspaper.

The workers at the Hong Kong-invested plant demanded a raise in salaries, which were now about one million dong (60 dollars) per month, and an improvement in the quality of their canteen lunches, the newspaper reported.

More than 1,000 workers have also been on strike since Thursday at a South Korean factory in Long An province, said the Thanh Nien daily.

Workers have been hit hard by double-digit inflation, worsened by a recent 31 percent petrol price hike which has driven up costs of other goods and services.

Taxi fares rose 15 to 25 percent in Ho Chi Minh City last week.

Fishermen in many provinces have been badly affected by rising fuel prices and some have kept their boats docked in harbour rather than voyage out to sea.

Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung has instructed the finance and agriculture ministries to provide temporary aid of more than 70 million dollars to support fishermen in 27 coastal provinces, media reports said.

Hoang Ngoc Thanh, vice chairman of the Vietnam Labour Federation, said workers' salaries are too low and many face difficulties meeting costs for rent and healthcare, reported the Tien Phong daily.

The federation will this month submit a proposal to the powerful politburo to raise the national minimum wage, Thanh was quoted as saying.

Vietnam on January 1 raised the minimum wage to 540,000 dong for state employees, to 620,000 dong for workers in state-owned companies, and to between 710,000 and one million dong for workers in foreign-invested enterprises.