Labour conundrum leaves enterprises struggling with Lunar New Year demand

January 28, 2022 | 17:00
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Workers taking leave early to return to their hometown before Lunar New Year is causing an imbalance between supply and demand in the labour market and creating more burdens for businesses, especially in the service sector.
Labour conundrum leaves enterprises struggling with Lunar New Year demand
Workers who previously lost their jobs are required to step up their game by gaining new skills, Photo: Le Toan

Vu Xuan Hoang is the owner of a business in Hanoi specialising in installation of electricity and water systems in construction projects with more than 100 employees. For over a week he received leave applications from several dozen workers, most of whom are originally from other provinces.

Hoang said that every year, workers only ask for leave 2-3 days earlier than the official holiday, but this year more than a third of the employees have the need to return to their hometown early to take part in isolation before seeing their families and preparing for Lunar New Year.

“We have to face the risk of delay in construction and fines for lack of progress, affecting the whole construction line. This is really a complex puzzle,” Hoang worried.

Although not satisfied with the situation, Hoang also sympathises because many employees at his company have not been able to return to their hometown for at least six months due to social restrictions. The company also did not dare to refuse for fear that employees would quit entirely, causing a serious shortage of labour after the holidays are over.

Not all businesses can allow employees to take a longer holiday. But due to the objective factors from the pandemic as well as the regulations on isolation and health monitoring for workers with different homes, which varies from place to place, many employees have to ask the company for support to return home sooner than usual. This makes many businesses fall into stagnation and lack of human resources, especially for businesses in the service, manufacturing, and retail industries.

According to Nguyen Van Hung, chairman of the trade union of Dai Dung Import Export Co., Ltd. in Binh Duong province, many localities require people returning from other places to quarantine at home for 7-14 days, so more than 100 of the company’s 1,200 employees have been allowed to leave early.

“The company really wants its employees to be reunited with their families during the new year, but following the sentiment, we may have to make a trade-off between progress and product quality,” Hung said.

Representatives of some enterprises said that they cannot refuse workers’ requests due to possible violations of the Labour Code, but if they do allow them to leave early, businesses would face a serious shortage of employees near the holiday.

Many businesses have come up with solutions to balance the benefits between the two parties, such as increasing wages or rewarding employees who stay at work before and during the break, giving them the option of rotational leave or extra days off for those who accept working through Lunar New Year.

Ly Kim Chi, chairman of the Food and Foodstuff Association of Ho Chi Minh City, said that food businesses can only give employees a maximum of 9-10 days off. Currently, businesses are hiring about 20-30 per cent more seasonally to keep up with production orders and make up for the early return of workers, but recruiting is also very difficult.

Meanwhile, ensuring enough human resources to work during the peak sales period at the end of the year is also an important task given by retail businesses and supermarket chains.

Tran Thi Tuyet Trinh, head of human resources at AEON Vietnam, shared that the its supermarket system had to plan to recruit and strengthen personnel very early to prepare for the year-end shopping period and the Lunar New Year. In addition to full-time staff, the number of part-time and seasonal employees has also been increased.

This is one solution offered by the supermarket chain to cope with the shortage of personnel at the end of the year and, at the same, time support employees who wish to have a long holiday to comply with local isolation regulations.

“However, in the context of the pandemic, recruitment activities faced many difficulties and took longer because a large number of workers had already returned to their hometowns. Students, the main seasonal force in previous years, also have not stayed in the city. The recruitment of a large number of new personnel also requires training from the beginning on job skills, and the quality of personnel may also be affected if there is no thorough preparation,” Trinh informed.

In previous years, the labour shortage after the holiday, because some workers did not want to go back to work, has always caused headaches for businesses.

Some businesses have now planned to guarantee jobs for all employees in 2022.

Saigon Food is in need of recruiting 300 more workers to increase production in the new year. The company will also reward those who return to work on time with $30 per person.

According to Le Dinh Quang, deputy head of the Labour Relation Department at the Vietnam General Confederation of Labour, said that employees have five official days off this year along with four weekends. However, in fact, there are still some workers who apply for early leave to return to their hometown to isolate themselves according to local regulations.

“Last time, many businesses were dissolved and workers lost their jobs due to the impact of COVID-19. Therefore, when businesses return to work, employees should try to prioritise their production and job security,” Quang said.

Currently, people’s travel is carried out in accordance with Resolution No.128/NQ-CP of the government and the guiding Decision No.4800/QD-BYT, which stipulate that people who come from areas under medical isolation or from other areas in level 4 are required to be tested for COVID-19.

Quang said that the excessive methods of pandemic prevention and control of some localities can be counterproductive, greatly affecting the building of a harmonious labour relationship and affecting the interest of workers.

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