Pandemic curse seeps into “three-on-spot” strategy

August 03, 2021 | 15:00
Manufacturers are under pressure to maintain the “three-on-spot” production strategy and take care of their workers amidst a coronavirus surge.
Pandemic curse seeps into “three-on-spot” strategy
Pandemic curse seeps into “three-on-spot” strategy. Photo:

After detecting infections among their workers, around 150 factories in the southern province of Binh Duong have decided to halt its three-on-spot operation – meaning production, meals, and rest after work at the same place. The businesses faced difficulties in securing food and raw materials, while their workers were anxious amidst the rising infection cases on the site. Before suspending operation, all workers have to take coronavirus tests. Those who are negative will be isolated at the factory for at least three days, then tested again with safe results before returning to their residence.

Likewise, nine industrial zones (IZs) and clusters in the Mekong Delta province of Tien Giang are being forced to shut down from August 5 to prevent the spread of the disease. The move was made by the province after detecting 260 workers contracted coronavirus despite their factories implementing the three-on-spot model in both Long Giang and My Tho IZs. As many companies sustained operations at their manufacturing facilities amid stringent COVID-19 measures, thousands of workers have been locked down at the factories with sleep facilities and food provided by the company. Should the situation continue, exhaustion of workforce may occur as not all workers are able or willing to spend a few months at the factory, according to a supply chain risk analytics company Everstream Analytics.

Simon Fraser, executive director of the Australian Chamber of Commerce Vietnam, told VIR, “Many of our member companies were able to accommodate a proportion of their workforce at their premises opting to have all employees located onsite rather than the offsite and dedicated transport model.”

This, however, has meant all staff are confined within an area normally reserved purely for work. “A lot of staff would have been eager to enter these arrangements for health reasons being in a bubble and the chance to be tested and even receive a vaccination, along with earning a wage as opposed to being on a lessened wage or none at all. There are also social reasons, like being around people you probably get along with plus the novelty factor of something different,” he added.

However, after a month, the novelty would have worn off and people would be missing family and friends. the feeling of isolation may be creeping in and monotony of the surroundings and people playing on people’s minds, according to Fraser.

“I know that management and business owners have been managing their teams remotely and are monitoring their staff’s wellbeing with food, accommodation, entertainment, and better wages, but these will lose their lustre too soon enough,” he said. “If the current arrangements drag on, then swapping out of staff should be available to replace the current workforce with a rotation system supported by medical checks, vaccinations, and fair wages. This is the only way businesses could meet a longer-term arrangement.”

On the same note, Sami Kteily, executive chairman of PEB Steel Buildings Co., Ltd. said, “We are doing everything we can do to maintain manufacturing. By applying necessary measures, our activities remained stable until July 18. We were able to continue normal operations because we had enough people, project backlogs, and materials inventory.”

Kteily’s company is closely complying with governmental requirements to deal with the toughest wave of the pandemic. So far, F1 cases have been sent to a centralised quarantine area per the instructions of Ba Ria-Vung Tau People’s Committee, and the province is also undergoing a pilot quarantine at home for this case. F2 cases are required to be quarantined at home.

“We do not set up on-site quarantine zones for workers. However, temporary quarantine zones have been established in response to six emergent scenarios addressing F0, F1, or workers with any COVID-19 symptoms inside or outside the workplace,” Kteily added.

Meanwhile, a representative of Bosch Vietnam said that all their prevention measures are even more stringent than requirements from local authorities. The company has set up a team of experts to handle and manage issues related to the pandemic at all Bosch locations.

Besides following 5K guidance, the company also applies a zoning restriction method to completely stop the movement of associates between the floors/areas in its offices and manufacturing plant. It also adopts COVID-19 prevention measures toward contractor management in the plant to reduce the risk of infection.

Last week, the American Apparel and Footwear Association (AAFA), which represents Gap, Adidas, and other global fashion brands, sent a letter asking US President Joe Biden to ramp up the distribution of excess vaccines and COVID-19 testing and personal protective equipment to Vietnam. The AAFA also asked Vietnam’s Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh to prioritise the apparel and footwear industry for equitable vaccine distribution and testing. The association urged the prime minister to continue working with the local industry and, in particular, its industry partners to identify and deploy creative short- and long-term solutions to enable the industry to continue to function safely during this crisis. These include more three-on-spot approaches to safely support workers and mechanisms to permit the transit of critical materials and products.

Vietnam is the second-largest supplier of apparel, footwear, and travel goods to the US market, accounting for 20 per cent of all US imports.

By Olivia Bui

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