Monday , January 30 2023

Employees forced to put in more hours as colleagues contract Covid


During the past week Nguyen Hoang Nam has been struggling to meet order deadlines as every day 15 employees contract Covid-19.

“Around 40 percent out of my 200 employees have been infected,” the director of an auto parts manufacturing company in Hanoi’s Dong Anh District said.

He said he is now doing three people’s work.

It had been manageable when a few employees were infected just after the Lunar New Year, but now things have reached crisis proportions, he said.

“Besides factory workers, 30 people in office jobs have also tested positive”.

Thus, to meet deadlines, many of the remaining workers have been working over 14 hours a day, sometimes from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m., for the last few days.

In the back office, some have to do the work of three people, and some at desk jobs have to go to the factory to assist the production team.

The labor shortage has forced Nam to make changes to epidemic safety policies.

People who had been in contact with patients, known as F1, are no longer allowed to take leave and quarantine themselves. If a Covid rapid test proves negative, they have come for work unless they have to take care of infected family members.

They have to tie a red scarf on their arm so that others know their status and keep a distance.

Employees’ lunch break has been halved to 30 minutes, and the company pays an hour’s salary to compensate them for the lost 30 minutes.

To encourage workers, the company also defrays their food and snack costs and pays an additional VND15,000 per hour for overtime on top of the regular overtime wage.

“The company can meet its orders, but the cost of maintaining production and paying workers this month will surely skyrocket,” Nam said.

Vu Minh Tien, director of the Institute for Workers and Trade Union – Vietnam General Confederation of Labor, said many enterprises face a similar plight.

Since Tet the shortage of human resources due to Covid has increased sharply in northern enterprises, with 30 percent of all workers contracting the disease.

In fact, in recent days the number of Covid cases has been increasing relentlessly across the country, with the single-day tally hitting new peak of 202,172 on Sunday.

Northern Hoa Binh Province led the day’s tally with 36,572 cases, followed by Hanoi with 29,578 and northern Bac Giang Province with 29,046.

Tien said: “Some businesses have been forced to compensate clients for not meeting order deadlines. Besides, workers who have not been infected also have a harder time when they have to do many jobs on behalf of others”.

Pham Trung Thanh, 27, an employee at a bank in HCMC’s District 12, now carries all the workload of his department.

Until the Lunar New Year there were 10 people in his unit, but nine have since been infected. Instead of feeling lucky that he has not contracted the virus, he is feeling overwhelmed by the workload.

“Covid-19 has affected many businesses and so after the Lunar New Year more people have come to seek a rollover of their debts. I am having to handle all the paperwork by myself.

On average, he has to meet and serve five to six customers a day, and he frequently finishes work after 9 p.m.

His phone rings constantly with customers rushing him into handling their documents soon to avoid late payments. Thanh claimed to have lost three kilograms in the last 10 days because of being overworked.

Hong Hoa manages the workload of infected colleagues at the office in late February 2022. Photo courtesy of Hoa

Hong Hoa at her office in late February, 2022, doing also the work of Covid-infected colleagues. Photo courtesy of Hoa

After Thanh shared his story on social media, Hong Hoa, 27, an accountant at a confectionery company in Hanoi’s Cau Giay District, sympathized with him.

At her company 17 out of 20 people in the business department have been infected, and she herself is an F1.

She has to do the work of five or six people, and has been staying in the office for a week now, eating breakfast and dinner at nearby eateries.

She also had to scrap plans to go back to her hometown to attend her best friend’s wedding.

“My infected colleagues send in food to encourage the remaining staff in the office, and tell us to try and not get infected since otherwise there would be no one left to do the work”, Hoa said.

The rising number of infections is also affecting other business plans.

Nguyen Tran Lam, 29, director of an architecture and construction company in Hanoi’s Ha Dong District, had planned for his employees to go on a two-day trip to Tam Chuc, a tourist destination in Ha Nam Province, but a week before the trip he contracted Covid.

Two days later the rest of the staff also tested positive.

All meetings with customers have been canceled and some projects were delayed since some of the staff took a few days off to recover.

Since he was the first one to recover and return to the office, he has to take up more tasks to cover for the absentees.

Nguyen Tran Lams office is empty because all employees are infected with Covid-19. Photo courtesy of Lam

Nguyen Tran Lam’s office is empty because all his staff are infected with Covid-19. Photo courtesy of Lam

Tien said compliance with the general recommendations made by the Ministry of Health notwithstanding, businesses should be flexible about using their human resources.

Low-risk F1s, if their rapid test is negative, should be allowed to come to work while keeping a distance from the rest, and patients who can work online should be allowed to, he said.

Currently Nam’s company devotes all its efforts to meeting daily instead of monthly order deadlines. He hopes that from the beginning of April, when all infected employees recover, the company will function as usual.

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