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Thousands of workers strike after Tet bonus cuts

Striking workers gather in front of the Hau River Industrial Zone with a banner that reads:  "Minh Phu Company exploits workers"

More than 3,000 workers went on strike for two days in the Mekong Delta after their company cut their Lunar New Year bonus in half.

The strike did not end until the chairman of the Hau Giang Province People's Committee showed up and demanded that police "track down extremist people" who started the strike.

The workers at shrimp exporter Minh Phu are demanding that the company pay them at least one-month's salary as a bonus for the Lunar New Year, known in Vietnam as Tet.

A bonus of an extra month's salary has been the standard in Vietnam for generations.

News website VietNamNet reported that Minh Phu used to pay its workers a one-month-salary bonus, but it only paid them for half a month this year.

One worker Nguyen Hoang Giang said he and his colleagues were angry as they should not be treated that way after working hard the entire year.

"We've worked from 5:30 a.m. to 7 p.m and did not have any day off on big holidays," Giang said.

Chu Van An, vice chairman of the corporation, said the business has been bad and around 7,000 other workers of the company stationed elsewhere had also suffered the bonus cut.

"Workers have to understand the situation, we cannot do otherwise," An said.

The workers said their salaries are already low and the company does not provide them with insurance or any benefits, except in cases of pregnancy.

Tran Cong Chanh, chairman of the Hau Giang Province People's Committee, said he agreed with the workers' demands but he opposed their approach. 

"To stop working goes against the interest of the country and the province. I demand that police track down extremist people that started the strike," Chanh said.

He said the company should have been transparent about holiday and payment policies.

He asked the company to make sure that the workers have a "warm" Tet.

Earlier, on January 9, nearly 1,700 workers at the Japan-owned optical device company Nissey Vietnam in Ho Chi Minh City also went on a wildcat strike demanding higher Tet bonuses after the company said theirs would be halved from last year's.

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