| THAI NGUYEN, Vietnam
THAI NGUYEN, Vietnam Oct 14 As Samsung
Electronics struggles to salvage its reputation
after the safety problems that have beset its flagship Galaxy
Note 7 smartphone, the South Korean company can at least bank on
an army of Vietnamese workers for support.
Tens of thousands of them are involved in assembling more
than a third of Samsung's smartphones - the Galaxy Note 7
included - in the Pho Yen area of Thai Nguyen province, which is
about 65 km north of the Vietnamese capital Hanoi. Samsung's
arrival three years ago transformed it from a sleepy farming
district into a sprawling industrial town.
While the company expects to take a profit hit of around $5
billion from the scrapping of the fire-prone phone, 13 workers
interviewed by Reuters outside the factory almost all said they
are confident their employer will pull through. They also say
Samsung pays well, offers good benefits and takes care of their
"Recalling (Note 7) doesn't mean we are unemployed or such;
Samsung also makes many other phones and new models, not just
the Note 7," said Nguyen Thi Hang, one of some 110,000
Vietnamese who work for Samsung Electronics across Vietnam,
making it one of the nation's biggest employers.
The Samsung factory workers get around $180 in monthly base
salary, which can grow to around $300 when overtime, annual
incentives and other benefits are included. That is well above
average incomes in such rural areas.
Young workers are also drawn to the Thai Nguyen jobs by
generous benefits, including subsidised or free meals, and
accommodation that cost less than $3 a month. There are also
organised sports, karaoke and discounts on various products and
services, such as Samsung phones and hair salons.
Nguyen Van Doai, 27, a worker at the plant, said some
overtime options had been reduced due to the Note 7 withdrawal,
but there was no indication of job cuts.
"Samsung hasn't reached a level where they have to cut jobs
because they are still hiring many people and constructing more
buildings," Doai said.
Samsung Vietnam said on Wednesday there would be no job cuts
this year as a result of the end of its production of the Galaxy
Note 7, and its exports for 2016 would still grow as it ramps up
production of other models.
Samsung has invested $14.5 billion in Vietnam, according to
Vietnam's Association of Foreign Invested Enterprises,
equivalent to 10 percent of the country's total foreign
investment over the past three decades. The attractions for
Samsung include relative political stability, tax breaks and
lower labor costs than in China.
For those who don't live on the site, the company provides
transport. Every day, thousands of Vietnamese are ferried to and
from their homes in Hanoi and other cities and towns in the
region in a procession of buses to the sprawling factories in
Thai Nguyen and Bac Ninh provinces. In a corner of the capital
on Thursday, workers queued at daybreak to board 14 of around a
hundred factory-bound buses, some still emblazoned with
advertisements for the Note 7.
But there are some workers and people running local
businesses who are not convinced Samsung's Vietnam operations
will emerge unscathed.
Dentist Phung Minh Ngoc, who moved to Thai Nguyen from Hanoi
a year ago to set up a clinic named "Rang Xinh Samsung" (Pretty
Tooth Samsung), fears the Note 7 fallout could hurt his
"Their sales will certainly fall and so jobs for workers
will lessen and workers' salaries may also decrease," he said.
One female worker at the Pho Yen factory, who declined to be
named, said she was worried because her contract was up for
renewal next month.
"I just brought my baby here with me. If I couldn't work for
Samsung any longer, I would have to go back to farming," she
($1 = 22,253 dong)
(Additional reporting by My Pham in HANOI; Writing by Martin
Petty; Editing by Martin Howell)