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21 Vietnamese trainees face threat of dismissal by central Japan employers

One of the Vietnamese women counts the number of months she has worked as a technical intern trainee in Japan, unable to hide her anxiety about possibly losing her employment after only half a year, in Hokkaido, in January 2019. (Mainichi/Tomohiro Katahira)

TOKYO -- A total of 21 Vietnamese technical intern trainees hired by a produce wholesale distributor and a related agricultural corporation in Aichi Prefecture in central Japan face the threat of dismissal as early as Jan. 25, according to people supporting the trainees.

At least some of the 21 would be fired in the middle of their employment contracts, and supporters say that such a dismissal without appropriate reasons could be illegal. The two employers signed contracts with farmers in the northernmost prefecture of Hokkaido, and provide the industry there with the Vietnamese interns. The trainees were given verbal notices without warning in December last year that they would be dismissed as of Jan. 25.

The trainees and individuals from an Aichi-based organization involved in their recruitment had a meeting on Jan. 8. An official of the vegetable distributor explained to the trainees that the number of workers being accepted is declining because the company's relationship with farmers was not going well.

According to people familiar with the case, all 21 of the Vietnamese nationals are women, and six of them have been hired for less than six months. The employers have not presented any concrete compensation package for the trainees.

A 20-year-old woman who began working for one of the companies in September 2018 came to Japan on a three-year employment contract. She paid 850,000 yen in fees for her paperwork and Japanese-language education, borrowing the money from a bank and her relatives. "I have sent only 90,000 yen back home so far," she told the Mainichi Shimbun.

According to lawyer Shoichi Ibusuki, who has been supporting the trainees, "Dismissal (of technical interns) is only allowed if there are unavoidable circumstances, such as natural disasters or bankruptcy."

A senior official at the produce distributor said other employers "would take care" of the trainees. The official added that the company is discussing compensating the Vietnamese nationals.

(Japanese original by Tomohiro Katahira, City News Department)

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