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Lao workers leave Chinese-owned banana plantation over Covid restrictions and hazards

More than 500 workers have quit their jobs at a Chinese-run banana plantation in central Laos, citing difficult Covid restrictions, late pay and exposure to hazardous chemicals. On these plantations, workers earn about US$100-200 a month, serving an industry that exported $200 million worth of bananas to China and Thailand from January to September, earning more money than other crop exports.

Plantation workers have long complained of harsh working hours and exposure to toxic chemicals, but the exodus of workers from the VS Company’s plantation in Borikhamxay province in recent months stems from a host of complaints.

Among the rules that drove away workers were restrictions forbidding them from leaving the plantation, even to buy food. The policy, presented as a measure to prevent a Covid outbreak, forced the workers to buy food and other essentials from their employer at inflated prices.

Only 80 laborers remain on the plantation out of at least 600 who were there in early 2020, said another plantation worker who still works with the VS Company.


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