Labor Troubles at Saigon Grill Mean No Delivery for You

It’s cold enough this week to make you reconsider going out for dinner. But if you’re craving Vietnamese, you might have a problem. The popular Saigon Grill mini-chain, with locations on the Upper West Side and in the East Village (and a third, closed for renovation, on the Upper East Side), hasn’t been offering delivery since it locked out 22 deliverymen Friday night. “I told them to leave because they tried to extort,” owner Simon Nget, a Chinese Cambodian refugee, said last night. At an 11:30 meeting Friday, he asked the workers to sign a form he’d prepared, stipulating that they received adequate wages and would not sue him. A representative of the workers, he said, mentioned a $700,000 settlement paid to nine employees, which he said made him feel “threatened.”

Josephine Lee, coordinator of the Justice Will Be Served Campaign, a coalition of activists that includes the 318 Restaurant Worker Union, promises pickets at both Saigon Grill locations — there were about 75 protesters on Amsterdam Avenue at lunch today — until Nget rehires the workers and agrees to pay them the minimum wage, back pay, and overtime. She predicted Nget will accede to the workers’ demands and rehire them “because it will cost him more money if he doesn’t.” But Nget is adamant that’s not happening. “I won’t hire them back,” he says. “If they come back to work for me, they become the boss.” And if you want oxtail soup or dragon rolls tonight? The forecast says it’ll be seventeen degrees out. —Mary Reinholz