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Vietnam Labour Update #81

Ngày đăng: 26/10/2020

Fatalities at Rao Trang 3 hydropower plant: The past couple of weeks has seen massive flooding across multiple provinces in central Vietnam (for information on this, see Mike Tatarski's latest Vietnam Weekly and an English language video in VN Express International from this afternoon, October 19). As has been reported in numerous articles in many places, including Tuoi Tre (Vietnamese) and VN Express International (English), on October 12, the rains caused a landslide which buried the Rao Trang 3 hydropower plant (in Phong Dien district, Thua Thien-Hue province), trapping workers inside. The plant is in a fairly isolated area, surrounded by forest. A 21 member rescue team was dispatched, and they stopped for the night at a ranger station. That night, a landslide hit the station, killing 13 members of the rescue team. Rescuers finally managed to reach the plant on October 14. As of this morning (October 19), 2 bodies of Rao Trang 3 workers have been recovered, and 15 remain missing. Rescue teams are still searching. Images of the search team can be seen on Zing.vn (Vietnamese).

More articles on the 2% enterprise union tax: Articles about this issue (see newsletters #66, #73, #77, #78 and #79) show no sign of letting up; I skipped it last week as I thought you may want something different. But each week, the VGCL-affiliated labour press continues to publish articles about how important it is to maintain the 2% enterprise union tax, saying this is what allows enterprise-level unions to have funding for their activities. This week, for example, Lao Dong published one article in the morning of October 14, one in the afternoon of the same day, and one on October 17. Nguoi Lao Dong published an article on October 16 (all Vietnamese). The pattern is always the same: various unionists affirming how important it is to maintain the 2% enterprise union tax, sometimes recounting a meeting at which this has been discussed, sometimes giving case studies of specific enterprises. Other publications publish more ambivalent articles. For example, this week VN Economy (Vietnamese, the newspaper of the Vietnam Economic Association) published an interview with Nguyen Thi Lan Huong, former director of the Institute of Labour Science and Social Affairs (part of MOLISA), saying that the enterprise union tax is important for the functioning of unions, but must be used for the correct purposes, and suggesting that it could be reduced to 1% in certain cases, such as where enterprises have been severely impacted by COVID-19. The reason why articles about this issue are so frequent is because the revised Trade Union law will be discussed at the upcoming session of the National Assembly (which will last from October 20 to November 17). There is a danger that the 2% enterprise union tax could be reduced, as mentioned in newsletter #78.

Duy Tan University repays social insurance: This university in Da Nang has finally completed social insurance procedures for a former teacher, Huynh Nhu Tuan. Tuan made an official complaint to authorities that after leaving the university, his employers had refused to complete social insurance procedures. He also said that he had not been paid for September 2017 or for 200 hours of teaching in the academic year 2017-2018. As reported in Lao Dong (Vietnamese), Tuan began working at the university in September 2015. In September 2017, he requested to join a masters course at the Hanoi University of Pharmacy. Duy Tan, however, did not approve this, and asked him to pay 108 million dong (for "reimbursement") before they returned his university certificate, if he wanted to leave his job. They also would not close his social insurance book. After intervention from Da Nang's DOLISA office (and publicity in Lao Dong newspaper), Duy Tan University has now done this. A number of other teachers at the university, however, are in a similar situation, and are preparing documents to send to the courts while also asking authorities to intervene. In 2013, the Da Nang DOLISA office investigated Duy Tan University, finding many unlawful employment practices.

Some signs of labour market recovery: Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City have reported some tentative signs of post-COVID-19 labour market recovery. As reported in Dan Tri (Vietnamese), in September the Hanoi job centre received nearly 7,500 requests for unemployment insurance. This is 2,000 less than August, a decline of 21%. The director of the Centre, Ta Van Thao, said that Hanoi is showing signs of recovery, as enterprises are now strongly pushing production. This is creating demand for labour, and the centre is managing to find jobs for increasing numbers of people. Dan Sinh (Vietnamese) reports a similar trend in Ho Chi Minh City, although the numbers used in this article are for the first 9 months of 2020 as a whole. The city's job centres gave advice to over 314,000 workers and introduced jobs to 67,000 people; 30,000 successfully found new jobs. 137,000 applications for unemployment insurance were received. This article also says that the labour market is beginning to recover as enterprises increase production again.

Discussion on enterprises' canteen food: Nguoi Lao Dong (Vietnamese) reports on a recent event in Ho Chi Minh City which focused on the quality of meals provided to workers during their shifts. A representative of the Ho Chi Minh City Export and Industrial Zones Union said that such meals can be divided into 3 groups: European and American enterprises spend over 30,000 dong per meal; Korean and Japanese enterprises usually spend 20,000-30,000 dong; and Taiwanese enterprises spend 15,000-20,000 dong. One worker from a shoe factory in Cu Chi District told the attendees that his factory only spends 11,000 dong per meal, which does not give workers enough energy to work. Workers also need to fill up on potatoes or corn to stop themselves feeling hungry. They have asked the enterprise to improve the food many times, but management has not done so. Delegates were shocked to hear about this. A recent survey by the National Institute of Nutrition found that meals provided to workers have excess carbohydrates and sugar but lack vegetables, proteins and vitamins. This is causing many young workers to develop diseases. Such meals are not currently legally regulated, so rely on the kindness of enterprise managers.

Informal waste pickers and COVID-19: South China Morning Post (English) has published an article about these workers—many of whom are female—who collect recyclables from households and businesses to sell on. They have been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic as prices for recyclables have plummeted. 

Source: Vietnam Labour Update by Joe Buckley

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