Vietnam Labour Update #83

Ngày đăng: 05/11/2020

Multilateral forum on responses to and experiences of COVID-19: On October 29, Samsung, the VGCL, and the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI) organised a multilateral forum about this. Zing and Lao Dong (both Vietnamese) have reports of the event.

Ngo Duy Hieu, Vice President of the VGCL, said that of Vietnam's 54 million workers, 31.8 million have been affected by the COVID-19 outbreak, through being laid-off, furloughed, or having reduced hours and income. He said that there are two main difficulties which the VGCL has had to deal with. First, discrimination against foreign workers and managers, who are perceived to have been bringing the virus into Vietnam. Hieu says this comes from workers not understanding coronavirus properly, so it needs to be explained to them. Second, issues of the financial support packages not being appropriate to real life. Hieu said the VGCL has had to explain, propagate, and listen to workers about this issue. He said that as this was a situation which has never happened before, there were always going to be difficulties. Hieu also said that the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic have caused other difficulties. According to VGCL statistics, 60% of working families have adjusted their spending plans, 68% have reduced their food spending, and 13% have had arguments and disagreements due to issues of falling income and reduced spending.

Vu Tien Loc, the VCCI president, said that most enterprises have not fired workers during the pandemic but have instead implemented strategies such as reducing hours and wages, or alternative shift patterns. Workers have shared the suffering, and many mid-level and high-level employees have allowed employers to be late with wage payments or have voluntarily reduced their salaries so workers on lower salaries would not have to. He added that a lot of enterprises have tried to shift to producing different products, such as masks, to protect workers' jobs.

Chang Hee Lee, the director of ILO Vietnam, said that enterprises need to develop strategies to adjust to the new normal, and in order to adjust to other crises which may happen in the future. He recommended that they build supply chain resilience, increase employees' capacity and skills, and consult workers in decision making.

Search for missing Rao Trang 3 workers restarts: The search for these workers (see newsletters #81 and #82) restarted on November 1, according to The Thao & Van Hoa (Vietnamese). It had been paused due to the storms (see Mike Tatarski's Vietnam Weekly).

Social security debts reach 21.7 trillion dong: By the end of October, as reported in Nguoi Lao Dong (Vietnamese), unpaid money owed to the Vietnam Social Security Fund totalled 21.685 trillion dong, a rise of 0.5% compared to the same period last year. The article says that the cause of this situation is low awareness among enterprises. In addition, a number of enterprises try to find ways to avoid paying their contributions, and take workers' contributions to use for other purposes. A number of enterprises have not been seriously impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, but are using this as an excuse to not pay social security contributions. Since the beginning of 2020, the Social Security Fund has prepared 70 documents to sue enterprises for social insurance debts.

Building an independent finance mechanism for unions: An opinion piece in Viet Nam Thoi Bao (Vietnamese)—belonging to the Independent Journalists Association—argues that debates over whether enterprises should pay a 1% or 2% union tax (see newsletters #66, #73, #77, #78, #79, #81) miss the point. Rather, the article argues, the law needs to be revised to be in line with international standards, where union financing is independent from enterprises. Only then will activities of unions be effective for their members. Otherwise, if unions rely on funding from enterprises, they will always find themselves between workers and employers, rather than being just workers' organisations. In addition, the article says, regulations need to be changed so they are appropriate with regards to independent worker representative organisations (WROs), which will be legal from January 2021, following Vietnam's international commitments.

Latest labour export figures: Lao Dong (Vietnamese) reports that, in the first 9 months of 2020, 42,837 Vietnamese workers went to work abroad (16,373 of which were women), a decline of 59.1% compared with the same period in 2019. These statistics are from the Department of Overseas Labour (part of MOLISA). The decline is due to travel restrictions and the economic impacts of COVID-19. There are some signs of recovery, however, as in September, 3,508 workers (1,409 women) went abroad, an increase of 9% compared to August.

Floods isolate 219 Dak Mi 2 hydropower plant workers: As reported in VN Express International (English), the workers became trapped after flash floods triggered by Storm Molave blocked access to the plant, which is located in a forest (in Phuoc Loc commune, Phuoc Son district, Quang Nam province, in central Vietnam). A later article in Lao Dong (Vietnamese) says that, by October 31, all of the trapped workers had been brought to safety.

Vietnam cracks down on growing wave of migrant workers from China: RFA (English) reports that Vietnamese authorities say they are cracking down on this. Increasing numbers of Chinese nationals who have lost their jobs due to the economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic are trying to find work in Vietnam.

Essex lorry deaths migrants told families they were taking 'VIP' route to UK, court hears: Sky News (English) reports that, in the Essex lorry deaths trial (see newsletters #79 and #82), many of the migrants had told their families they were taking the 'VIP' route to the UK, meaning travelling by car. An article in Vice (English) looks at how people smugglers have adapted since the tragedy.

Source: Joe Buckley

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