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Vietnam Labour Update #86

Ngày đăng: 03/12/2020

Hanoi waste collectors strike: Waste collectors in Hanoi, who work for Minh Quan High Technology Development and Investment, were on strike for a week, up until November 19. The strike got a lot of attention in the media, probably due to the very visual sight of waste left uncollected in Hanoi's Tay Ho and Nam Tu Liem districts. The strikes has been reported in many places, including VN Express International (English), Kinh Te Do Thi, Lao Dong, Nguoi Lao Dong, and Tien Phong (all Vietnamese). Workers were on strike over late wage payments; some tell the media that Minh Quan often pays wages 10-15 days late, and promises to pay but then does not do so. In addition, workers have asked for new trash collection vehicles as many of the current ones are so old and damaged as to be unusable. This is not the first time that there have been issues with Minh Quan (see, for example, newsletter #80). Since 2017, when the company won the bid to collect waste in 9 districts of the capital, there have been many times when trash has been left to pile up on the streets. In addition, the company has violated labour policies a number of times. On November 18, Minh Quan paid the owed October wages, so workers began collecting waste again from November 19, although there is still some uncollected trash. The company's contract expires at the end of this year, and authorities are searching for a new company to give the contract to.

Banh Xeo eatery "hell" in Bac Ninh: Lao Dong (Vietnamese) have today (November 23) published a video of an investigation into Banh Xeo Mien Trung, an eatery selling banh xeo (crispy rice pancakes) in Yen Phong industrial zone, Yen Phong district, Bac Ninh province, in northern Vietnam. Workers are starving, and often have to eat scraps of food left by the customers. They are made to work from 6am to 3am, and are physically attacked and beaten by the female owner and her husband. The video contains footage of workers' injuries, including broken teeth and stitches on their arms. Workers live on-site and are not allowed to leave or contact their families. Also today, VTC (Vietnamese) published a video interviewing a 14 year old who has worked there for two months and recently managed to escape. He says that the owner promised that they would look after him and feed him, but they did not pay him a salary and beat him. Authorities are now investigating. An English-language report is available on VN Express International (English).

Social security fund debts total nearly 20 trillion dong: As reported in Nguoi Lao Dong (Vietnamese), as of the end of October this year, debts owed to the social security fund—including social insurance, health insurance, and unemployment insurance—totalled nearly 20 trillion dong (representing 4.93% of monies owed, and a rise of 0.8% compared to the same period in 2019). The central social security office asked provincial and city-level offices to implemented urgent measures to reduce this debt: increasing unannounced inspections; fining enterprises which have debts or non-payment lasting over three months; publicly announcing the names of enterprises which have not paid; and sending the documents to the police in cases where enterprises have violated the social security law.

Around 70 enterprises in nearly 40 provinces have been reported to the police, and are being investigated for non-payment of social security. Very few, however, have been prosecuted due to insufficient evidence of factors constituting a crime. In addition, city and provincial social security offices are unclear on what behaviour is a violation of the law meaning enterprises should be reported to the police, as they have not been given concrete guidance.

In related news, Nguoi Lao Dong (Vietnamese) reports that, in the first 10 months of 2020, 869,158 people received unemployment benefits from the social security fund, and 12,737 received support for vocational training. The amount paid out in unemployment benefits was 12.99 trillion dong, 7.26 trillion higher, and 85,635 more people, than the same period in 2019.

Update on Kwangjin Wintec case, and other cases of discrimination against union reps: An update on this case, reported in last week's newsletter. As reported in Lao Dong (Vietnamese), after a month of requests from the local labour federation, on November 16 the general manager of the factory said he had let Nga back into the office in order to do her work according to her contract. On November 18, however, Nga said that this wasn't the case: the company had prepared a desk for her near the door of the human resources office and not arranged her work correctly according to her contract. The union is working with other agencies to implement legal steps to protect Nga's rights and interests.

Another article in Lao Dong (Vietnamese) outlines this case along with another past case of discrimination against enterprise-level union reps. In one, at an unnamed foreign-owned factory producing headphones in Ha Nam province (in northern Vietnam), the company had tried to get rid of the enterprise-level union president after his second one year fixed term contract came to an end. He had previously been involved in cases of an employee being demoted (who was then given his or her old position back), a disagreement over Tet bonuses, and in opposing the company's improper interference in union business. When the company tried not to renew his contract, the Ha Nam provincial industrial zones union intervened to protect his rights and interests. He continued working for the company for another two years, before leaving of his own accord.

The article also recounts another case, at a furniture manufacturer (in Bac Dong Phu industrial zone, Binh Phuoc province, in southern Vietnam). It is interesting, but I'm not sure how it fits with the article, as it is not about a case of union busting. A dispute broke out in June 2020; over 90 workers had worked at the company for a year without contracts, without social security, and in a stressful environment where they could be fired immediately and have their salaries docked for refusing overtime. Tran Thi Toan, a unionist who is head of the women's section at the New Apparel Far Eastern Vietnam union, got involved, discussing the issue with the president of the Dong Xoai - Dong Phu industrial zones union. She then invited authorities, including the police, the industrial zones management board, and the social security office to work with the company. The enterprise owner admitted shortcomings; they have now provided contracts and are paying social security contributions. An enterprise-level union has also been set up. The Binh Phuoc provincial zones union said that this case is notable as Toan got involved to protect the rights and interests of workers even though she wasn't responsible for them.

Fatalities from workplace accidents in Ca Mau: Ca Mau province is in the Mekong Delta region of southern Vietnam. As reported in Dan Tri (Vietnamese), at around 9:15am on November 17, a 47 year old worker was welding a barrel to make a boat to cross a river, when it suddenly exploded. He was taken to hospital, but passed away on the afternoon of November 19. A second fatal workplace accident occurred on November 18, when a 33 year old suffered an electric shock while fixing a water pump. A third person died on the morning of the same day, when he was fixing the electrics on a decorative landscape feature in front of his house; an electrical shock caused him to fall and die.

Vietnamese Independent Union (VIU) statement on RCEP trade deal: On their website (Vietnamese), VIU has published a statement about the recently announced Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) trade deal (see this English-language BBC article for more general information on the deal). VIU criticise the agreement for not having any provisions on labour and social standards, unlike the CPTPP and EVFTA, but only focusing on economic objectives of reducing trade barriers. VIU also expresses concern that RCEP will lead to Vietnam being flooded with Chinese goods and make it hard to resist the power of China. VIU says they will work with other civil society organisations to protect workers' rights and interests while on the road to promoting the formation of independent organisations representing workers at the enterprise level. Elsewhere, unions in other Asia Pacific countries have also expressed concerns about the RCEP trade deal, saying it could weaken worker and union rights - see, for example, this article from the Inter Press Service News Agency (English).

Perseption USA workers unable to enter their factory: On the morning of November 17, all the 500 workers at this garment factory (in Nghi Dien commune, Nghi Loc district, Nghe An province, in north-central Vietnam) arrived at work to find they could not enter their factory. As reported in Lao Dong (Vietnamese), at around 9:30pm the previous evening, the factory's human resources office had sent a text message to all workers saying that, during COVID-19, the company had tried to create jobs for all workers with the hope that they would join together in an effort to get through the difficulties. However, workers and team leaders did not cooperate. As a result, all workers, team leaders, and quality controllers should not go to work the following day, and the company would reorganise production. The message was sent late, meaning that not all workers received it. Phan Van Sam, president of the Nghi Loc district labour federation, tells the paper that this company has had a number of issues related to labour relations, including unclear policies and a lack of written agreements regarding overtime. The Nghi Loc district labour federation has met with the company and requested that they undertake concrete actions to ensure stable production.

Source: Joe Buckley

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