Hanoi waste collectors strike yet again: In the last week of December, waste collectors from Minh Quan (which has now changed its name to Nam Hanoi Group) went on strike yet again (see newsletters #86, #89 and #90) over unpaid wages, causing significant amounts of waste to pile up around Hanoi's Nam Tu Liem district. The news was reported in a number of places, including Nguoi Viet, Tien Phong, and VN Express (all Vietnamese). VN Express International has an English-language photo essay with pictures of the uncollected waste. Workers tell the newspapers that, despite previous strikes and interventions from authorities, Minh Quan has still not paid wages since October.
Minh Quan, however, claimed that they had paid salaries until the end of November, but were withholding some until workers fulfilled their responsibilities. The situation is further complicated by the fact that Minh Quan's contract expired at the end of 2020; from January 1, 2021, another company, Urenco, became responsible for waste collection in Nam Tu Liem district. On the afternoon of December 30, Nam Tu Liem district authorities made an agreement with Minh Quan and Urenco that they would work together to get the waste collected. Urenco began collecting the waste on the morning of December 31. An article published in Lao Dong (Vietnamese) today (January 4) says that authorities have announced an investigation into Minh Quan's conduct from 2017-2020, the period in which they had the waste collection contract. It adds that workers are still waiting for their wages.
Strike at Hyundai Vietnam factory: At around 7am on December 28, around 1,000 workers at the Korean-owned Hyundai Vietnam vehicle factory in Ninh Hoa town, Khanh Hoa province (in south-central Vietnam, and with around 3,000 workers) went on strike to oppose low salary rises and bonuses in 2021. One worker who has been at the company for 21 years told Lao Dong (Vietnamese) that his salary had reduced from 10-12 million dong per month in 2019 to 7-8 million per month in 2020. Despite this, his work has increased. Another worker said his salary had decreased from 6 million per month to 3-4 million per month, which is not enough to live on. Le Van Toan, president of the enterprise-level union, said that the union had collected workers' views on salaries and bonuses and presented them to the company in December. They requested a 10% rise in basic salaries and achievement bonuses of 30 million dong per person. Through 7 negotiation sessions with the company, the two sides agreed on a 3% pay rise and bonuses of 19 million dong. As workers did not agree, however, around 1,000 of them went on strike. Workers instead suggested a rise of 5% with bonuses of 30 million, or a rise of 7-8% with bonuses of 24-26 million dong. The Vice General Director of the company, Lee Jun Woo, said that COVID-19 had had a huge impact on business production, with the workload reducing 30-40% compared to 2019. He said the company had attempted to not lay off anybody, and that the above offer is an attempt to make sure workers and their families are supported, and the most that the company can afford. He hoped that workers would understand and share the hardships.
A taskforce including representatives from the provincial DOLISA, provincial labour federation, and other related government agencies went to help resolve the issue. Van Dinh Tri, the deputy director of the Khanh Hoa provincial DOLISA, said that the company had faced hardships but had not cut the labour force. The proposed salary raise is therefore appropriate. However, he said that workers' had had their salaries cut and their lives had become more difficult. They were hoping for a productivity bonus in order to cover the costs of Tet. He therefore requested that the company increase bonus levels and welfare policies. Bui Dang Thanh, head of the Khanh Hoa Labour Federation's legal policy department, requested that the workers choose representatives to work with the company and the higher level unions, that the company's manager clearly explain the issues to workers, and that they organise direct dialogue sessions with workers. Thanh said the union would continue to support workers to ensure that their legitimate rights and interests are protected.
A later article in Lao Dong (Vietnamese) reports that the union and the company finally signed a salary increase agreement on December 31 after massive exertion in negotiations. The final agreement is a 3% salary increase and an achievement bonus on 19 million dong per person - exactly the same as that which was offered before the strike.
20 strikes in Binh Duong province in 2020: According to Lao Dong (Vietnamese), this has been reported by the Binh Duong Provincial DOLISA (in southern Vietnam), and is an increase of 1 compared to 2019. We are still waiting for the national 2020 strike numbers, either from the VGCL or MOLISA.
Three dead and dozens injured after construction accident: On the afternoon of January 2, workers were working on the construction site of the new headquarters of the Nghe An provincial Department of Finance (in Vinh City, Nghe An province, north-central Vietnam) when a lifting platform collapsed. As reported in a number of places including Lao Dong and Nguoi Lao Dong (both Vietnamese), dozens of workers were injured and eleven were taken to hospital. As of the afternoon of January 3, three of those in hospital had succumbed to their injuries, while 8 were continuing to be treated. The Nghe An provincial labour federation has given 2 million dong to each victim. Authorities are investigating the cause of the accident.
Worker Representative Organisations (WROs) are still just a wish: This is the title of a comment piece by Bui Thien Tri, one of the leaders of the Vietnamese Independent Union (VIU), and published on their website (Vietnamese) today (January 4). Tri says that the new Labour Code came into force on January 1. Among other things, it allows workers to form independent WROs at the enterprise level, not affiliated with trade unions (trade unions are part of the state-led VGCL; see newsletters #48, #66, #68, #73, #76, #77, and #83). Tri comments, however, that the law is vague, and contains a lot of articles which say certain issues will be further regulated by the government, such as with regard to registration, financing, and activities of WROs. Without these further regulations, it is impossible, in practice, for workers to establish WROs—there is not even any clear registration procedure. The further regulations were supposed to be circulated and passed into law before the end of 2020—making it feasible to establish and register WROs—but this has not been done. Tri suggests the government is stalling for time, as the CPTPP and EVFTA trade deals allow years before Vietnam has to enact labour commitments, including ILO conventions on freedom of association.
ILO article about the new Labour Code: In an article (available in English and Vietnamese), the ILO welcomes the new rights of workers and employers that the code brings, and summarises the major changes. The article says that the code can bring benefits for both workers and employers but only when all are aware of their rights.
Podcast on Kerkvliet's "Speaking Out in Vietnam": The New Books in Southeast Asian Studies podcast (English) has published an episode on Kerkvliet's book, which contains a substantial section on workers' strikes and protests. At the end of 2019, I reviewed the book on H-Net (English).
Source: Joe Buckley