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Vietnam Labour Update #93

Ngày đăng: 31/01/2021

126 strikes in 2020: This is the number reported by the VGCL, according to Dan Tri (Vietnamese). The newspaper reports that this is 7 more strikes than last year. In January 2020, however, the VGCL reported that there had been 121 strikes in 2019 (see newsletter #42); this would mean that this year there have been 5 more strikes, not 7 more. The VGCL said that the main causes of strikes were workers not agreeing with wage and salary levels and payments, late wage and bonus payments, and the quality of food provided to them. The VGCL also warned that Tet bonuses would be reduced this year, as a number of enterprises are facing hardships due to the economic impact of COVID-19 (and also, of course, as the new labour code now allows employers to pay Tet bonuses in goods rather than money; see newsletters #87, #89 and #90). Consequently, it will be easy for strikes and disputes to break out. The VGCL said that unions would focus on this problem, and, when issues occur, quickly intervene to organise workplace dialogue and prevent strikes.

VGCL suggests raising minimum wages on July 1 each year: When the National Wage Council decided not to raise minimum wages on January 1, 2021 (see newsletters #66, #71, #74 and #84), they left open the possibility, suggested by the VGCL, that minimum wages could instead be increased on July 1, 2021. As reported in Lao Dong (Vietnamese), the VGCL has now revisited this, arguing that minimum wages should indeed be raised at that time. They have, however, gone further, arguing that minimum wage increases should occur on July 1 each year, rather than January 1. Regarding the need to raise the minimum wage this July, they say that workers have suffered hardships as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and will face even more difficulties if minimum wages are not increased until 2022. The VGCL argues that this can be done as the country saw positive economic growth last year. Regarding changing the date of annual minimum wage increases to July 1, the VGCL argues that this will reduce pressure on businesses, who have other costs at the beginning of every year (such as Tet bonuses). In another article in Lao Dong (Vietnamese), the former head of the Institute of Labour Science and Social Affairs (part of MOLISA) says that minimum wages could be increased this July, but only by a small amount; otherwise, there is a danger that enterprises will have to lay off more workers.

WROs can be established: RFA (Vietnamese) has published an article about WROs. They interview Bui Thien Tri of the VIU, who repeats the argument he made in a comment piece (see last week's newsletter), saying that, despite the new Labour Code which permits WROs having come into effect, they cannot in reality be established as the law requires a further decree from the government, which has not appeared. The RFA article, however, also interviews Dang Dung, a lawyer who has worked with the Ho Chi Minh City DOLISA office, who disagrees. Dung says that workers do not have to wait for a decree before establishing WROs. His argument is based on a very fine reading of the text of the Labour Code, which for those who want to check is available on Thu Vien Phap Luat (Vietnamese). Dung says that a number of articles of chapter XIII—the one regulating WROs—say that "details will be further regulated by the government". In these cases, then a decree is needed before those articles can be enforced. If, however, that sentence is not present, then those articles are immediately in effect and no further decree or circular is needed, according to Dung.

I am not a lawyer, but this does seem to be a bit confusing. Article 172 of chapter XIII, which talks about the establishment of WROs, does not contain the exact sentence "details will be further regulated by the government". However, section 1 of article 172 says that WROs can be established and undertake activities once the competent state agencies have registered them. Section 4 of the same article then says that the government with regulate registration procedures and documents (among other things). This seems to imply that a further decree or circular is needed before WROs can be registered, and as section 1 of article 172 says that WROs must be registered first, it is unclear how they can properly establish themselves without this.

LB Viet Nam update: An update on this case, discussed in newsletters #74 and #75. This week, Pham Quang Chung, head of the Ninh Binh Provincial Social Security Office's inspection department, told Lao Dong (Vietnamese) that the office has prepared and passed on the case documentation to the police to investigate and resolve.

Report on the impacts of COVID-19 on labour and employment in quarter IV and 2020: The General Statistics Office has released this report (available in English and Vietnamese). The headline figures are that 32.1 million people aged 15 or over have been negatively affected by COVID-19 through loss of jobs, furlough, and reduced hours or income. The labour market is starting to recover, however. In quarter IV, the labour force reached 55.1 million people, an increase of 563.8 thousand compared to the previous quarter. It has not, though, reached pre-pandemic levels, and the number of those in informal employment has increased. Average monthly incomes have also decreased across all sectors.

Source: Joe Buckley

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