|Workers process shrimps for export in a factory in the Ward 8 Industrial Zone in the southern province of Ca Mau. Labour experts expect the Government to be more actively involved in both policy making and law enforcement to promote better industrial relations. — VNA/VNS Photo Tran Viet
by Minh Thi
HA NOI (VNS)— The Government needed to be more actively involved in both policy making and law enforcement to help promote harmonious industrial relations, labour experts have pointed out.
While acknowledging that a number of new provisions specified by the new Labour Code and Trade Union Law indicated the increased roles of upper-level trade unions and local labour organisations in promoting better industrial relations, experts complained that the provisions were lacking in specification, orientation and practicality.
"When we look at the Labour Code, it is difficult to find specifications on the Government's role in solving industrial disputes," said Yoon Youngmo, chief technical advisor on industrial relations for the International Labour Organisation in Viet Nam.
Vi Thi Hong Minh, head of the Employers' Society's Office under the Viet Nam Chamber of Commerce and Industry pointed out that the Labour Code had provisions about harmonious industrial relations but offered no specific definition as to what a harmonious industrial relation should be.
There is also a provision about the roles of trade unions, employers' associations and Government labour agencies regarding inspecting the implementation of the labour laws, but there are no specifications as to how it should be done.
Minh added that the new Trade Union Law came into effect over five months ago but specific guidance on violations of the law had not been issued.
Youngmo pointed out that the real role of the Government in promoting industrial relations was also absent.
"The Government only acts when strikes have already occurred, they don't keep track of the real problem."
They should have been proactive rather than reactive, Youngmo said.
He added that Government mediators had not been fulfilling their roles because trade unions and employers could not access support from them.
Mai Duc Chinh, vice chairman of the Viet Nam General Confederation of Labour, said it would take time to promote the role of Government labour agencies in handling disputes involving industrial relations.
He said there were only over 400 labour inspectors throughout the whole country and more than 400,000 enterprises.
Nguyen Thi Dan, head of the Wage and Salary Division under HCM City's Department of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs, said it was a great challenge for labour management agencies to play a role in providing instruction for employers and employees regarding constructive dialogue, collective bargaining and harmonious industrial relations as specified in Article 4 of the Labour Code.
"Given that the Labour Code is not specific, labour management agencies must have highly experienced staff with a good knowledge of enterprises' circumstances and practical experience of promoting industrial relations."
Dan pointed out that these limitations would inhibit the implementation of the Labour Code.
She added that frequent rotation of staff was also a challenge.
Despite the difficulties, Youngmo said that it was possible for the Government to get more actively involved in reducing disputes and preventing strikes.
He said most strikes occurred in a select number of companies, sometimes even repeatedly, so they were predictable.
Government mediators could make plans to deal with disputes in strike hot spots, and try to discover the root of the problem, he added.
According to the Viet Nam General Confederation of Labour, from 2008-11, Viet Nam witnessed nearly 2500 cases of wildcat strikes and 70 per cent of those occurred in FDI enterprises.
In 2010, there were over 400 cases, and in 2011 it peaked at nearly 1,000. Last year saw 550 strikes and during the first quarter of this year, 140 cases have been reported.
$4m project to develop industrial relations
HA NOI — A US$4 million project to develop industrial relations in Viet Nam was launched last Friday in Ha Noi, aiming to help employers and workers benefit from the new Labour Code and Trade Union Law.
The four-year project is titled "Support to development in industrial relations, wage fixing, and labour law implementation institutions and capacity in Viet Nam", and will receive financial support from the US Government.
It will be implemented by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs (MoLISA), among other relevant agencies.
The non-refundable official development assistance aims to promote effective enforcement of the new labour code, raise the influence of employers' and workers' organisations, promote collective bargaining and social dialogue, and develop the minimum wage law and a good wage fixing mechanism.
The new code is also expected to improve the mediation role of the Government to effectively deal with labour disputes and prevent wild-cat strikes. — VNS