Trần Thị Thanh Hà, deputy director of the Centre for Industrial Relations Development under the Việt Nam General Confederation of Labour, tells Thời báo Kinh tế Việt Nam (Việt Nam Economic Times) that her department will help grassroots Trade Unions sue employers that don’t pay workers’ social insurance, health insurance and unemployment benefits on time.
Under the 2014 Law on Social Insurance, the Việt Nam General Confederation of Labour (VGCL) has to take to court violations of laws on all kinds of workers’ insurance and benefits. How is the confederation preparing to do this?
The VGCL has prepared many guiding documents to help Trade Unions at different levels initiate lawsuits. It has organised training courses for trade union members on how to prepare dossiers for lawsuits as well as courses on how to institute court proceedings.
It has asked 20 consultation centres and 42 legal consultation offices to join the Trade Unions to initiate the lawsuits.
In addition, the VGCL and the Việt Nam Social Insurance Agency (VSIA) have signed an agreement to work together to initiate a law suit. Another agreement has been signed with the People’s Supreme Court on sharing information during a trial and giving lessons to trade unions on how to initiate court proceedings.
As of late last year, 59 of 66 provincial Trade Unions had signed co-operation agreements with the VSIA, and 14 out of 62 provincial Trade Unions had signed agreements with the local courts.
In about 40 days ending on December 10 last year, the Social Insurance Fund offices in all 63 provinces and cities nationwide had already sent 819 documents to 40 provincial Trade Unions for the latter to file lawsuits.
Thanks to the good work performed by the trade unions, many enterprises have volunteered to pay their insurance dues to the Social Insurance Fund before cases are taken to court.
For example, Lai Châu Province collected VNĐ172 million (US$7,500) due from the previous year, Nghệ An VNĐ55 million ($2,400), Gia Lai VNĐ400 million ($17,500), Nam Định VNĐ1.2 billion ($53,000) and Đồng Nai VNĐ1.5 billion ($65,800) and others.
What challenges do Trade Unions face in initiating lawsuits?
The biggest hurdle they face is putting each case in the context of different laws like the Labour Code, the Civil Procedures Code and Social Insurance Code. Sometimes what is written in one law is not convergent with another.
For example, under the Labour Code, all cases relating to the delay in paying the social insurance fund must go through reconciliation process via the District People’s Committee first. Under the Labour Code, only trade unions at the grassroots level have the right to initiate a lawsuit. But, in several cases, grassroots trade unions don’t want to get involved in lawsuits. On the other hand, under the Civil Procedures Code, any trade union can initiate a lawsuit.
According to the 2014 Law on Social Insurance, it is the first time the trade union is being allowed to sue employers for infringing on the employees’ social benefits. It will take time for trade union members to learn how to deal with lawsuits against employers in an effective manner.
Will the VGCL act on its own to protect workers’ rights?
The VGCL has vowed to do all it can to help provincial Trade Union initiate lawsuits against employers that deliberately delay paying workers’ social insurance, health insurance and unemployment benefits. However, to do this effectively, it calls on all concerned agencies to join hands. — VNS