|Workers at the Tan Thoi Hiep Industrial Zone get health checks as part of a programme organised by the HCM City Association of Enterprises in Industrial Zones. Employers say new labour policies are putting an unfair burden on business owners. —VNA/VNS Photo Duong Ngoc
by Minh Thi
HA NOI (VNS)— Some elements of the new amended Labour Code, intended to protect the rights of workers, have at the same time put a heavy burden on employers, company representatives said at a conference held in Ha Noi yesterday.
The conference, attended by policy makers and entrepreneurs focusing on the impact of new labour policies on business management, geared much discussion towards the impact of revised policies regulating overtime allowance, the operation of trade unions as well as ambiguities and uncertainties found in the amended Labour Code.
"As companies are climbing a high slope with great burdens on their shoulders, they need to be supported somehow so that the burden can be reduced instead of becoming heavier," Vu Thi Mai Thu, deputy chairman of the Ha Noi Association for Woman Entrepreneurs, said.
Thu added that it is important for policies to also pay attention to the rights of employers, stating that the existing policies are only in favour of workers.
Thu's statement echoed thoughts shared by other representatives present at the conference, who also stressed the challenges faced by enterprises in the context of the current economic climate.
"It is our recommendation that any law or regulation that might increase labour costs, either directly or indirectly, follows a specific agenda for implementation and is reported to employers early so they can make appropriate financial arrangements," said Pham Tri Trung, a lawyer from Baker & McKenzie in Viet Nam.
In particular, the new Labour Code, which regulates that total overtime hours shall not exceed 30 hours per month or 200 hours per year, while in some special cases not exceed 300 hours in a year, triggered many concerns among companies.
"Such restrictions on overtime are not feasible for companies operating in Viet Nam," said Huang Chih Peng, Representative from the Ha Noi-based Taipei Economic and Cultural Office on behalf of Taiwanese employers in Viet Nam.
Chih Peng cited the situation of companies receiving more orders from clients during peak seasons as an example. He said companies shall not be able to deliver goods to clients on time due to the inflexible overtime restrictions.
"I strongly recommend that the Labour Ministry allows more flexibility under such circumstances, so that companies can meet the demands of their customers, especially as the global and economic economy continues to struggle," said Chih Peng, adding that it is better to allow employers and employees to discuss and reach agreement independently.
Chih Peng also compared the policy with Taiwan's limit on monthly overtime, which allows 56 hours per month, nearly double that of Viet Nam.
Nguyen Van Toan, deputy director of the Association of Foreign Investment Enterprises in Viet Nam shared these views.
He said in the current context of Viet Nam as a developing country, where workers' salaries are not high, most workers actually want to work overtime to earn better incomes.
Branding the 200 hours a year limit as unreasonable, Ton suggested Viet Nam should raise the limit to 360 hours a year, while applying specific rules for those working in research or high-expertise areas, to enable them to maintain requisite high standards.
He cited the example of Japan where it is usual for people to work overtime when the work demands.
The issues in relation to trade unions within companies also raised a lot of concerns among employers, as the new Labour Code regulates companies to allocate two per cent of its total funding for workers' salaries to cover the costs of trade unions.
Ngo Dai Quang, deputy director of the Viet Nam Leather and Footwear Association, said this regulation may actually discourage companies to allow the formation of trade unions, since this activity is currently only voluntary, not forced.
Since trade unions are supposed to operate independently and sometimes have to fight employers over issues, it would be counterproductive if employers were forced to pay the costs of trade unions.
Quang added that the new Labour Code did not specify an agency who is responsible for assessing and inspecting employers' implementation of this specific regulation.
Overall, he said the new Labour Code has not clearly identified the responsibilities of trade unions to take care of workers, or the rights of workers involved in trade union activity.
Chih Peng of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office said from his office's experience of settling strikes between Vietnamese workers and Taiwanese companies, in several circumstances strikes were not successfully settled because support from local governments and local police was not sufficient.
He urged the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs to co-ordinate closely with other Government agencies at central and local levels to tackle future illegal strikes more effectively.
"Only in doing so, can foreign investors' confidence be restored," he said. — VNS