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Business sector should join human rights fight

Update: November, 19/2014 - 08:32
Workers process fish at the Binh An Seafood Joint Stock Company. The business sector's co-operation is essential for the success of global efforts to protect human rights, Labour deputy minister Nguyen Trong Dam said yesterday. — VNA/VNS Photo Duy Khuong

HA NOI (VNS) — The business sector's co-operation is essential for the success of global efforts on human rights, said Nguyen Trong Dam, deputy minister of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs.

Dam spoke at the 14th informal seminar of the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) on the relationship between human rights and businesses hosted in Ha Noi. The three-day event was attended by 120 representatives of governments, research institutes, social organisations and enterprises from 53 ASEM member countries.

Statistics from the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the World Bank showed that the recent global financial crisis and economic depression cost the jobs of about 205 million people and caused approximately 64 million people to fall into poverty.

"In that context, it is urgent that we promote international, regional and national efforts with the co-operation of the business sector to create more jobs, as well as guarantee the interests of the workers, particularly vulnerable ones like women and ethnic minorities," Dam said.

Zhang Yan, Executive Director of the Asia-Europe Foundation (ASEF), a non-profit organisation established by the ASEM member countries said that this informal seminar "could not come in a more appropriate time."

Viet Nam, a member of the Human Rights Council of the UN and the Administration Council of the ILO, has paid considerable efforts recently in improving and guaranteeing workers' rights.

"The amended Constitution last year clearly regulates that the workers have the right to select their occupation and to work in a fair and safe workplace," said Dang Dung Chi, head of the Institute for Human Rights Studies. "It also prohibits discrimination against workers and child labor."

Another event, held by the Institutes for Human Rights Studies, the Institute for Workers and Trade Unions, and the Chamber of Commerce and Industry during the ASEM, focused on collective bargaining between workers and employers.

"Viet Nam's Constitution basically matches international regulations on workers' rights," he said.

Apart from the Constitution, Viet Nam also made changes to the Labor Law regarding minimum wages and requests for dialogue between employers and their workers.

A new draft Law on Occupational Safety and Health is expected to be submitted to the National Assembly in 2015 to help keep people safe at their workplaces.

Yet, the country is still struggling to address a high number of unpaid wages, which reached about VND80 billion (US$3.8 million) last year, leaving about 10,000 workers without wages, according to the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs.

Occupational accidents have also caused alarm. About 6,670 workplace accidents took place across the country last year, killing 627 workers and costing firms about VND72 billion (US$3.4 million).

The informal seminar on human rights is an annual part of the ASEM. It aims to help government representatives and experts across Asia and Europe share experiences and promote human rights. This is the first time Viet Nam has hosted the seminar. — VNS

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