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VietNamNews

Labour relations better, but problems persist

Update: January, 30/2015 - 08:58
The incidence of collective labour disputes and strikes had reduced in recent years by 25 per cent, from the peak of 993 in 2011 to 293 incidents in 2014. — Photo citinews
HCM CITY (VNS) — Employers using "sophisticated" ways to take "revenge" on union officials and the latter's poor negotiation and communication skills were among labour relations problems highlighted at a workshop on Tuesday.

However, recent years have seen a marked improvement in the situation, workers' union and labour federation officials asserted.

Union officials said that industrial workers were continuing to use work stoppages and strikes as a first option to make their claims because current legal procedures are cumbersome and time-consuming.

Mai Duc Chinh, vice president of Viet Nam Labour Confederation said at a workshop held in Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) on Tuesday that workers were not following the two-step procedure they are supposed to.

He said workers were required to take their problems to district level labour arbitration councils first and their provincial counterparts next before corporate unions can organise a strike.

"But, in fact, over the last nine years, the Labour Arbitration Council of HCM City has only worked on a single case," he said.

However, Cu Phat Nghiep, president of the HCM City-based Pou Yuen Company Workers' Union, which has 83,400 employees, said: "Workers are aware of the strike procedure, but it takes too long and too many levels of management for them to have their voices heard.

"By the means of a spontaneous strike, they can get to meet the top management of their company immediately."

Despite the "unlawful" practice, labour relations have improved in the country, participants said at the workshop that focused on "Unions' Involvement in Prevention and Resolution of Labour Disputes and Strikes, Current Situation and Resolutions."

Chinh said that the incidence of collective labour disputes and strikes had reduced in recent years by 25 per cent, from the peak of 993 in 2011 to 293 incidents in 2014.

He attributed the reduction to authorities, unions and employers working hard to implement instructions issued by the Party Secretariat on improving labour relations.

He noted that labour disputes resulting in stoppages often occurred around the Tet holiday, surrounding the issue of salaries, wages and Tet bonuses.

None of the work stoppages and strikes were political in nature, and did not involve any damage to property or life, he said.

Typically, it was the employers' violations of the Labour Law that caused the disputes, he added.

Statistics compiled by the Viet Nam Labour Confederation show that between 2009 and 2014, there were 3,120 work stoppages and strikes. Of them, 959 (30.74 per cent) related to worker's rights; 1,272 (40.77 per cent) pertained to worker's interests; 832 involved both rights and interests; and 57 were triggered by other reasons (1.83 per cent).

Le Trong Sang, head of the Confederation's Labour Relations Department, said that from a practical standpoint, labour disputes can be seen to arise from both the employer and the employee.

"The employers fail to pay due attention to their employees and violate regulations on employees' rights and interests in terms of wages, work hours and vacations.

On the other hand, due to poor education, traditional work habits and low awareness, employees are often ignorant of the terms of labour contracts that they sign," Sang said.

He added that collective labour disputes occurred most in foreign-invested enterprises, partly because of language barriers that led to misunderstandings. Chinh urged corporate unions to act as a bridge between the employer and the employee.

"They (the unions) should take the initiative in working with employers to organise regular dialogues and meetings with employees, which are not only opportunities for both sides to exchange information but also for employers to clear claims and solve complaints of employees, contributing to better labour relations."

However, there are some serious challenges facing unions, the workshop heard.

One member of the Dong Nai Labour Federation who did not want to be named told the Lao Dong (Labour) newspaper that union officials worked part-time for the most part, and did not have enough time for proper union activities.

"Worse still, their negotiation and communication skills are so poor that they are unable to fight for or protect the employees' interests," he said.

Lao Dong also cited other unnamed delegates from Binh Duong and Bac Ninh provinces who said in several cases, employers took revenge in "sophisticated fashion" on unionists involved in stoppages and strikes.

The workshop was organised by the National Labour Confederation in collaboration with the German Frienrich Ebert Foundation.— VNS

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