Female workers’ clubs boost solidarity, confidence

December 22, 2016 - 08:00

Dương Thị Thùy Linh, 25, a worker at the Khai Quang Industrial Park in Vĩnh Phúc Province, had a hectic, unvaryingly mundane schedule.

Female migrant workers in Vĩnh Phúc Province live a hard life. But forming clubs and holding regular meetings have given them more confidence to fight for their rights. – Photo vinhphuc.gov.vn
Viet Nam News

VĨNH PHÚC — Dương Thị Thùy Linh, 25, a worker at the Khai Quang Industrial Park in Vĩnh Phúc Province, had a hectic, unvaryingly mundane schedule.

She worked hard for 10 to 12 hours a day, six days a week, returned to her rented room, cooked, ate, slept and returned to work.

She hardly went out and talked to neighbours, also migrant workers like her, in the rented rooms complex. In her “free” time, she stayed alone in her room and read books.

Linh and many migrant workers come to Vĩnh Phú, either from rural areas in the province or from other localities, are deprived of many material benefits and had no relief from their stress.

The province, located more than 60km to the northwest of Hà Nội, has been struggling with the pace of workers’ influx, estimated at 67,000, which has been far greater than the development of local infrastructure and social services.

“As a new employee, I had several questions about benefits for workers. When I was confused about something or not satisfied with my working environment, I did not know who I should go to ask,” Linh said.

Then something changed.

“One day, when I was back from work, my landlord asked me to attend a group meeting of my rented room complex. It was the first time I had heard about such a meeting.

“For the first time, I was able to talk to so many fellow migrant workers.”

The meeting is held every month in many rented room complexes of migrant workers in the northern province with the support of three Vietnamese and international non-profit organisations — BATIK International, GRET and Centre for Development and Integration.

Officers of the provincial Women Union, Labour Confederation and representatives of employers from companies and factories attend the meeting to answer workers’ questions or provide necessary information about labour regulations, social insurance, healthcare policies and soft skills.

Workers have the opportunity to submit their proposals to local authorities and employers to better their working conditions and make sure their rights are fully protected.

Female migrant workers, in particular, have been guided and helped in setting up self-managed clubs to spread information on social rights, share experiences and make requests of local social service providers.

Before each monthly meeting at such clubs, leaders will ask for comments from members and choose topics. These topics are forwarded to the provincial Women Union, who will invite experts for a Q&A session.

The clubs also organise sports activities as well as song and dance competitions every week as a way to create closely-knit networks among migrant workers in the region. So far there are 15 female migrant clubs in the province.

“My boring free time is now filled with fun activities with my colleagues. After meetings like these, I feel more confident about standing up and raising my voice to ask for my benefits at work,” said Nguyễn Thị Phương, another migrant worker at the Khai Quang IP.

“More importantly, I have friends at work and at home. Now when I am away from home, I can call on my neighbors to help me bring clothes off the line if it rains. It’s a very simple example of how close we have become,” she said.

Nguyễn Thị Thuý Hà, deputy head of Vĩnh Phúc’s Labour Confederation, said: “Through Q&A sessions between labourers and employers, we identify violations. For example, upon receiving workers’ report on low-quality meals at the canteen, we will contact our grassroots labour confederations to check their meal quality and improve working conditions.”

The Vĩnh Phúc People’s Committee has since announced plans to build a complex for workers at industrial parks, including health clinics, entertainment venues and playgrounds, Hà said. — VNS

Female migrant workers make blankets, cushions and mattresses at a company in Yên Lạc District, Vĩnh Phúc Province. – VNA/VNS Photo Nguyễn Thảo