Trade unions: a bridge between labourers and enterprises

March 20, 2019 - 07:00

Trade unions are a new concept for boat operators at Tràng An eco-tourism site in Ninh Bình Province.

Illustration by Đàm Minh Chí
Viet Nam News

Kieu Van

Trade unions are a new concept for boat operators at Tràng An eco-tourism site in Ninh Bình Province.

Most of the people who operate tourist boats are poor, middle-aged farmers living around the tourist area who knew little about social benefits before they participated in Tràng An eco-tourism company’s trade union.

With 1,500 members, including 1,300 boat drivers, the trade union has supported its workers and organised cultural events to bring them joy after hard days of work.

The union was established last November, according to its chairwoman Hoàng Thị Thu Hường.

At first, the middle-aged, rural women had limited social knowledge. Hường said many of them quit farming to look for a new job, expecting a higher income to support their families, but still struggled to make ends meet.

Now, under the trade union, all the boat operators are divided into 28 groups of between 20 and 45 members. Each team has elected a leader to distribute the boats and arrange visitors.

Boatwoman Hà Thị Chiến says the new system is more efficient.

“There is no competition to pick up passengers and boat cleaning is guaranteed,” she said.

In order to be admitted, boat drivers must pass a test to receive a rowing certificate. They are also trained in rescue skills.

Every boat operator is also a tour guide. They have been re-trained through professional courses organised by trade union.

“Trade union officials taught us information about the landscape and historical sites to share with visitors,” said boat operator Trần Thị Sửu. She says the tourism complex has created stable jobs and income for thousands of the area’s residents.

In the past, farmers would often be forced to leave their crops behind to seek more stable employment away from their villages.

“Now all five members of my family are working as boat operators here with a stable income from VNĐ6-7 million per month,” said Sửu. “The work is hard but in return the family’s economic situation is getting better.”

Thanks to the trade union and others like it, boat operators in Ninh Bình and other rural areas of Việt Nam are learning that in addition to a salary, workers are entitled to social welfare.

Associate Professor Nguyễn An Ninh of the Hồ Chí Minh National Political Academy defines a trade union as a social organisation of working-class people that represents labourers in any economic sector, protecting their rights and interests.

In the current market economy, with the labour market in Việt Nam gradually taking shape, conflicts between workers and employers are bound to arise.

In these situations, unions can act as bridge between an enterprise and its workers. It can advise business owners, organise dialogues to solve problems in a timely manner and advocate for policies beneficial to employees such as maternity leave or salary increases.

The efforts of trade unions – especially local unions in the non-State economic sector – need a lot of support from officials and labourers in the form of experience, enthusiasm, participation and preferential policies.

According to Hồ Hồng Nam, Permanent Vice Chairman of the central province of Phú Yên’s Labour Confederation, trade unions have co-ordinated with enterprises to help them better care for employees and have been effective in preserving harmony and stability in labour relations.

Nam says it is important for trade unions in enterprises to have regulations for how to co-ordinate activities between the union, local authorities and business owners.

While there is still work to do to make trade unions more widespread and effective, they have already had a positive impact on countless lives in Việt Nam.

In the past, Ninh Bình boat operator Hà Thị Chiến and her husband both made their living through agriculture.

“We did not know what a trade union is,” she said. “Now, we are assured about salary and have a stable income thanks to the union. – VNS