Industrial Relations Forum

Viet Nam vows to reform industrial relations to fully reap integration benefits

The Government, trade unions and employers’ organizations issued a joint statement to affirm their commitment with ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work.

News | 19 April 2016
HANOI (ILO News) – Vietnamese Government, trade union and employers’ organizations have expressed their firm commitments to improving the country’s industrial relations laws, institutions and practices in line with labour requirements of new free trade deals, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and Viet Nam-EU Free Trade Agreement (FTA).

The joint statement was issued by the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs (MoLISA), the Viet Nam General Confederation of Labour (VGCL) and Viet Nam Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI) at the first national Industrial Relations Forum co-organized with the International Labour Organization (ILO) today (19 April) in Hanoi.

It wrote: “We are committed to working with various stakeholders to respect, promote and realize the principles enshrined in the ILO 1998 Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, including efforts to consider the possibility to ratify the remaining core conventions of the ILO.”

In total 16 FTAs to which Viet Nam is a party, the TPP is its first deal including labour provisions. The TPP does not create any new international labour standards but, like the Viet Nam-EU FTA, requires Viet Nam to adopt and maintain in its laws, regulations and practices the rights stated in the ILO Declaration, including freedom of association, the right to organize and collective bargaining, and elimination of forced labour, child labour and workplace discrimination.

Viet Nam became a member of the ILO in 1992 and has ratified 21 ILO conventions, including five out of eight core ones. The remaining ILO fundamental conventions that Viet Nam has not ratified are related to freedom of association, right to collective bargaining and the elimination of forced labour.

“Viet Nam will have to embark on a major labour reform, particularly its industrial relations system, if the country is to be qualified for economic benefits promised under TPP,” said ILO Viet Nam Director Chang-Hee Lee.

At the heart of the TPP requirement is Viet Nam’s full respect of the freedom of association principle, which is seen to be the most challenging part of the TPP labour chapter. All unions in Viet Nam now must be part of VGCL. Under the TPP, workers will have the freedom and right to set up or join organizations they choose at enterprise level and these may or may not affiliate with VGCL.

“This is a significant change not only for workers and VGCL but also for employers and Government,” said Dr Lee. “It is because employers may have to deal with workers’ organizations that may not be a part of VGCL at their workplace, and the Government will have to develop a system for effectively recognizing them as the representative organization of the workers for collective bargaining and other collective actions in industrial relations.”

Since the adoption of the Labour Code in 1994, more than 5,500 strikes have been recorded in Viet Nam. All were wild-cat strikes, meaning that none of them was organized by the trade union.

“At national level, Viet Nam will have to adjust and supplement national legislation compatible with the international commitments to which Viet Nam is a party,” said MoLISA Vice Minister Pham Minh Huan. “Viet Nam will also have to build and organize its apparatus, mechanisms and institutions, and allocate necessary resources to effectively implement those commitments.”

According to the ILO Viet Nam Director, it’s a “difficult but possible road” for Viet Nam as the country has already started important initiatives and pilot programmes supported by the ILO to test these new directions. An example include the successes in Hai Phong and Dong Nai to develop the union in “bottom-up” manner through voluntary and direct participation of workers at grassroots level.

“The ILO welcome Viet Nam’s plan to conduct feasible studies on the remaining fundamental conventions of the ILO,” he said. “We are ready to stand side by side with Viet Nam to successfully deliver major industrial relations reforms which will not only help the country fully enjoy the benefits of the FTAs but also lay a foundation for sustainable growth based on social justice.”

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