“This is the first time a group of foreign invested enterprises have sat down and negotiated with trade unions, beyond individual enterprise, to decide basic conditions of work, including recognition of union rights,” said ILO Viet Nam Director Chang-Hee Lee.
“This sets a positive example for the future of corporate social responsibilities and the future of industrial relations in Viet Nam.”
The agreement is expected to benefit nearly 2,500 workers through a range of conditions favourable to employees including improved recruitment and female worker policies, increased base wages, better bonuses, allowances, leave and rest time as well as conditions for ensuring trade union operations in the enterprises.
Tran Van Tu, Administrative Manager of Bluecom Vina Company Ltd, one of the five joining enterprises, said that creating the same floor for multiple enterprises operating in the same area was important to ensure their stability.
“It is a framework for our companies to comply to Viet Nam’s labour laws. Some of the articles of the agreement are even better than what are in the laws themselves, which means together we have offered workers good benefits so that they can be happy at work,” he said.
The negotiation process for a multi-employer collective agreement in Hai Phong started in 2015.
It was carried out simultaneously with organizing workers to establish trade unions because the goal of having better benefits through collective agreements could attract workers to join or form unions. This is part of the new organizing method of the Viet Nam General Confederation of Labour (VGCL) known as “bottom-up” worker-centred approach.
By the time of the agreement conclusion, four out of the five enterprises had also formed trade unions. Workers from the remaining enterprise are expected to establish their trade union by July 2016.
“Hai Phong Economic Zone Trade Union has shown that, through its tireless efforts, trade unions can represent workers, through bottom-up organizing and bargaining, for the first time since Doi Moi,” said the ILO Viet Nam Director. “It’s a signal that the Doi Moi of trade union is around the corner.”
He added that the agreement showed a significant example of genuine industrial relations in Viet Nam after decades when industrial relations were restricted to State regulations and the trade union was a socio-political organization taking care of workers’ marginal benefits.
With Viet Nam’s global integration through various free trade agreements, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the country is expected to enter a new era of industrial relations where workers will be given the freedom to organize or join organization of their own choosing, in full respect of the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work. These unions then may or may not choose to affiliate to the VGCL.