Fair trade

Labour chapter important to EU-Viet Nam free trade deal

Viet Nam has made major steps towards the ratification of ILO fundamental conventions and in revising the Labour Code, which shows the country’s good wills and effective efforts to sign and ratify EVFTA.

News | 16 May 2019
HANOI (ILO News) – The labour-related chapter holds significance to the free trade agreement between the EU and Viet Nam, known as EVFTA, particularly during the voting process, a senior official of the European Commission has said.

Addressing a workshop on Labour Provisions in EVFTA in Hanoi on 13 May, Madelaine Tuininga, Head of Trade and Sustainable Development of the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Trade, said they are “pleased with the constructive approach by the Vietnamese Government” in showing Viet Nam’s commitment to the FTA in labour area.

Together with CPTPP (the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership), EVFTA places its emphasis on labour and environment provisions to ensure that free trade contributes to sustainable development. At the heart of both CPTPP and EVFTA is the 1998 ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work.

“The 1998 Declaration represents global consensus among tripartite actors [Governments, workers and employers’ representatives] of ILO’s 187 member States on what should be basic and universal labour conditions for fair trade of goods and services in a globalized economy,” explained ILO Viet Nam Director, Chang-Hee Lee. “It defines duties of ILO member States to respect and promote eight core conventions on elimination of child and forced labour, no discrimination at work and gender equality, freedom of association and right to collective bargaining.”

According to the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs (MoLISA), since 2016, the ministry has been working with the Viet Nam General Confederation of Labour, Viet Nam Chamber of Commerce and Industry and other business stakeholders to consider the ratification of the remaining core conventions of the ILO and the revision of the Labour Code towards better alignment with international labour standards, with support from the ILO and other partners, including the EU. The three fundamental conventions which Viet Nam has yet to ratify include Convention 98 on collective bargaining, Convention 87 on freedom of association and Convention 105 on forced labour.

Both the ratification dossier of Convention 98 and the draft revised Labour Code have been submitted to the National Assembly for its upcoming session this May.

“It can be affirmed that so far Viet Nam has made major steps towards the ratification of ILO fundamental conventions as well as in revising the Labour Code,” said MoLISA Vice Minister Doan Mau Diep. “It shows Viet Nam’s good wills and effective efforts to sign and ratify EVFTA.”

The head of ILO Viet Nam also believed that the country’s move towards the ratification of Convention 98 is very important first step, signalling its serious commitment to the 1998 ILO Declaration and the Trade and Sustainable Development Chapter of the EVFTA.

Meanwhile, the draft revised Labour Code was published in late April for public consultation. Some significant changes include workers’ right to join or form a representative organization of their own choosing, definition of sexual harassment in the workplace, and removing prohibition of women from doing certain jobs. The bill also improved some provisions for better protection against anti-union discrimination and interference in unions, clearer processes of collective bargaining, better protection against forced labour and debt bondage, and clearer rules on the employment of minors at different ages.

At the workshop co-organized by MoLISA and ILO, the representative of the European Commission also provided updates on the EVFTA. According to Tuininga, the agreement is expected to be signed this summer and submitted to the European Parliament in the second half of the year.

* This story is a product of the European Union-funded project on Promoting the application of ILO Fundamental Conventions under the framework of EU – Viet Nam Free Trade Agreement. Its contents do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union.