IR Project

VGCL's Pilot Review Meeting 20-21 June 2016

Under the cooperation framework between Vietnam General Confederation of Labour (VGCL) and International Labour Organization (ILO), Pilot Programme phase II has been carrying out since 2014. In the third year of implementation, some major achievements have gradually been gained by the restless efforts of 05 pilot implementing units (PIUs) and guidance of VGCL’s Working party and IR Project Office. These pilot initiatives cover 69 grassroots trade unions (GTUs)/enterprises employing above 65.000 workers in various industries (garment, footwear, wood processing, mechanics, electronics, and tourism).

The key achievements might be highlighted as follows:
  • New approaches and methods of ‘bottom up’ in union organizing has been scaled up beyond the framework of a pilot initiatives in the targeted provinces, especially in Hai Phong and Dong Nai, where ‘bottom-up’ becomes the major approach of organizing workers;
  • Pilot initiatives in strengthening the shop-floor-level work and structure of GTUs through active support and coordination of upper-level trade unions, including rebuilding GTUs and process of dialogue and collective bargaining at enterprises affected by wild-cat strikes or non-functioning trade union structure: 42 GTUs with over 50,000 workers;
  • Pilot initiative in local-sectoral coordinated collective bargaining and wage negotiations, for either multi-employer bargaining has achieved some milestone success. Da Nang PIU signed its ME-CBA among 04 enterprises in hospitality sector in January 2016 and Ho Chi Minh PIU also concluded ME-CBA among 04 enterprises in garment sector. Hai Phong and Dong Nai are both in good track. Hopefully, the Hai Phong’s ME-CBA will be concluded in 19th June and Dong Nai’s one will be signed in this year. Remarkably, in the signed ME-CBA of Da Nang and log of demands of Hai Phong and Dong Nai embraces a number of favourable contents such as wage and bonuses increase, parental leaves, and many other incentives (including facilitation for trade union activities for both trade union officers and workers).
However, through process of implementation, there are difficulties emerging in all kinds due to the first experiment of all PIU in applying the ‘bottom-up’ approach in organizing and collective bargaining. The trade union executive committee members elected by workers tend to be more independent and autonomous than the appointed HR manager as trade union, in term of employers’ interference and domination into trade union activities. A common practice learnt from international experience is that ‘…the more grassroots unions […] aimed at defending the interests of the workers will develop, the more there is a risk that a number of employers will be tempted to adopt an anti-union behaviour, often in the form of threat, harassment or dismissal, against workers forming, leading or joining a grassroots union’.

So in the case of GTUs that established with ‘bottom-up’ method, there are several questions might be asked: (1) whether performance of those unions are better off than the trade union organized by traditional approach of ‘top down’; (2) whether there are unfair labour practices against those GTUs or not; (3) if yes, how to help trade union officers and workers at workplace to identify and response quickly and properly to these acts; (4) and role of upper-level trade union and other level of trade union in deferring and dealing with these behaviours of employers.

The new report of ‘Identifying and responding to Unfair Labour Practices against Trade Unions and Workers in Vietnam’ conducted by Institute of Workers and Trade Union under the support of ILO, those questions will be partly answered and explained. And in the concert with this important report, the empirical experiment of our pilot GTUs might contribute useful practices and lesson learnt regarding to this issues.

In the broader context, the interference and discrimination of employers against trade union will be treated more strictly and strongly in order to meet TPP commitments relating labour issues. On this end, trade union (VGCL and its affiliated trade unions in the system) must have its capacity built to response effectively to all kinds of unfair labour practices and the legislation must provide sufficient protection for trade union officers as well as strict sanctions against the violations. These improvements must be placed in an integrated efforts of VGCL to change and reform successfully in a systematic manner.

To support for the coming reforms of VGCL as well as other partners in light of TPP and EU-Vietnam FTA, ILO has produced the Draft Proposal for the Next Generation of ILO Technical Cooperation Projects on Trade, Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, and Industrial Relations (TFIR) in Vietnam, which focus not only on VCGL – a key actor and party in IR systems – but also governmental institutions and other social partners, to reform IR model and develop a sound and harmonious IR.

The IR Project is concluding in September 2016 and a significant challenge remaining is capturing the rich lessons and experiences from the pilots for the understanding and policy response from the VGCL, from government and also from the employers. The meeting will therefore prepare for the final stage of the pilots including evaluation activities and discuss how to promote their lessons and outcomes within VGCL and to broader stakeholders.

Those four aforementioned contents will be discussed in this Review Meeting, organized on 20th – 21st June 2016 in Do Son, Hai Phong with participants from all PIUs, VGCL, MoLISA, independence researchers and ILO representatives.