The ITUC does not have an affiliate in Vietnam.
Freedom of association / Right to organise
The law prohibits anti-union discrimination, but does not provide adequate means of protection against it.
Restrictions on workers' right to form and join organisations of their own choosing:
- Single trade union system imposed by law and/or a system banning or limiting organising at a certain level (enterprise, industry and/or sector, regional and/or territorial, national)
- The new Law on Trade Unions provides for a centralized system, named "democratic centralism" (Art. 6.1), where the trade union movement is placed under the leadership of the Communist Party of Vietnam (Art. 1 and 6.2) and trade union activities are regulated by the "Statutes of the Vietnamese Trade Unions", a document adopted by the National Congress of Vietnamese Trade Unions, which provides for guidelines, goals, organization and operation principles and organizational structure of trade unions at all levels, and also regulates the rights and responsibilities of their affiliates (Art.4.8, 5.2 and 6.2). At the top of this structure is the Vietnam General Confederation of Labor (Art. 7).
Restrictions on trade unions' right to organise their administration:
- Restrictions on the right to freely organise activities and formulate programmes
- The new Law on Trade Unions provides for very detailed rules on the manner the trade unions funds and assets shall be managed (Art. 27 and 28).
Categories of workers prohibited or limited from forming or joining a union, or from holding a union office:
- Non-national or migrant workers
- According to the new Law on Trade Unions, only Vietnamese workers may establish, join or operate a trade union (Art. 5).
Right to collective bargaining
Restrictions on the principle of free and voluntary bargaining:
- Imposition of fixed and unreasonable procedural requirements (e.g. short time-limits for reaching an agreement)
- The new Labour Code, Art. 71, provides for a very detailed procedure for conducting collective bargaining.
Limitations or ban on collective bargaining in certain sectors:
- Other civil servants and public employees
- A civil servant shall have the right of membership to a trade union for employees of the civil service or to any other organisation representing the interests of civil servants. However, the legislation is silent about their right to collective bargaining (Law that approves the Statute of the Civil Service, No. No. 8/2004, as amended by Law No. 5/2009).
Right to strike
Barriers to lawful strike actions:
- Excessive representativity or minimum number of members required to hold a lawful strike
- The Labour Code requires that more than 50% of the workers agree with the plan of the union executive committee to go on strike (Art. 213)
- Excessively long prior notice / cooling-off period
- At least five working days prior to the starting day of the strike, the trade union executive committee shall send the strike decision to the employer, at the same time send one copy to the provincial State management agencies on labor, one copy to the provincial trade union. At the time the strike starts, if the employer does not accept to settle the requirements of the labor collective, the trade union executive committee shall organize and lead the strike (Article 213 Labour Code).
- Compulsory recourse to arbitration, or to long and complex conciliation and mediation procedures prior to strike actions
- Trade unions have the right to go on strike only after the exhaustion of a procedure of mediation (Labour Code, Art. 206-209)
- Other undue, unreasonable or unjustified prerequisites
Workers who take part in strikes that do not have government approval risk sanctions, but the conditions to be met for organising a strike legally are so restrictive it is almost impossible to respect them. There was a huge increase in the number of illegal strikes during the year from 423 the previous year to nearly 1000 in 2011. Most strikes are linked to the fact that workers wages have not kept up with inflation, which reached 18%.
In its latest report the ILO’s Better Work-Vietnam project notes that of the 78 factories involved in its programme, three have refused to reinstate all eligible workers after a strike, and one factory punished workers who went on strike.
From 24-29 June, over 90,000 workers at the Pou Yuen shoe factory which supplies major footwear brands such as Adidas, went on strike to demand better wages. Several sources reported that workers were arrested and/or dismissed following their action.
Unions affiliated to the Vietnam General Confederation of Labour (VGCL) have limited scope for collective bargaining given the management domination of the union in many enterprises. Recently, the VGCL statutes were amended in order to limit certain high-ranking managers from serving as union leaders. In its last report, the ILO’s Better-Work Vietnam project pointed out that in three quarters of the factories involved in its programme it is not possible for the union to meet with the workers without management being present.
The government blocks access to politically sensitive sites. Internet cafe managers are required to monitor and record their customers’ online activity. In April, the Hanoi People’s Committee (the city’s executive organ) issued a legal decision that all internet cafes must install monitoring software approved by the authorities, prohibiting the use of the internet to “call for illegal demonstrations, boycotts, unlawful gatherings for grievances and complaints”.
The ability of unions that are affiliated to the Vietnam General Confederation of Labour (VGCL) to effectively bargain with management is handicapped by the fact that at many private enterprises, VGCL representatives are either considered by the workers to be close to management or are actually management officials.
Workers do not have the right to form or join a trade union that is not affiliated to the Vietnam General Confederation of Labour (VGCL), the official labour confederation controlled by the Communist Party. A new generation of trade unionists is emerging however, who do not have such close links to the party, notably in the post and telecommunications sector.