5 – No guarantee of rights
The ITUC Global Rights Index


The ITUC does not have an affiliate in Vietnam.

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Vietnam amends its Labour Code20-11-2019

The amended Labour Code was passed by the Vietnamese parliament on 20 November. The amendments introduce a dual model of labour representation through the official trade union, the VGCL and grassroots workers’ representative organisations (WROs) of workers’ own choosing. The WROs are registered under a different competent authority and can be invoked, but they are entitled to the same rights to recruit members, bargain collectively, represent members in disputes and to strike. However, the WROs are significantly deprived of the same rights as the official trade union exclusively enjoys, namely the right to consolidate upper level organisations, check off dues with the employers, and receive external and foreign financial support.

Ruling against striking workers22-05-2019

In May 2019, an appeals court in Long An Province, also in the Mekong Delta, made an important ruling regarding a strike that occurred at Giay Hung Nghiep, a Chinese-owned shoe factory back in August 2017. At the end of 2018, a district court had ruled that the company had illegally sacked nine workers for taking part in a half-day strike, which involved 28 workers demanding overtime, long-service payments, and skill bonuses. While noting that the strike had been illegal, the court ruled in favour of the workers, declaring that company’s illegal dismissals were much more serious than a half-day strike, and ordered the company to pay substantial compensation. The company appealed, and on 22 May 2019 the Long An provincial court overturned the ruling, stating that the workers had caused serious and substantial damage to the company, and had fomented disorder which threatened the safety of other workers and investors.

Labour activists sentenced to long prison terms for participating in 2018 protests21-05-2019

On 21 May 2019, the People’s Court of Binh Thuan Province held a trial against Dang Ngoc Tan and Pham Thanh, two protesters who had participated in mass demonstrations against the bills on Special Economic Zones and Cybersecurity on 10 and 11 June 2018 in Binh Thuan province. They were sentenced to 17 years and 11 years in prison, respectively, for “deliberate destruction of public property,” under Clause 4, Article 178 of the 2015 Criminal Code. The two had already been tried before under a different charge. On 26 September 2018, in a trial against 15 protesters, the People’s Court of Bac Binh district sentenced Pham Thanh to four years and six months in prison, and Dang Ngoc Tan to four years, for “disturbing public order,” under Article 318 of the 2015 Criminal Code, for their participation in the protest on 11 June 2018 in Phan Ri Thanh commune, Bac Binh district, Binh Thuan province. On 7 March 2019, Dang Ngoc Tan was also sentenced to three years in prison by the People’s Court of Tuy Phong district, also under Article 318,

for his participation in the protests on 10 June 2018 in Phan Ri Cua town and Hoa Minh commune, Tuy Phong district, Binh Thuan province.

In total, Dang Ngoc Tan and Pham Thanh were convicted to 24 and 15.5 years in prison, respectively. Dang Ngoc Tan is only 19 years-old. At the date of writing, 127 activists who had participated in the June 2018 protests have been either convicted or otherwise harassed for joining the protests. The sentences in this trial are believed to be the highest so far against those protesters.

In addition, Tan and Thanh also had to pay a compensation of 3.6 billion VND (154,210 USD) and more than 1 billion VND (42,836 USD), respectively, for burning four fire trucks and 12 police cars at the headquarters of the Binh Thuan Police’s Fire Fighting and Prevention Office during the protest on 11 June 2018, according to the indictment.

Violence has been one of the reasons the authorities have deployed to justify the harsh punishment against those protesters. Yet, Vietnamese activists themselves claim that the violence was actually started by the authorities, who sent their own people to mingle with the protesters to start or incite violent scenes in order to justify the use of harsher means to disperse the crowd, such as tear gas, water cannons, physical assaults, and arrests.

protests against a bill on special economic zones violently repressed by police forces23-06-2018

Over the weekend of 9-10 June 2018, tens of thousands of Vietnamese took to the streets across the country to protest two bills on cyber security and the creation of new special economic zones. The protest began with the participation of around 50,000 workers from the Pouchen footwear factory in Tan Tao industrial zone in Ho Chi Minh City, the biggest economic hub in the Southeast Asian nation.
Thousands of people gathered in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Danang, Nha Trang and other cities, chanting and carrying banners that read “Say no to bill on special economic zones”, “No land lease to China even for one day”” and “Cyber security law means silencing people”.
The protests showed how widespread the dissatisfaction is with systemic corruption, serious large-scale environmental pollution, deep social inequality, and the government’s weak response to China’s violations of Vietnam’s sovereignty in the resource-rich sea.
Vietnam’s security forces responded aggressively to the call for peaceful demonstrations. Authorities sent plainclothes agents and militia to private residences of local activists to prevent them from participating in the protests. Many activists said they had to leave their houses before the weekend and go into hiding to avoid being locked in by security forces.
On June 10, large numbers of police, militia and thugs were deployed to suppress the demonstrations, detaining hundreds of protesters and beating others. While police successfully suppressed small protests in Hanoi by noon, the rallies in Ho Chi Minh City and Nha Trang went until the early hours of Monday. Police in Ho Chi Min City deployed Long Range Acoustic Devices purchased from the United States to equip patrol ships of the Vietnam Coast Guard, which generates intense sound that can cause extreme physical pain and permanently damage hearing.
In Phan Thiet and Phan Ri, in the central province of Binh Thuan, police used tear gas and water cannons on local residents. One protester was knocked unconscious by the police, while over 500 protesters were detailed. Protesters were interrogated for hours. During their time in detention, they were beaten and their cell phones and other belongings were confiscated. Police released many detainees but still keep dozens of others, threatening to prosecute them on allegations of violating national security rules and “causing public disorders”.
With the law on special economic zones, Vietnam’s communist government wants to establish three zones — namely Van Don, Phu Quoc and Bac Van Phong — in strategic locations where foreign investors may be allowed to rent land for 99 years. Activists suspect that the bill is the first step to allow Chinese investors to acquire land and bring untrained Chinese workers to these locations.

Electronics company reneges on promise of union recognition11-04-2016

The Bluecom Vina Company in Hai Pong failed to live up to its promise of recognising the workers’ right to form a union. In response nearly 1,000 workers went on strike on 11 April 2016, demanding the right to organise, shorter working hours and higher pay. They were working 12 to 14 hour days, including every Saturday, for a monthly salary of VND 3,745,000 (USD 165), and instead of an hourly rate for overtime, they were only paid a flat rate of VND 100,000 (USD 4.50) per month. The strike was called off after the employer agreed to respect the working hours laid down in law, give the workers two Saturdays off a month and pay a monthly allowance of VND 450,000 (USD 20.2) per person

Labour rights activists detained and beaten23-11-2015

Labour rights activist Do Thi Minh Hanh was detained and beaten by police on 23 November. Hanh, co-founder of Free Viet Labour Federation, and another activist, Truong Minh Duc, were talking to workers who maintained they had been unlawfully fired by a foreign-owned company; they were talking to them to give support and advice. When the police came, they dragged Hanh away, hit her on the face and head, and put her in a choke hold. She was then held for 13 hours, without any charges being brought. Her personal belongings and leaflets advocating labour rights were confiscated.

Union leader dismissed, strikers beaten12-10-2015

Mr. Phan Sophat, the president of the Collective Union of Movement of Workers (CUMW) union local at Takeo shoes, a branch of Beautiful Spring, was dismissed on 30 September 2015. The dismissal followed his decision to leave the officially registered union and join the local CUMW branch, to voice the workers’ concerns. The employees went on strike in support of their grievances over working conditions, and to call for Phan Sophat’s reinstatement. The CUMW reported that the employer used strong arm tactics against the striking workers, bringing in the armed forces and hiring thugs to beat the strikers. On 10 October, management went to court for an injunction to order the strikers back to work.

Decree makes repression of strikes even easier15-01-2015

A decree on the implementation guidelines of the Vietnamese Labour Code, issued at the beginning of 2015, includes a section on the resolution of strikes that makes it even easier to declare strikes illegal. In reality, all strikes in Vietnam are technically illegal because of the stringent requirements - the dispute must relate to “interests”, in other words benefits that are beyond the labour contracts or are not legally binding on the employers. In the event of a dispute, a ballot is conducted, and only if more than 50 per cent of workers agree to go on strike may they legally proceed with their collective action
When an “illegal” strike breaks out, the employer is required to immediately report it to the district or municipal government and upper-level unions. However, the only legitimate trade union in Vietnam is the Vietnam General Confederation of Labour, which has branches across all administrative levels of the state. Leadership positions in upper-level unions are held by members of the Communist Party. Those branches are then in control of company unions in their areas. Employers often appoint leaders in company unions, sometimes with assistance from upper-level unions.

The union will examine the employer’s report and within 24 hours, the labour bureau will finalise its report and inform higher authorities. This process will end with the city or provincial government issuing an announcement that the strike has gone against legal procedures.

Under the new decree, the court has the power to rule over the lawfulness of strikes taken by the local government. Employers no longer need to lodge their paperwork with the court; they only need to report to the local authorities and can have the unlawful strike verdict issued within a day.

Once a strike has been settled, the employer will calculate damages and costs incurred in recovering from the strike. They will then proceed to request that the unions that organise strikes pay compensation.

40,000 detainees subjected to forced labour31-12-2011

People dependent on illegal drugs can be held in government detention centres where they are subjected to “labor therapy”. A Human Rights Watch (HRW) report condemns the abuses committed in these centres: detention without trial (routinely for as long as four years); beatings with truncheons, electric shocks and being deprived of food and water for infringement of the centre’s rules, including the requirement to work, etc. Some products produced as a result of this forced labour are exported, including to the United States and Europe. According to HRW, at the beginning of 2011 about 40,000 people were incarcerated in 123 centres of this type, including children.

Collective bargaining restricted 31-12-2011

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.

About 1000 illegal strikes31-01-2011

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.

Court proceedings lead to impasse31-12-2010

Workers wanting to claim respect for their rights in court face numerous obstacles, including the slowness and cost of the proceedings, or the absence of an employment contract.

Internet under surveillance to prevent calls for strike action31-12-2010

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”.

Drop in the number of wildcat strikes30-11-2009

Despite the restrictions on strike action, 216 wild cat strikes (illegal under the terms of the Labour Code) were carried out in 2009, which was 70% less than in 2008 according to government figures. This fall in the number of wildcat strikes was not due to an improvement in the workers’ situation however, but rather owing to their fear of losing their jobs in the wake of the world economic crisis. According to the government, most strikes took place in foreign-owned enterprises and were in protest at long working hours for low wages, as well as the violation of rights set out in the employment contract.

Union representatives often co-opted30-11-2009

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.

Court cases lead to dead end 30-11-2009

Workers who want to claim the respect of their rights in court face numerous obstacles, including the slowness and cost of the proceedings, and even the absence of an employment contract. When the Thu Duc (Ho Chi Minh City) district union wanted to bring a case on behalf of 70 workers at the Hai Vinh Co. factory against their management, it turned out that most of them did not have an employment contract, even though it is a legal obligation. In other cases employment contracts were signed, but the workers did not get a copy.

Official labour confederation criticised for its ineffectiveness 30-11-2009

Strikes in Vietnam are usually called by informal groups of workers, even where there is a VGCL (Vietnam General Confederation of Labour) union delegation. The local authorities and representatives of the official union usually try to hold negotiations between workers and management. However the VGCL mainly takes the interests of the government and the enterprise into account during negotiations. In February, several representatives of the authorities called for a review of the labour legislation in order to clarify the roles and responsibilities of the trade unions. The deputy-director of the Ho Chi Minh City Export Processing and Industrial Zone Authority (HEPZA) explained that workers go on wild cat strikes because the procedures for organising a legitimate strike were too complicated and because workers considered that strikes were the only way to claim their rights and that most of the local trade unions did not fulfil their role of representing members and protecting their rights.

No freedom of association30-11-2008

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.

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