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Vietnam Labour Update #77

Ngày đăng: 22/09/2020

Strike at Mai Lan Anh after sudden reduction in salaries: On September 17, hundreds of workers at this garment factory (in Ninh Hoa town, Khanh Hoa province, in south central Vietnam) went on strike after receiving August wages which were 15-30% lower than their usual monthly salaries. Workers were demanding full salaries and payment of social insurance. As reported in Lao Dong (Vietnamese), workers said that until now they were paid a time-rate, but upon receiving the August salaries the company announced that they were paying piece-rates. They had not told the workers before. One worker said that when they enquired about their lower wages, the team leader told them they had not produced enough that month so had only received 70-80% of salaries. Overtime payments had also been reduced. There are also other issues at the factory, such as not being given written contracts, social insurance not being paid, and forced overtime—if workers refuse they are either fired or locked in. Workers have also discovered that, while the company has been taking social insurance contributions from their salaries, these have not been paid to the social insurance fund.

After the strike broke out, authorities had meetings with workers and the company. Vu Xuan Thu, the company's deputy director, said workers were deliberately misunderstanding. He said that workers are paid a time-rate but that doesn't mean they can just sit down to receive their salaries; there are still quotas which need to be met. The company director, Nguyen Thi Oanh, said that the company's policies are appropriate, and that at the beginning of the year, 276/300 workers had written contracts. 130 of them have now left so there are 146 remaining. Workers, however, said that the real number of employees is nearly 500. The company owner said they would resolve workers' issues on a case-by-case basis. Le Ba Thuan, vice president of the Ninh Hoa People's Committee, said they would continue to investigate, and then report to the Khanh Hoa provincial DOLISA and People's Committee. He requested that the company pays workers correctly according to their salaries.

In 2017, there was also a strike at this factory over workers not being given written contracts. A representative of the local Ninh Hoa Labour Federation said that, at that time, they decided to inspect the whole company, but this could not be carried out. The Labour Federation is now requesting that this is done to protect workers' legitimate rights and interests, correctly implement the labour law, and harmonise both sides' interests.

P&F Vina update: An update on this case, discussed in newsletters #73, #74 and #76. 471 workers have now received 500,000 dong each in support from the local Labour Federation, totalling 235.5 million dong, according to Lao Dong (Vietnamese). There are just over 800 workers in total, and the Labour Federation is continuing to give this support to the other workers.

Multi-employer collective bargaining agreement (CBA) signed with 5 nursery schools: On the morning of September 18, the agreement was signed between Binh Tan District Labour Federation and the 5 nursery schools located in An Lac Ward, Binh Tan District, Ho Chi Minh City. Lao Dong (Vietnamese) reports that, according to the agreement, the salary for jobs requiring training or which are strenuous or dangerous will be 7%-9% higher than the regional minimum wage, salaries will be raised twice a year, workers will be given one day extra annual leave above the legal minimum and an extra day will be added every three years, and workers are entitled to extra days off if they or their children get married.

Employers ignoring court rulings: This week, Nguoi Lao Dong (Vietnamese) had a fairly detailed report into cases of employers ignoring court rulings in individual labour disputes. It details three recent cases. First, on August 27 2020, the Ho Chi Minh City court of appeal ruled that a company identified only as GM (in the city's District 6) had illegally terminated Nguyen Thi Them's labour contract. In addition to compensating her over 400 million dong, the ruling said that she must be reinstated from that day. The following day, Them arrived at the company to work, but the company refused. On August 29, they claimed that they had not received the ruling from the court, and requested Them not to cause a disturbance by coming to the company until they received the officially stamped ruling.

The same company exhibited similar behaviour in another case. At the end January 2019, the company told Nguyen Thi Ngoc Suong that she would be stopping work (they had previously said she would reach retirement age in March 2019), without any discussion. Suong took the company to court. On 19 May 2020, the court ruled that that Suong had been illegally terminated as she did not have enough years of social insurance payments, so should be reinstated. The company, however, then made her wait until July 14 before giving her any work, and would not pay her. They then gave her 5 days work before telling her to stop work again. They also split her salary into two parts—basic salary (4.8 million dong/month) and allowances (5 million/month)—and has only paid her the basic salary for the period she has been off work.

Third, a court has recently ruled that a company identified as BKTC (in Ho Chi Minh City's District 7) must pay Dang Ngoc Thanh Trang's social, health and unemployment insurance from August 21, 2018 to November 26, 2019 at the salary level of 32.5 million dong/month. The company however, has only paid the insurance at the level of 23.2 million dong/month. When Trang enquired as to why, the company replied that it is waiting for the court to explain why they have to pay at the 32.5 million dong level before doing so. The company had previously moved Trang to a different position with a much lower salary; the court initially ruled that she should be paid insurance at the 23.2 million dong salary level, before the appeal court raised this to the 32.5 million level.

The article says that these cases are quite common. Tran Huu Tin, a lawyer, says that if companies fail to comply with rulings they can be fined or criminally prosecuted. Nguyen Van Phuc, of the Ho Chi Minh City Bar Association, says, however, that the levels of these fines are quite low (3-5 million dong) so are not enough of a deterrence. In addition, court rulings usually do not include the condition that if a company does not comply with rulings to re-employ workers, they must still pay their salary. Phuc says they should include this.

13 stranded Vietnamese sailors return home: They had been stuck on a ship in Malaysian waters for nearly 6 months. As reported in VN Express International (English) and VN Express (Vietnamese), they flew back to Vietnam on September 14. The owner of the ship, Thuan Thien Ltd, based in Hai Phong in northern Vietnam, had abandoned them and not paid salaries or costs since May 26. A spokesperson from the National Union of Seafarers Peninsular Malaysia said that the ship could be sold as scrap, and some of their salaries recovered from the proceeds. This is part of a global trend; COVID-19 has led to a crew change crisis, with thousands of seafarers stranded on ships around the world beyond the end of their contracts. See this English-language press release from the International Transport Workers' Federation for more information.

10 jailed for organising 128 people to work in Taiwan illegally: As reported in a number of places including VN Express International (English) and Thanh Nien (Vietnamese), on September 15 a Ho Chi Minh City court sentenced the two leaders of the gang to 10 years each, while the others receive between 3 and 8 years. In December 2018, the gang arranged for 148 Vietnamese nationals to go to Taiwan on tourist visas, where they then disappeared, going to work illegally. All of the people were later found and sent back to Vietnam.

Nearly 60,000 file for unemployment benefits in Hanoi: The number of unemployment benefit applications has risen by 22% year-on-year as of September 10, as reported in a number of places including VN Express International (English) and Dan Sinh (Vietnamese).

Source: Vietnam Labour Update by Joe Buckley (joejbbuckley@gmail.com)

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