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Vietnam - on the road to a living wage

19 March, 2015With a systematically rising minimum wage, Vietnam is well on its way to achieving a living wage. But collective bargaining and labour relations with foreign companies remain a challenge.

In January 2015, the Vietnamese government raised the minimum wage by 15 per cent to US$ 145 per month. This was a result of research and a consultation process through a tripartite National Wage Council.

According to studies, the minimum wage now covers 75 per cent of living costs, and increases will continue in the coming years. Reaching a living wage is a priority for the government and the trade unions, as well as a key global campaign of IndustriALL.

On a recent visit to Vietnam, IndustriALL General Secretary Jyrki Raina, said:

“With a systematic tripartite minimum living wage program, Vietnam sets a good example to other countries in Asia for boosting purchasing power, economic growth and creation of new jobs.”

IndustriALL’s three affiliates, Vietnam National Union of Coal and Mining Workers, Vietnam National Union of Oil and Gas Workers and Vietnam National Union of Workers in Industry and Trade (VUIT) represent almost 400,000 workers. They are all affiliated with the only existing trade union centre, the Vietnam General Confederation of Labour (VGCL).

The unions and Vietnam’s deputy labour minister Pham Minh Huan told IndustriALL about ongoing talks to ratify ILO conventions on the right to organize, collective bargaining and forced labour.

“The adoption by Vietnam of the ILO conventions 87, 98 and 105 which are key to safeguarding workers’ rights, would send a positive signal around the world”, said Jyrki Raina.

Vietnam’s National Union of Textile and Garment Workers is preparing an application to join IndustriALL. The situation in the sector highlights the structural difficulties that the unions are trying to solve.

The Textile and Garment Workers’ Union represent 120,000 workers, but there are more than 3 million workers in the booming textile, garment, shoe and leather industry. At the moment, the VGCL provincial and city organizations organize workers in foreign-owned enterprises and joint ventures. 

A number of foreign investors refuse the respect workers’ rights, which led to almost 300 strikes in 2014.

Korean electronics giant Samsung fought organizing and gave up only after a strong intervention by the Vietnamese government, which allowed VGCL to set up local unions at Samsung factories.

VGCL and its affiliates have an ambitious organizing target to raise the total union membership from 8.5 million to 10 million by 2018.   

IndustriALL supports organizing and collective bargaining through a regional union building program. In this context, five workshops will be held in this year Vietnam to increase the affiliates’ capacity.

“New laws on democratic processes, including social dialogue in the workplace, facilitate our task. But there is still a lot to do; to build capacity for democratically elected union representatives, negotiate strong collective agreements and defend the interests of workers”, concluded Jyrki Raina.