Independent trade unions’ establishment permitted when the Labor Law took effect from Jan 1, 2021?

Workers went on strike at Chi Hung company, Binh Duong province at the end of May 2020

No decree for the Labor Code 2019 has been issued by the government so far.

Vietnam’s revised Labor Code was passed by the National Assembly, on November 20, 2019, with an almost absolute approval rate of 90.6% and took effect from January 1, 2021.

The Labor Code 2019 has 17 chapters, 220 articles and there are 10 new articles that apply to employees and 6 articles for businesses that use employees.

Workers in Vietnam look to the 2019 Labor Code to be enforced in 2021 because the new law under Chapter 8 provides for grassroots worker representative organizations in addition to the state-controlled Vietnam General Confederation of Labor.

However, as noted by the Vietnam Independent Union (VIU), an independent trade union established in Vietnam in July 2020, the new law only provides a framework for the organization representing people. workers at the grassroots level and detailed regulations will be issued by the Government.

Mr. Bui Thien Tri, President of VIU, on the evening of January 7, further explained to RFA regarding this information.

The Labor Code 2019 does not specify the procedures and conditions for the establishment of representative organizations for employees in enterprises but assigns the Government to regulate in detail such things. But until January 1, 2021, when the Labor Code took effect, the Government has not yet issued decrees guiding the conditions and procedures to establish grassroots representative organizations. Currently, employees who want to exercise that right do not have a legal basis to exercise them.”

The Chairman of VIU said that this organization recognized that until the end of December 31, 2020, the number of legal documents guiding the Labor Code 2019 was only counted on the fingers instead of having to issue over 20 documents as planned. Even, the decree regulating the representative organization of employees and a number of other decrees have not been published for consultation in accordance with the Law on Promulgation of Legal Documents.

VIU’s chairman said that one of the reasons that could lead to the delay in the issuance of decrees by the Government of Vietnam is the use of time incentives as committed in the two new-generation trade agreements named CPTPP and EVFTA.

In Vietnam’s commitment to joining CPTPP and EVFTA, it also commits to fully exercise the rights of workers according to the standards of the International Labor Organization (ILO). However, in those agreements, Vietnam was also given some time to prepare. For example, according to EVFTA, Vietnam commits until 2023 to join Convention 87. And for the CPTPP, Vietnam has about 3 to 5 years to amend and enact domestic laws to match with international regulations. It is possible that Vietnam is applying these incentives, so it has not promptly issued the provisions under the law to implement the provisions of the Labor Code.”

The employee is working at a textile company.

The establishment of grassroots trade unions does not need to wait for a decree

Meanwhile, lawyer Dang Dung, formerly working at the Department of Labor, War Invalids, and Social Affairs of Ho Chi Minh City, is a researcher on legal issues related to establishing an independent trade union at an enterprise. On the evening of January 7, he told RFA that this new regulation will be implemented immediately from the effective date of the 2019 Labor Code on January 1, 2021, without waiting for a decree or a guiding circular.

Usually there is such a law, Vietnam will have decrees to regulate that matter. If the Labor Code says ‘The law’s implementation will be detailed in another decree,’ then wait according to the decree. If the law did not say, it has immediate legal effect. That is, there is a sentence in the law about that ‘there will be a decree regulating relations in the establishment of the independent trade union’… then we have to wait for the decree, wait for the circular implementation. If there is no such sentence, it must be understood that the law comes into force from the moment it comes into force.”

Lawyer Dang Dung added that related to this issue, the relevant agencies of the State of Vietnam have been trained and ready to coordinate with representatives of the grassroots independent trade unions.

We must be happy and together with the government to do this job well. It’s not good not to do it spontaneously and claim it incorrectly. First, I think it is necessary to have a lawyer knowledgeable about this and then come to work with the authorities and which units they want to have it. They should meet a lawyer who must know the law to a great place, so they should meet the labor department. And, I think they are waiting for us so that they can work on this issue at the provincial labor departments or in the local districts.”

The General Statistics Office of Vietnam, on January 6, held a press conference and announced that in 2020, Vietnam has more than 32 million people aged 15 and over who are unemployed, have to take time off work or take turns, reduce hours, income reduction and losses caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The total number of unemployed last year was 1.3 million. Particularly in the fourth quarter, there were about 1.2 million unemployed people, an increase of nearly 137 thousand people over the same period in 2019. The average income of workers in Vietnam in 2020 would be VND5.5 million/month, down 2.3% compared to 2019.

Radio RFA asked VIU that the situation of workers in Vietnam facing difficulties due to the COVID-19 epidemic in 2020, according to the above statistics, did they received any help from the Vietnam General Confederation of Labor, the sole agent of current employees or not. Mr. Bui Thien Tri said:

I think to some extent, the Vietnam General Confederation of Labor has activities to help workers in meeting difficulties caused by epidemics. However, the support is just limited to a certain extent, but the difficulties of the workers, they still face a lot as we still receive complaints about them being owed wages or lose their jobs without the provisions of the law and they also do not receive timely assistance from the grassroots trade unions, as well as the local labor-management agency.”

As for VIU, being an independent trade union established with the purpose of supporting employees in exercising the rights specified in the law, it is also limited in supporting workers during the epidemic occurring in 2020.

Mr. Bui Thien Tri told RFA that VIU is not subject to “grassroots representative organization” and because regulations on the organization’s activities are left open in the law. Therefore, there are no conditions for it to legally register operations with competent state agencies in Vietnam. (Translated)


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