During the first nine months of this year, it is estimated that there have been over 55 cases of collective labor disputes in Ho Chi Minh City, among them 45 involving in workers’ low income and employers’ inappropriate benefit policies. With employees increasingly dissatisfied by stable salaries and rising living costs, what can employers do to avoid the risk of strikes?
|A strike takes place at a company in Ho Chi Minh City|
In May 2007, workers of Silver Star Co. in Tan Binh District decided to go on strike when they learned that the board of management of Pou Yuen Co., in the same district, offered its employees a five-percent pay rise, while Silver Star Co. only granted them a two-percent raise.
Prior to striking, the chairman of the Company’s Trade Union decided to have a dialogue with the board. He persuaded the workers to put off the strike until results of the dialogue were obtained.
After listening to the chairman’s detailed analyses of the risk of a strike and the workers’ daily financial difficulties due to the increasing cost of living, the board of Silver Star finally agreed to offer the workers a five-percent pay rise. The strike did not take place as it was supposed to, as the board decided to listen to the workers’ legitimate claims.
“Not many employers have taken initiative in raising salaries and benefits for their employees despite the higher cost of living,” said Mr. Nguyen Huy Can, Chairman of the HCMC Trade Union.
He pointed out that the trade unions in industrial zones and export and processing zones have been working regularly with companies to try to reduce the night shifts, raise salaries and bonuses, and improve the quality of meals for employees; yet, many of their suggestions have been ignored by the employers.
Consequently, to protect their rights and interests, the workers have had no choice but to strike.
Mr. Can added that most strikes will end if the employers satisfy the workers’ legitimate claims; however, he stressed that the employers need to maintain open dialogues with employees in order to avoid the frustration that leads to strikes. This is in the employers’ best interests, as striking costs businesses significant money in lost revenue.
According Mr. Dang Ngoc Tung, Chairman of the Viet Nam General Trade Union, local authorities play an important role in controlling the risk of strikes.
He emphasized that if local authorities have created favorable conditions for entrepreneurs’ investments, they also have to ensure good working conditions for local workers by closely monitoring the implementation of labor regulations.
In effort to reduce the risk of strikes in the future, the Viet Nam General Trade Union will submit a policy on annual pay increases to the Government for approval, under which the inflation and costs of living will be taken into account to ensure a satisfactory income for workers.
Additionally, the Viet Nam General Trade Union will amend the Trade Union Law, in which more policies to protect employees acting as trade union chairmen will be added. The additional protections should assist the chairperson in representing workers when carrying out dialogues or negotiations with employers.