Friday, January 25, 2008

Vietnamese government unions

As unions and labor NGOs in the United States and elsewhere reevaluate the All China Federation of Trade Unions (see the new China Labour Bulletin report), here's some encouraging news via the Financial Times from Vietnam:

Workers have the right to unionise, though factory-level unions must affiliate with the Vietnam General Confederation of Labour, an arm of the Communist government. Traditionally, the federation was seen as doing little to help workers, especially in state-owned enterprises. "Like state-sponsored unions anywhere, their main purpose is industrial peace," Mr Pincus says.

In recent years, the confederation appears to have grown more responsive to its members. "They tend to try to work things out before it comes to strikes, but it isn't completely top-down," says Mr Pincus.

In theory, Vietnamese workers have a legal right to strike only if intensive efforts to resolve disputes through mediation have failed, and they obtain permission from senior union officials.

But in reality, illegal strikes are becoming more frequent, and sometimes have the tacit support of the labour bureaucracy.

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