Vietnam: 6,000 workers involved in wildcat strike at clothing factory

Various striking workers gather around a central courtyard.

Inhumane conditions and low wages have led to approximately 6,000 workers going on strike at a garment factory in Thanh Hoa province, Vietnam.

The strike started on Wednesday 6th September after a supervisor confiscated the offcuts of fabric workers used for comfort during their lunch break and instead made them lie down on the ground. Initially around 2,000 workers stopped working but they were later joined by almost 4,000 other factory workers to protest the company’s current policies.

Demands included:

• Increased wages
• Child benefits
• Seniority bonuses
• Introduction of travel expenses
• Adequate maternity leave
• Reasonable working hours
• Scrapping penalties for absence from work

Currently the factory workers are penalised for taking sick leave or other emergency absences. At the moment, if an employee needs to take leave due to bereavement or sickness they are required to inform the company three days in advance. There is only one day of paid leave per month.

The supervisor responsible for the incident on Wednesday has since been fired, and the company has agreed to consider some of the worker’s demands after meeting with the Thanh Hoa General Confederation of Labor and Thach Thanh District authorities.

Currently, all Vietnamese workers are required to join the union of the Vietnam General Confederation of Labor, a government-run organisation which rarely condones strike action. As a consequence, nearly all strikes in the country are unauthorized wildcat strikes. While strikes have been legal in Vietnam since 1994, no strike has ever actually been treated as legal. There are several bureaucratic hoops involved in registering a strike with the state-led union, hampered by the fact that in many cases the union representative is not a worker but a member of company management.

The company has been identified as an affiliate of Sae-A Trading, a South Korean clothing manufacturer.

References

For more information on the history of Vietnamese strike action, see Eric Bell’s article ‘Đình công tự phát: wildcat strikes in post-socialist Vietnam’ (http://chuangcn.org/2017/05/dinh-cong-tu-phat-wildcat-strikes-in-post-socialist-vietnam/)