RFA, July 1, 2020
The Vietnam Independent Union (VIU), founded by a group of people from many different professions, announced its debut on July 1, 2020. VIU President Bui Thien Tri gave RFA an interview about this newly established independent union organization.
First of all, Mr. Bui Thien Tri said about the context and purpose of VIU’s establishment:
Mr. Bui Thien Tri: Currently, Vietnam has joined or signed many free trade agreements, especially CPTPP (Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership) and more recently EVFTA (European Union-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement). In order to participate in these trade agreements, the Vietnamese Government must accept the conditions of workers’ rights. In particular, there is the right to establish free trade unions. And recently, Vietnam’s National Assembly also passed a new Labor Code. In particular, there are provisions on the right to establish a representative organization of workers at the grassroots level; that is to say, it is a union.
In the context of Vietnamese workers’ knowledge of the law, their rights are very limited and these regulations are very new, as well as the lack of access to legal regulations. Therefore, we want to launch in order to disseminate the provisions of the law on workers ‘rights, as well as to support workers in establishing workers’ representative organizations in enterprises. This is the main purpose of establishing the VIU.
RFA: Currently, the VIU is officially operated under the recognition of the Vietnamese Government or not?
Mr. Bui Thien Tri: In Vietnam, we now organize this model based on Vietnam’s Constitution on the right to establish civic associations. Regarding the legal framework for the establishment of this organization, at present, there is no law on associations in Vietnam, or it is still in the drafting process. Although the new Labor Law has been passed, it has not yet taken effect. And the decree under this Law stipulates that the Government will issue a decree to guide the organization of grassroots workers. However, up to now, this decree has not been issued.
Meanwhile, the current regulations on association in Vietnam are also very limited. And according to these regulations, only one association can be organized in each field. Currently, the Vietnam General Confederation of Labor is the organization of workers. Therefore, if other associations have the same purpose and want to apply for the establishment, it will be very difficult. Therefore, we are currently not registered with the government. We hope that in the future when there are legal provisions on the establishment of workers’ organizations, we will have the opportunity to register with the government.
RFA: Regarding interaction with workers and working people in Vietnam, is VIU oriented as well as ways to support or disseminate legal information for workers?
Mr. Bui Thien Tri: At present, we set immediate operational goals: Firstly, to disseminate the provisions of Vietnamese law as well as international treaties that Vietnam has acceded to regarding the rights of workers, as well as workers’ right to form a union. The second is to provide legal advices for employees on issues related to workers’ rights as well as other legal issues. The third is to support workers in enterprises on the establishment of their representative organizations under the new Labor Law, if those who need advice on the procedures for establishment. In addition, we provide information on the situation of workers, labor and employment on the Internet.
We now have a website and a Facebook page with the same name ‘Vietnam Independent Union’. And, we also have a section on legal advice for workers.
We hope that through these channels, we will have access to workers and will assist them in labor rights issues in Vietnam.
Because currently the VIU has not been officially recognized by Vietnam’s Government s, VIU anticipates that such activities will encounter any obstacles from the government?
Mr. Bui Thien Tri: We have also posed problems as well as difficulties in the immediate future, because anyway, an organization established without government recognition, there are things that the authorities will not support, if not to say that they may be prevented.
As we have said, VIU’s establishment was based on the right of citizens to association enshrined in the Constitution for the benefit of the community, as well as to assist workers and workers. Therefore, we think we will operate within the framework of the law of Vietnam. And, those things we think are only beneficial to society without affecting the interests of the government.
Therefore, we hope that VIU’s activities will be well received and workers in Vietnam will support us.
RFA: In the context of Vietnam signing new generation trade agreements such as EVFTA and CPTPP, VIU intends to connect with other unions; in particular the trade unions of the member states of the two Agreements mentioned above; to learn or exchange experiences in union activity?
Mr. Bui Thien tri: Firstly, on the domestic side, through the study of the Labor Code 2019, we find that in terms of union regulations in Vietnam, the law now provides for the right to form trade unions at facility. That is, it has not allowed the establishment of an association between grassroots unions. However, there is no provision in the law that prohibits this. If understood according to the provisions of law, what is not prohibited by law, citizens have the right to do. We hope that in the future, grassroots unions in Vietnam will be established, we will have the opportunity to work together to support each other to operate effectively.
On the foreign side, we also expect the trade unions of the countries as well as international organizations, if possible, to support and coordinate with us to implement each other’s work effectively. and coherent.
We look forward to the union organizations at home and abroad to contact and cooperate with us to develop together.
RFA: Thank you very much for the time of Mr. Bui Thien Tri to share with Radio Free Asia about the Vietnamese Independence Union.