Friday, March 21, 2014

And they dare call it socialism !

Article 25 of Vietnam's 2013 constitution guarantees the rights of freedom of speech, opinion, press and information. It also enshrines in law the rights to assemble, form associations and hold demonstrations.

In reality, Vietnamese citizens have no such liberties. Vietnam has not ratified the United Nations Convention of 1948 concerning freedom of association and protection of the right to organize, which came into force on July 4, 1950. Any gathering of five or more people requires permission from local authorities. A decree passed in 2005 prohibits any gatherings in front of state agencies, international conference venues, and the National Assembly. Vietnam has many government-sanctioned organizations (GSOs) but no independent non-government organizations. All GSOs, including religious organizations, must belong to the government or be affiliated with the state.

The Vietnam General Confederation of Labor (VGCL) is the sole national trade union in the country. All trade unions in Vietnam are required to affiliate with the VGCL, which is one of the mass movements of the state-affiliated Vietnamese Fatherland Front. VGCL leaders at both national and local levels are required by the state to be card-carrying Communist Party members.

 Critics say they are well-paid for serving company owners and protecting the interests of the ruling party rather than those of workers. Dr Do Quynh Chi, a labor expert, founder and director of the Research Center for Labor Relations, wrote in a 2008 research paper that it is not unusual for managers to become union leaders and employers to manipulate union elections.

Legally, any labor strikes must first get the VGCL's approval. However, VGCL has never in its history initiated, organized, or supported any worker strikes. All strikes in Vietnam are thus spontaneous and technically illegal. The Vietnamese government recently issued a new anti-labor decree that requires workers who participate in illegal strikes to compensate company owners for any loss caused by their work stoppage.

Beyond these legal restrictions, some of the harshest forms of labor exploitation are commonplace in Vietnam, including widespread reports of forced and child labor. These practices continue despite Vietnam's ratification of two International Labor Organization conventions regarding child labor and minimum wage payment for employment respectively in 2000 and 2003. Vietnamese law stipulates that the minimum age for employment is 18. However, children between the ages of 15-18 can work if employers get permission from parents and the Ministry of Labor, Invalids, and Social Affairs. The ministry, however, has very limited resources to enforce the laws, opening the way for widespread abuse. While education is compulsory and free through the age of 14, government officials seldom enforce the requirement.

Prisoners are routinely required to work hard labor for little or no pay. Cashew nut processing in harsh prison conditions is notorious for the use of abusive practices. Human Rights Watch has reported that forced labor has been used in drug rehabilitation centers across Vietnam, where inmates have to husk and peel cashews for six to seven hours a day for as little as US$3 a month. Inmates in other detention facilities, including prisoners of conscience, have also been pressed into cashew nut processing. Cashew exports earn the country approximately $1.5 billion a year.

The 2013 constitution guarantees all fundamental rights to Vietnam's citizens, including developed country standards for protection of workers. In practice, most Vietnamese workers suffer tremendously from low wages, long work days, no overtime pay, unhealthy working conditions, and lack of insurance and pensions. These are the reasons for rising labor unrest in Vietnam. The first wave of wildcat strikes in Vietnam occurred in 2005. Workers went on strike 400 times in 2006, 600 times in 2007, and 762 times in 2008. The frequency and intensity of these strikes was expected to intensify due to rising inflation beginning in 2009. By 2011, the number of strikes rose to 978, forcing employers, including foreign investors in textiles and garments, to pay higher wages. Still, the average Vietnamese factory worker must work at least 10 hours a day for six days a week just to earn on average $70 per month.

From here

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