Notes on 16/12/2010 meeting with APHEDA’s Peter Jennings and Ken Davis re. ACTU Resolution on Vietnam, and APHEDA’s Vietnam projects
Trung Doan, Secretary – CPVW
1) Requests by ACTU to Australian People for Health Education and Development Abroad (APHEDA)* (Visit families of Chuong-Hung-Hanh, the 3 labor advocates recently sentenced to up to 9 years; Seek to visit them in prison; Consider what else APHEDA could do)
- I asked Peter when the above visits might take place. Peter said that APHEDA’s Phillip Hazelton had informally raised the matter with the Australian Ambassador who said he was not going to meet their families or visit them in prison. As to Phillip himself, Peter said that the Vietnamese authorities told Phillip there would be issues regarding his visa and APHEDA’s permit to work in Vietnam if he visited the families. After this meeting, I told the families not to expect the visits, and they were quite disappointed.
- Peter also said that APHEDA must not be involved in political matters. I explained that the strike and leaflets were about workers’ rights. Just because the Vietnamese regime treats these activities as political does not mean they are. However, this didn’t change APHEDA’s mind.
APHEDA is proudly political about the Middle East, though. In the office there was an anti-Israel wall poster, and the APHEDA website’s description of the situation there is openly political.
2) APHEDA’s projects in Vietnam
- Most APHEDA projects are not about workers’ rights but are about charity or development: teaching work skills to AIDS or Agent-Orange sufferers, victims of trafficking, and training farmers on crop-management. All are worthwhile, but overlap with charities and ordinary aid agencies. Of course, most aid activities involve workers, but I thought a union aid body would focus on workers’ rights and interests — capacity-building for local unions, or helping workers to learn about their legal rights and advocacy techniques, etc.
- There are 2 projects about workers’ rights and interests:
· The OH&S project produced pamphlets, seminars, and OH&S training.
· The Corporate Social Responsibility project, Ken told me, gave 3 Vietnamese companies recognition under BSCI (Business Social Compliance Initiative) to export to Europe. This is troubling, because the project required factories to have a yellow “union” under VGCL’s umbrella. I explained that VGCL’s formal role and practical activities are aimed at preventing workers from organising. It actively discourages strikes, including putting officials and informers in large factories to prevent strikes. Some “union” officials even help police and employers to identify strike leaders, who are then interrogated and sacked. APHEDA said that it is well aware of VGCL’s role and actions.
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*Australian People for Health Education and Development Abroad (APHEDA) was established 25 years ago as the international aid agency of the ACTU.