[CPVW 12th July 2011] There are unconfirmed reports that dozens of strike leaders have been arrested by the Vietnamese authorities after a strike from 21st to 28th June, at its peak involving all of the approximately 90 thousand workers at all Saigon factories of the Taiwan-owned shoe manufacturer Pou Yuen, an Adidas contractor.

Workers told CPVW today that they have heard of strike leaders’ arrests but have not obtained specific names. Some, they say, had distributed leaflets calling for wage increases. Last year the Vietnamese authorities jailed 3 strike leaders for up to 9 years for distributing similar leaflets. CPVW therefore holds grave fears for strike leaders.

According to official statistics, Pou Yuen has some 65,000 workers, but its workers told us that the real number is about 90,000.

CPVW MR - Huge strike by some 90,000 Pouyen shoe workers, some strike leaders arrested 12Jul2001PHOTOS: Workers streamed out to form large crowds. A company spokesperson shouted into a handheld loudspeaker, ordering workers to sit down. They ignored him. A female worker took the loudspeaker to vent her anger. Outside are some of the many police, uniformed and plainclothed, while people with dust masks ride by

Workers believe that plain-clothed police were sent in to try to identify strike leaders.

The media in Vietnam – all state-run – have avoided reporting about this strike.

Workers wanted a raise in the basic wage of 500,000 dong a month. On 28th June, company management agreed to raise the basic wage by 300,000 and the supplement payments by 200,000. Workers told us that on 10th August, when they next get their pay, they will know whether the company will again break its promises on supplements, as it has done previously.

CPVW is writing to Adidas’s Hongkong-based Regional Manager asking it to intervene. Adidas’ CSR policy demands that contract workers be treated with respect, but workers say they are treated “like buffaloes, like cows”. Adidas says it respects contract workers’ right to have their own unions, but Pou Yuen recognises only VGCL and works closely with this state-run organisation which actively works to neutralise workers’ collective strength.

In 2009, VGCL boasted that its 675 officials stationed throughout Pou Yuen’s huge factories have been successful in preventing large strikes.

CPVW’s Australia-based members are asking the Australian Council of Trade Unions to intervene. And our Europe-based members are doing the same with the International Trade Union Confederation.

CPVW is a member of Free Viet Labor Federation, the other members being groups of labor-rights advocates in Vietnam working silently to avoid imprisonments. Three such advocates – Chuong, Hung, and Hanh – are serving up to 9 years for helping organise a 10,000-strong strike last year at the shoe maker My Phong.