04th August 2012
CPVW’s Trung Doan was interviewed by SBS Radio’s Michael Kenny after his labor-rights group’s Australian branch organised a demonstration in Sydney against Vietnam’s fake union VGCL on 02nd August 2012. Below is our transcript. Download SBS’ audio here.
– – – “VGCL works with the police to track down [strike-leaders] so that they are sacked by employers, arrested by police, and some of them are jailed”
– – -“one important thing ACTU can do is to change APHEDA’s charter to advocate for and help groups that fight for their industrial rights”
DOAN: We saw VGCL’s visit to Australia as an opportunity to inform the public and union officials about the real nature of Vietnam’s fake union VGCL. I think we succeeded in that objective, we distributed about a thousand leaflets, many of those went to and were read by officials who work at the Trades Hall building in Sydney.
SBS: What are some of the day-to-day obstacles that union officials face in the workplace in Vietnam?
DOAN: There are no union officials in Vietnam at all. There’s a fake union called VGCL, they call themselves a union but their role is to ensure that workers cannot form unions. Their website says openly that they were formed by the Communist Party and they are there to serve the Communist Party. Last year when an office of the National Assembly – equivalent to our Parliament – tried to amend the law to allow workers to elect their own representatives, VGCL vehemently opposed and killed that proposal. And VGCL also works with the police to track down any worker who tries to organise a strike so that they are sacked by employers, arrested by police, and some of them are jailed. So, by name, VGCL is a union, but there is no union and no union officials, there are only labor rights activists who must work underground to avoid arrests.
SBS: And what actions can those organisations realistically take to try and change the current arrangements?
DOAN: They are taking a practical approach by trying to help factory by factory. The labor rights activists that my group knows about and works with, they go to individual factories and help workers there to advocate for their own rights. Sometimes it’s by putting together a petition to the bosses. Usually in desperation they have to organise strikes, because when you don’t have a representative committee usually you have to strike before the employer would take notice of you. So, in Vietnam, industrial relations is a very extreme thing: Either you as workers have to accept whatever conditions employers give you and you make do with poor wages and bad working conditions, or you rise up and strike. There’s no in-between because there’s no means for negotiations.
SBS: And what roles can the ACTU and, more broadly, the international labor organisations play to try and improve workers’ rights in Vietnam?
DOAN: The ACTU has an overseas aid body called APHEDA. Now, you would think that the overseas aid body of a union movement would focus on industrial rights, that is, the right of workers to have their own unions and to collectively bargain with employers. You’d think that that’d be APHEDA’s role, because otherwise it’d be just another aid organisation. But in fact APHEDA’s role is only to give aid and to educate, it’s not to advocate for workers’ industrial rights. So, I think one key important thing the ACTU can do is to change APHEDA’s charter so that it becomes an organisation that advocates for and helps groups that fight for their industrial rights.