The conditions of workers in Export processing zones in Vietnam

We publish this article from the Vietnamese press, translated for In Defence of Marxism by one of our Vietnamese correspondents which shows the conditions Vietnamese workers face in the Export Processing Zones through the example of the strike at the Tan A company in Ho Chi Mihn City.

Strike at the Tan A company

Over 300 workers at the Tan A company go on strike and raise demands

On 26 December 2000, over 300 workers at the Tan A company went on strike and demanded that their interests be respected and that the contradictions which have built up over a prolonged period be resolved. After 3 days of being on strike, at noon on the 28th December all the problems still remain unsolved on the part of the responsible bodies.

Avenge workers' representatives

Tan A, in the Binh Chieu Industrial Zone of Thu Duc district of Ho Chi Minh City, is a company whose assets belong 100 per cent to the New Asia Industries Group that produces packing bags. According to the workers, up to 1998, every year the company performed quite well paying the end-of-year bonus. However, from the date that Joseph Cheung became the General Manager, everything changed. As of 26th December 2000 the company still had not paid the workers their end-of-year bonus, (the Tet money) as it had done in previous years. Having lost their patience, the workers sent their representatives and team leaders to talk with the management board to pose their demands.

However, the workers' demands were not met. The reason given was that this year the company is loss-making. After two years without wage increases, all bonus payments cut, extra-shifts demanded uninterruptedly, the workers could bear it no more, so they all went on strike.

To retaliate against workers, on 27th December 2000, Joseph Cheung asked the company guards to prevent the 12 workers' representatives who had presented the demands from entering the company. The reason given was that "they had not come to the factory to work." Joseph Cheung has also warned that he will no longer sign any labour contracts with any of those 12 workers. The 12 workers' representatives will be fired.

It is worth noting that Joseph Cheung's reasoning is incredible. During the 3-day strike ALL the workers did not work, the company was paralysed, but he decided that only the 12 workers' representatives had not gone to the factory to work.(?!)

Violations of labour laws

Also, throughout the last year the company has been pressurising the workers remorselessly to do extra shifts. The workers have had to work almost double shifts of sixteen hours a day. At the very least the workers have had to work an extra 100 hours a month. But according to the Labour Law, extra-shifts must not exceed 200 hours a year, or four hours a day. "No one dare to resist because two workers who refused to work an extra-shift, just the day after, were sent to another section. The move to this section meant a greater burden of toil than their strength could cope with. After some time, these two workers could not stand it any more. The company gave them a hint that they should then get out of the company" workers revealed.

At present, typical wages of Tan A workers are below 700,000 VND per month, lower than the minimum wage. Overtime rates are totally imposed by the company, not by agreement with workers, as stipulated by the law. A strike of over 300 workers of the Tan A company, which is now in its third day, remains unsettled. On 28 Dec 2000 representatives of the Management Board of Industry Zone, and of the Ho Chi Minh Export Product Zone, reached a deal with the Tan A company but the results were kept secret. Tan A refused to meet any journalists. The future of over 300 workers is still uncertain, though the year is ending and the Tet holiday is approaching.

reported by Dang Ngoc

Translated from Lao dong (29 Dec 2000) by Nguyen Ky