FES has conducted an interview with Mr. Nguyen Van Thang, Representative from Trade Union of Dong Nai Industrial Zone to know more about the impacts of Covid-19 on the work of trade union.
1. Since the onset of Covid-19, what has changed for the trade union in Dong Nai Industrial Zone? Have your usual trade union undertakings been affected?
Covid-19 has been truly a global phenomenon, one that has affected every facet of society – the case of Vietnam is no exception.
Nevertheless, with the Vietnamese government implementing many drastic measures, thus far the spread of Covid-19 in the country has been efficiently controlled. Infection sources have been strictly kept from affecting the population especially during the recent social-distancing period when everyone was asked to stay home.
The region of Dong Nai, in the south of Vietnam and just to the east of Ho Chi Minh City, has recorded zero Covid-19 cases at the time of writing.
But have the activities of the Trade Union of Dong Nai Industrial Zone been affected? The answer is yes!
Firstly, we have been prioritizing preventative measures, such as the following:
- Providing local unions with instructions on communicating to union members and employees about the means of Covid-19-prevention (as recommended by medical authorities).
- Working with employers to: ensure safe working environments; provide face masks and hand sanitizers; check body temperature on a daily basis at work sites; practise distancing at entrances and within working sites; and re-arranging seating in canteens.
- Gathering information on individuals who have been in contact with suspected cases and are therefore at high risk of infection, and quarantining them in a timely manner.
- Working with businesses to maintain levels of production and trading.
- Instructing unions at workplace to recommend employees in difficult situations (pregnancy, have young children, serious illnesses, etc.) and who have had their income reduced. They will receive support through the unions’ social funds
Secondly, we have postponed all activities that gather large numbers of people, such as meetings, cultural and sports happenings.
Thirdly, management staff of the Trade Union at the Industrial Zone have been arranged to work from home through online channels, while taking turns to attend the workplace to monitor, instruct and support local unions. Staff have also been asked to refrain from visiting businesses unless absolutely necessary. When they do go, they are required to use prevention items (such as masks or hand sanitizers) and keep a distance of at least 2 metres from other people. Most work interaction has been happening via telephone or email.
Apart from the aforementioned changes, the Trade Union at the Industrial Zone has maintained usual workplace undertaking, such as the following:
One – Continuing to realize annual missions of trade union, except for activities that gather large crowds, in which case online and telephone interactions are preferred over direct contact.
Two – Monitoring the Covid-19 situation to provide instruction and support for local unions, working with responsible authorities and medical organizations
Three – Following closely the production and trade situation of businesses, working with responsible authorities to support businesses in a timely manner, ensuring that employees are not laid off, and that workers receive their due benefits in accordance with the laws.
2. In your work area, has there been any case of employees being laid off or furloughed without pay? Is there any risk of this happening? What does the Trade Union do to alleviate this situation?
Inevitably we are faced with certain difficulties, such as: a reduction in supplies of production materials from countries that are hit hard by Covid-19; order cancellations regarding exported goods; and a decrease in consumption, especially of clothing, electronics, furniture, etc.
Faced with this situation, many businesses have come up with solutions to maintain jobs – and, consequently, income and living conditions – for employees, while also ensuring their own workforce for the post-Covid period. For instance, some clothing firms have introduced new product lines such as protective clothing and anti-viral masks. Other actions include eliminating overtime work, reducing working hours, and arranging for employees to take leave alternately.
3. What challenges or difficulties have you and your Trade Union have had to face, in providing support to employees during this pandemic?
The Prime Minister has said that fighting the Covid-19 is like fighting an enemy. As such, this is not the undertaking of any individual, but rather a common goal of the population and society as a whole, as well as of the country’s political system, including the Trade Union in general and various trade union levels of Dong Nai in particular.
The Trade Union at the Industrial Zone has been working closely with businesses to overcome the difficult situation of the Covid-19 pandemic. We have also called upon employees to share the hardships with businesses, towards the common goal of ensuring jobs and stable living conditions. We have monitored and worked with governmental management to ensure benefits for employees in accordance with the laws, and supported the implementation of the government’s relief packages in the event of employees being laid off.