Trade union needs comprehensive reform to implement FTAs, ILO Conventions: PM

Prime Minister says the implementation of international labour-related commitments in the new generation of free trade agreements and Conventions of the International Labour Organizations (ILO) requires Viet Nam’s trade union to undertake a comprehensive reform.

The message was delivered by Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc at a high-level event organized in Hanoi on 28 July to celebrate 90 years of Viet Nam’s Trade Union.

The reform is needed so the Viet Nam General Confederation of Labour (VGCL) could “continue to maintain and bring into full play its achievements and glorious history over the past 90 years of establishment and development, while reaffirming its leading role in guiding the national workers’ movement in the new context”.

After 90 years, the requirements for elevating industrialization, modernization and deepening international integration as well as the impacts of the fourth industrial revolution have put Viet Nam and VGCL in a new situation with both opportunities and challenges, according to the Prime Minister.

VGCL Chairman Bui Van Cuong agreed with this point in his speech. While highlighting the proud achievements of Viet Nam’s Trade Union, he also admitted the current challenges of the organization.

“Viet Nam’s commitment to ensure the establishment and operation of workers’ organizations outside VGCL in the new generation of free trade agreements has put VGCL at unprecedented challenges and requirements,” he said.

The Prime Minister pointed out the action points VGCL should take, in which he highlighted that the organization needs to do well with its core union function of representing and safeguarding the legitimate rights and benefits of workers to be able to win the confidence of workers.

To do this, he requested VGCL to take the lead in proposing recommendations to the State, cooperating with employers’ organizations and encouraging all workers to fully implement the ILO Centenary Declaration which was adopted in June 2019.

Referring to the new Declaration, the Prime Minister emphasized “effective lifelong learning and quality education for all, comprehensive and sustainable social protection, respect for workers’ fundamental rights, an adequate minimum wage, maximum limits on working time, safety and health at work, and work-life balance”.

VGCL has now nearly 10.5 million members across the country. It is one of the tripartite partners of the ILO in Viet Nam, alongside with the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs, the Viet Nam Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Viet Nam Cooperatives Alliance.


Revision of Vietnam’s Labour Code, 2008-2010,  and National Conference on Industrial Relations, Apr 1-2, 2010.

ILO Support of Industrial Relations and Labour Code Reform in Vietnam (Final Summary), Aug 2011

“… no change process starts from a blank table. Particularly in Vietnam, pre- existing conditions internal and external to the Industrial Relations system will affect the pace, quality and depth of reforms. In this regard, Project partners must remain both patient and realistic in their efforts to attain defined goals and objectives. Change agents should also remain sensitive to the nuances of Vietnam’s history and culture in order to win and sustain political support.”

EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement, Chapter 13. Trade and Sustainable Development

CPTPP Chapter 19. Labour
unchanged from TPP Chapter, according to WTO Center-VCCI

TPP Chapter 19. Labour

TPP U.S.-Viet Nam Plan for the Enhancement of Trade and Labor Relations, a bilateral instrument in accordance with Chapter 19 of the TPP
not in effect, since the U.S. withdrew from the TPP and did not ratify. On 23 January 2017, US President Donald Trump signed a presidential memorandum to withdraw the United States‘ signature from the agreement. On April 13, 2018, Trump said the United States may rejoin the Trans-Pacific Partnership. 57% of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement was copied from the TPP.

USMCA Chapter 23. Labor

What are the labor standards under USMCA, and what are Democrats concerns? (May 2019)

When Congress first took up NAFTA in 1993, many unions including the AFL-CIO and unions for machinists and electrical, garment, and mine workers lobbied vociferously against the trade agreement, threatening to withdraw support for any member of Congress who voted for its ratification. Though labor groups have been quieter this time around, there are still many who fear U.S. job losses as the North American market opens further, exposing more U.S. workers to direct competition with Mexican workers. That concern has led leading voices on the issue in the Democratic party to call for stronger labor enforcement in USMCA and domestic labor reforms in Mexico prior to a vote on USMCA.

“Democrats lack faith in both the labor enforcement mechanisms negotiated alongside NAFTA and proposed under USMCA, leading them to demand domestic labor law changes in Mexico. The Democratic members of the House Ways and Means Committee wrote an open letter on Apr 11, 2019 to Ambassador Lighthizer raising issues with USMCA’s labor provisions. They expressed concern that the USMCA’s dispute settlement mechanism is “designed to be easily frustrated and will be ineffective.” This comes after the mechanism negotiated outside of the main NAFTA text did not create formal arbitrations for any of the 39 complaints of non-compliance with NAFTA labor obligations. Given the doubts that USMCA will improve labor standards independently, national legislation in Mexico is seen as the only way to ensure that labor standards will improve.”

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