Independent union was born “only for the benefit of Vietnamese workers”

Ms. Nguyen Nguyen Binh, a social activist in Vietnam, commented on the meaning of the independent union established in Vietnam today and said that the tradition of an independent trade union has existed since the time of the Red Association in this country.

The tradition of independent trade unions dates back to the time of the Red Association and even before, during the French colonial period in Vietnam and today, independent trade unions if is established to protect and ensure the rights of workers should be allowed by the Vietnamese government, a social activist in Vietnam told BBC News Vietnamese on July 1, 2020, from Hanoi.

First of all, Ms. Binh, former lieutenant colonel of the Vietnam People’s Army, commented to the BBC about the context and meaning of allowing independent union organizations to be established and operated in Vietnam, after Vietnam’s highest legislative body National Assembly has passed two new important agreements that have been recently signed with the European Union, the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA) and the EU-Vietnam Investment Protection Agreement (EVIPA):

I once told the BBC that unlike some others, I supported the two agreements EVFTA and EVIPA.”

I believe that and support for not delaying signing the agreements between Vietnam and Europe because it is very necessary, but without those agreements, Vietnam will become more and more dependent on China.

It is okay to talk about human rights, not Europe if the agreement is about the economy, there are also human rights issues, including the rights of workers, the union’s permission, independent unions established and operated, etc …, then in the process of working together, it must be discussed to have the binding right in the treaty and contracts, specific terms, details.

But not because Vietnam does not respect human rights, so the EU did not sign the agreements and the bloc will not cooperate with Vietnam. There were people in the Council of Europe, or the European Union had an opinion like. However, it is possible that in fact, the signing of each other is to give Vietnam more doors to do business, otherwise it is dangerous, and two more in the process of cooperation, there will be specific constraints, which if Vietnam don’t meet requirements on human rights, it doesn’t work either.”

‘Paralleling, supplementing’

On July 1, 2020, an organization calling itself the Vietnam Independent Union (VIU) announced its establishment in the country, and said in its founding discourse:

The Vietnam Independent Union is an organization of people from many different professions, with the goal of establishing free trade unions. We hope to accompany the Vietnam General Confederation of Labor in implementing the mission to protect the rights and legitimate interests of workers effectively, improve the lives of workers in order to gain fair competition among businesses and at the same time help Vietnamese workers to enjoy benefits as in other countries members of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) and EVFTA.

We also call on workers in businesses, freelance workers in other professions as well as intellectual workers to join the contingent of the Vietnam Independent Union. VIU will guide you to form unions for your profession at the grassroots level to protect your practical interests.”

The organization introduced in the Executive Board that there is Ms. Nguyen Nguyen Binh in the role of “an adviser,” when asked specifically what this role means, Ms. Binh replied:

First of all, I would like to share my opinion on the role of civil society, especially of independent unions and independent unions like this.

Before I learned Russian, I remember there was a general content saying like this ‘One mind is good, but two minds are better’.”

But in my opinion, the independent trade union is not the opposite of anyone, but the independent trade union to accompany the existing trade union (the Vietnam General Confederation of Labor), and work together to solve problems, maybe complementary to each other, that is to say, the spirit of one mind is good, two minds are better.”

As for me being an advisor, this is something I don’t really want to emphasize, but if anyone or anyone from the state comes to ask, I’m just saying I’m a writer so I can help with humanities and human rights issues. ”

And before I had experience in campaigning for military service, I could share my experiences in negotiating with each other, resolving conflicts so that they were effective, reasonably satisfactory, helping to solve problems and  difficult issues, ensuring the rights of workers.”

There is a tradition from before

According to Ms. Binh, actually not waiting so far, but a long time ago, trade unions, independent unions had a tradition rooted in Vietnamese society, from the Red Society era, even before that. Moreover, she shared this awareness through her own family experience:

My great grandfather used to take part in an organization called ‘Friendship Industry,’ which is a charity organization of printer factory workers and printing industry workers, while my mother and grandmother joined the association of private workers, because she was a seaman (making clothes, dresses), so she worked in the house, not in the factory.

My father worked at Minh Sang printing factory, so he joined the association of printing workers there.

Of course, at that time, the association of workers and workers was to fight against the French colonialists, to fight with the employers, and at that time the goal of the Party’s leadership was to fight for the right to fight class struggling.

It may be a trade union at the beginning, that is, the struggle for the people, but then go forward to fight for other rights and to fight for independence for Vietnam.

At that time, it can be said that it is very good and the merits of the elders now bring an independent Vietnam and no one can deny it.

And now, there are people who naturally feel that there are organizations outside the state that people are afraid of, but that’s just too sensitive, but this union in the sense that it is synonymous. In order to better protect the rights of workers, it is not against anyone or against state agencies.”

On this occasion, on Wednesday, BBC News Vietnamese interviewed Mr. Tran Giang, an employee in the enterprise and a member of VIU about this organization:

We are real people, not organizations that do not exist in reality. In fact, we have been working on supporting workers for a long time. We operate completely based on legal activities, in accordance with the constitution and conventions that Vietnam has signed with the world.

We have been operating for a long time in the form of spontaneous labor groups and have been effective.”

Why not wait more?

When asked why not wait until a deadline like the beginning of 2021, when the government and the state officially allow organizations representing independent workers to register and operate to officially more, Mr. Tran Giang replied:

It can be said that our activities are in accordance with the constitution, laws, international conventions, so far, it has not allowed the establishment of independent unions and unions, it is too late, while many workers everywhere are disadvantaged, can not wait.

This is also an appropriate and ripe time after Vietnam has signed international agreements, especially after new agreements such as CPTPP, EVFTA or EVIPA, we do not compete with anyone to out sooner or later, but this is the time that is ripe and based on the real need of urgent support and assistance cannot be later than that of many workers and workers in many places, many industries, labor organizations, businesses that through the actual operation process we know very well.”

Assessing the future vision of his organization, Tran Giang said:

The future has not been said, there are many obstacles and difficulties, but we will try, as long as we can best help the workers and the working people.

We do not do any political activities, we do not accept money for the activities of anti-terrorism, terrorism of any form, up to now, we have been operating on our own money to devote and pay for the activities support workers.

We do not compete with anyone, including union organizations established before, during, or after us, we are ready to cooperate with state trade unions, unions, governments, willing to find a common voice with employers to achieve the highest goal of supporting and protecting the legitimate and legitimate rights of workers,” Quan said from Vietnam. (Translated)