Employees determined to overcome difficulties

The continuous outbreaks of the COVID-19 epidemic have negatively affected the lives, jobs and incomes of workers and employees around the country, especially in industrial parks.

President of the Vietnam General Confederation of Labour Nguyen Dinh Khang visiting and encouraging workers in Thai Nguyen Province. (Photo: NDO)
President of the Vietnam General Confederation of Labour Nguyen Dinh Khang visiting and encouraging workers in Thai Nguyen Province. (Photo: NDO)

As the organisation representing the legitimate rights and interests of employees, the Vietnam Trade Union has made strong innovations and conducted many activities to benefit employees. Member of Party Central Committee and President of the Vietnam General Confederation of Labour (VGCL) Nguyen Dinh Khang granted an interview with Nhan Dan (People’s) Newspaper, talking about this issue.

Q: During the four outbreaks, the COVID-19 epidemic has hit the industrial parks hard. Trade unions at all levels have undertaken many practical measures to support their members and workers. Could you talk about some recent outstanding results?

A: The outbreak of the pandemic since late April is continuing to have a strong impact on workers. Particularly in the 25 southern provinces and cities, nearly 11,000 infections, nearly 90,000 F1 and over 200,000 F2 cases have been workers and civil servants during the recent outbreak. Thousands of workers and employees have been forced to quit their jobs, work alternate posts or lose their jobs as they were isolated, treated or lived in blockaded areas as their enterprises temporarily suspended operations. This number is still increasing day by day. The employees’ lives and jobs have been facing numerous difficulties.

Standing side by side with employees, trade unions at all levels have proactively coordinated with functional agencies to propagate and implement epidemic prevention and control measures as well as participating in maintaining and restoring production and business, supporting their members and workers. The Presidium of the Vietnam General Confederation of Labour quickly decided to spend the trade union’s financial resources on supporting its members and workers; and exempting members whose salary is lower than the base salary from trade union dues. Thousands of trade union officials at all levels have been working hard to care for workers in epidemic hotspots. Trade unions have promptly donated millions of gifts, supplies and necessities to employees. Thousands of meals and food prepared by trade union officials have been delivered to employees. Many effective models have been carried out such as COVID-19 Safety Team, Emergency Relief Team, “Zero dong” supermarket, supermarket buses and the love kitchen. Each trade union staff member has contributed three days of their salary to support workers affected by COVID-19.

Up to now, the trade union’s financial source has allocated VND321.313 billion (over US$14 million) to help 417,972 members and employees affected by the pandemic. In addition, from social mobilisation sources, nearly VND228 billion (nearly US$10 million) has been spent assisting workers living in difficulty. The Vietnam General Confederation of Labour has actively implemented the programme “Vaccines for workers” through the Golden Heart Charity Fund, raising VND150 billion (US$6.5 million) for the vaccine fund.

Q: The relevant agencies have absorbed and implemented policies proposed by trade unions into Resolution No.68/NQ-CP. Thereby, what valuable lessons have been drawn in the process of advising and proposing laws and policies related to employees and workers? Could you share about the specific results and difficulties in the implementation of Resolution No.68/NQ-CP and Decision No.2606/QD-TLD to assist trade union members and employees affected by COVID-19 during this fourth outbreak?

A: With their participation in the implementation of the Government's first support package under Resolution No. 42/NQ-CP and Decision No. 15/2020/QD-TTg, the trade unions realised there were several shortcomings. That fact was the basis for the VGCL to study and make prompt recommendations to make the second support policy of the Government during this fourth outbreak more appropriate so that more workers can better enjoy the assistance. We are glad that the opinions of the trade unions were received and finalised in Resolution No.68/NQ-CP of the Government and Decision No.23/QD-TTg of the Prime Minister.

Good policy originates from the understanding of units and employees needs. This should be conducted regularly and proactively even after the policy has been issued towards timely adjustment if the implementation process encounters difficulties. As the epidemic changes unpredictably the policy has not fully adjusted to the reality. On the other hand, trade union officials should have sufficient qualifications and the capacity to detect, research and advise the “settlement” of inadequacies when the policy is not appropriately successful.

Resolution No.68/NQ-CP and Decision No.23/QD-TTg are extremely important and timely policies that have proved the deep concern of the Party and State for employees, workers and businesses, stabilising the socio-economic situation and implementing the dual goal. The VGCL has directed Labour Federations in provinces and cities to proactively propagate, organise and supervise the implementation of this aid package so that workers can enjoy the assistance as soon as possible. This is also a task that was assigned to the trade union in these documents. Unions at all levels are required to work together with enterprises to make the appropriate lists and procedures for employees.

Through feedback from the grassroots, we see that the policy to support workers forced to suspend their duties under their labour contracts or take unpaid leave under Resolution No.68/NQ-CP is facing problems as many provinces and cities are applying social distancing according to Government Directive No.16. Many employees are unable to sign resignation agreements or come to functional agencies for the notarisation of their personal papers. Therefore, the VGCL has asked the Ministry of Labour, War Invalids and Social Affairs and local authorities to pay attention to overcoming these shortcomings. The General Confederation also proposed the adding of employees and civil servants who are working in other public service units such as guest houses, cultural centres and vocational training institutions, onto the lists of beneficiaries of Resolution No.68/NQ-CP.

Regarding the implementation of Decision No. 2606/QD-TLD, this is a new mechanism that has created the initiative for the federations in provinces and cities and central trade unions in defining specific their spending rates under the local trade union’s financial sources. Therefore, the Decision has been implemented promptly.

Currently, we are still receiving and updating information and reports daily and appointing officials to directly answer and support the settlement of shortcomings. The reports prove that trade unions at all levels have been giving assistance to the right subjects in accordance with the law.

Q: The epidemic situation continues to be complicated and unpredictable. As head of an organisation that protects the legitimate rights and interests of trade union members and employees, do you have any message to all employees nationwide?

A: Amid the difficulties and challenges of the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, trade union officials and members and employees are decisive factors in terms of realising the dual goal set by the Government. I hope and ask trade union members, civil servants, workers and employees to respond to Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong’s call, National Assembly Resolution No.30/2021/QH15 and the Prime Minister’s Official Dispatch No.1063/CD-TTg on COVID-19 prevention and control. We should give the Government our unanimous support and should not move between provinces and cities until social distancing ends as well as comply with epidemic prevention and control measures. Trade union members, workers and employees should not panic but unite and believe in the leadership of the Party and the management of the State as well as doubling their efforts, together with their enterprises, localities and the country, to overcome these difficulties towards a final victory, avoiding agitation and the manipulation of hostile forces.

Thank you very much for your interview!

Translated by NDO