1,000 workers go on strike at Panasonic factory in Vietnam

HANOI, Vietnam (AP) – About 1,000 workers at a Panasonic factory in northern Vietnam have gone on strike to demand higher pay to keep pace with the rising cost of living, state media reported Sunday.

The workers at Panasonic Communications Vietnam Co., Ltd. walked off the job Saturday in Hanoi, according to a report on the Dan Tri newspaper’s Web site.

Consumer prices in Vietnam have climbed 25.2 percent in the past year, according to government figures. About 300 strikes have hit companies across the country in the first quarter of the year.

It was unclear how much of a wage increase the Panasonic workers were demanding.

The company has been paying its workers an average monthly salary of 1,050,000 Vietnamese dong (US$66; euro42), 50,000 Vietnamese dong (US$3; euro1.93) higher than the minimum wage required by the government, the Dan Tri report said.

Company officials were not available for comment Sunday.

Panasonic Communications has been operating in Hanoi since 2006. The company produces high-tech electric and electronic products such as phones and optical disk drives for export-AP

1,000 workers go on strike at Panasonic factory in Vietnam

Price hike burdens weary workers in south Vietnam


The current inflationary period has hit low-income earners hard as workers struggle to keep up with soaring rental costs and commodity prices.


Although prices traditionally have always climbed during the Lunar New Year (Tet) holiday, they have not slowed this year even though the holiday had ended nearly a month ago.

Quy, a worker in Bien Hoa Town near Ho Chi Minh City, told Thanh Nien that his monthly rent had risen from VND350,000 (US$22) to VND400,000 ($25).

When he inquired his landlord about the raise, she responded that she had sensed a “price storm” by observing events in television networks, newspapers and local markets and had adjusted her charge according to perceived economic conditions.

Many other workers in Bien Hoa Town complained that property owners had raised rents by VND50,000 ($3) to VND100,000 ($6) per room without any notice after they returned to work from the Tet holiday.

A female worker named Hoa living the southern Binh Duong Province’s An Phu Commune said she could not afford to purchase clothes and cosmetics after Tet.

While prices escalate out of control, most workers’ salaries remain stagnant, said Hoa.

Cashew firms’ revenues were also taking a beating from the weak US currency, which had fallen to below VND16,000 per dollar.

Many producers and processors were struggling to fulfill their contracts with international buyers, said the association’s acting chairman Nguyen Duc Thanh.

Delegations of customers from the European Union and the US are due in Vietnam this month to try to resolve the delays.

At Saturday’s meeting, Thanh asked cashew growers to honor their contracts with foreign customers to preserve Vietnam’s reputation as a reliable supplier.

The VCA forecast this year’s cashew harvest will be reduced by 30 percent if conditions remain unchanged.

The industry is still trying to recover from a slump in international demand in 2005 which cost VND1 trillion (US$62.5 million).

Workers now have to try to work extra shifts to earn more money while capitalizing on the perk of free meals provided for overtime.

Male workers, meanwhile, say they calculate extra shifts taking into account the extra financial benefit from having less time to drink beer.

Some workers in Binh Duong say they even resort to money-saving tactics like collecting water from drippy faucets.

Trung, a worker in Bien Hoa, said that with a combined monthly salary of nearly VND4 million ($251) earned by him and his wife, the family has to be thrifty to cover all necessary living costs and care for their child.

This Tet, only Trung was able to return to the countryside to visit his parents while his wife and child remained behind due to the overheating prices.

Some experts suggest that companies and factories should prepay salaries to workers after they come back from Tet to motivate them to perform better.

Several companies already withhold half of their workers’ Tet bonus until after they return from the holidays to reserve some financial flexibility for employees who come home from Tet broke.

According to government sources, inflation reached 15.7 percent in February, the highest increase since 1995.

Rising inflation unsettles Vietnam’s workers


For five days in November, 13,000 Vietnamese workers at a South Korean-owned factory producing athletic shoes for Nike went on strike for travel allowances and better food in the canteen.

The owners of Tae Kwang Vina, one of Nike’s 10 contract producers in Vietnam, agreed a VnD70,000 ($4.50) a month travel allowance and improved food.

It was a quick and relatively painless end to what Erin Dobson, a director of corporate responsibility communications at Nike, called the beginning of “strike season” in booming Vietnam.

Communist-ruled Vietnam is experiencing rapid industrialisation, with hundreds of thousands of young people leaving villages and family farms to join factories producing everything from shoes and clothes to electronics goods for the global market.

But young workers are also beginning to flex their collective muscles, especially as rapid inflation erodes the value of their wages, and tales of others winning instant riches heightens aspirations.

In recent years, factory workers have shown an increased willingness to walk off the job to press for more money, often in the form of allowances and bonuses.

In 2006, workers went on strike 400 times at different factories, including at 300 foreign-invested enterprises, businesspeople say.

“These strikes are evidence of how rapidly Vietnam is growing,” Ms Dobson says. “The workers have a feeling of empowerment.

Ms Dobson says industrial action in factories often occurs towards the end of the calendar year, as managers prepare their wage offer for the year ahead.

Part of the problem is that rapid inflation is squeezing workers at the bottom of the wage scale. Officially, inflation is running at 9 per cent a year, fuelled partially by higher prices of rice and other food, which has tracked higher oil prices.

Jonathan Pincus, chief economist at the United Nations Development Programme, says that factory workers are grappling with inflation as high as 15 per cent, since they spend a large proportion of their monthly income on food.

“At the minimum wage, workers are finding it difficult to make ends meet without working lots and lots of overtime,” Mr Pincus says.

At the same time, factory workers are bombarded with media tales of Vietnam’s new rich enjoying luxurious lifestyles.

“You’ve got this very hot environment, where people are getting rich all of a sudden in land or stock,” says Fred Burke, a partner at Baker & McKenzie in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam’s business capital.

“People who are working hard in factories are saying, ‘Hey, I should get a little more of this myself.'”

Workers have the right to unionise, though factory-level unions must affiliate with the Vietnam General Confederation of Labour, an arm of the Communist government. Traditionally, the federation was seen as doing little to help workers, especially in state-owned enterprises. “Like state-sponsored unions anywhere, their main purpose is industrial peace,” Mr Pincus says.

In recent years, the confederation appears to have grown more responsive to its members. “They tend to try to work things out before it comes to strikes, but it isn’t completely top-down,” says Mr Pincus.

In theory, Vietnamese workers have a legal right to strike only if intensive efforts to resolve disputes through mediation have failed, and they obtain permission from senior union officials.

But in reality, illegal strikes are becoming more frequent, and sometimes have the tacit support of the labour bureaucracy.

“Workers are becoming increasingly knowledgeable about the law, and knowledgeable about what is going on in other places,” says one executive of a multinational company that sources in Vietnam. “News travels like wildfire with SMS.”

While the government has responded to the salary squeeze by raising the national minimum wage – and will do so again in January – Hanoi is reluctant to raise it too much, as civil servants’ pay scales are also linked to the minimum wage.

All this means that factory owners, managers and the multinational companies that buy from Vietnamese factories need to ensure that small grievances among workers are dealt with before they erupt.

Many businesspeople say effective communication between factories and workers is essential.

That has been a problem in Asian-owned factories, where managers may not speak very good English or Vietnamese, generating confusion and resentment.

“A lot of it is down to communications – making sure that workers know they are getting what they are entitled to,” says Mr Burke.

At the Tae Kwang factory, Ms Dobson says, workers generally earn about 20 per cent more than the minimum wage, and the factory also provides transport that some workers use to get to work. However, she concedes that the factory “probably could have done a better job communicating regarding wages”.

2,000 Vietnamese workers strike at Taiwan-owned plant


<P>HANOI (Thomson Financial) – About 2,000 workers have gone on strike at a Taiwan-owned textile plant in southern Vietnam, complaining their wages are not keeping pace with rising consumer prices, a labour official said Friday.</P> <P>The workers walked out on Thursday from the CCH Top company plant in Ho Chi Minh City and kept striking Friday, claiming a new basic monthly salary from January 1 of 1.070 million dong (about 67 dollars) was too low.</P> <P>’With the rapid hikes in goods prices … the salary is not enough for living,’ said workers’ representative Pham Dao Nguyen.</P> <P>The industrial action was one of several this week in foreign-owned plants in Vietnam, a low-wage economy of 84 million and a major producer of textiles, garments and footwear as well as electronics and food products.</P> <P>Workplace disputes have risen in recent years, with many strikes before the traditional Tet lunar New Year, which is in mid-February this year, when prices go up and workers need more money to travel home to their families.</P> <P>Inflation topped 8 percent last year, and consumer prices jumped over 12 percent in December compared to the same month in 2006.</P> <P>The communist government said it has raised the minimum wage from January 1 for labourers to 540,000 dong and to at least 800,000 dong for workers in foreign-invested enterprises, the state-run Vietnam News Agency reported.</P> <P>Several more strikes hit foreign-owned factories in the country’s south this week, labour and company officials said.</P> <P>Some 1,480 textile workers went on strike at the South Korean-owned Sh Vina Company in Long An province Wednesday, but workers were back Friday after salaries were raised to an average of 1.4 million dong, an official told Agence France-Presse.</P> <P>About 500 workers at the Japanese-owned Mitsuba M-Tech also went on strike Wednesday, asking for travel and accommodation allowances, and returned Thursday after winning a 140,000 dong monthly allowance, said a company official.</P> <P>About 1,200 workers at the Taiwan-Vietnamese Duc Thanh II footwear plant in Dong Nai went on strike Wednesday but returned Friday after the company raised monthly wages by 150,000 dong, a company offical told AFP.</P> <P>The Tuoi Tre newspaper also reported strikes by hundreds of workers in the Tung Kuang Company in Dong Nai, and the Anjin company in Ho Chi Minh City on Wednesday over wages and allowance issues.</P>

VIETNAM: 240 workers strike at Hai Phong

There has been another large-scale strike at a Vietnamese footwear plant, with workers demanding better pay and working conditions.

Yesterday morning (11 December) all 240 workers at a shoes cap workshop owned by Vietnam’s Hai Phong Footwear Company stopped working, and held a strike for rising salary and an upgraded working environment.

Khuc Ngoc Quang, a trade union official of the company, said that the company asked employees to work under high pressure for a net salary of VND600,000-700,000 (US$37.5-$43) per month.

Workers at the plant petitioned to leaders of the company for higher salaries and environment improvement a month ago, but little has been done, added Quang.

Hai Phong yesterday agreed to increase lunch allowance but is still deciding on a potential salary increase. The company, currently doing outwork for Taiwanese partners, is the biggest footwear producer of Hai Phong port city, with annual capacity of 10m pairs of shoes.

The strike follows news in Vietnam last month that around 10,000 workers at Tae Kwang Vina shoe plant, which makes shoes for Nike, had gone on strike for an increased salary amid rising inflation in the country.

There have been 71 strikes in Hai Phong city since the turn of the millennium, and 27 in 2007 alone.

By Ngo Tuan. just-style.com

Czech labour shortage forces Skoda to recruit workers from Vietnam


Skoda has begun to recruit workers from Vietnam for its factories in the Czech Republic as it struggles with a labour shortage.

The Czech carmaker is having to search further afield for employees amid increased migration of Eastern European workers and a booming domestic automotive industry.

Skoda, which is owned by VW, has used an employment agency to recruit several hundred workers from Vietnam, whom it regards as disciplined and attentive to detail.

A spokesman said: “We have a shortage of labour so we are using employment agencies to bring in staff. Vietnam is one of the areas we are bringing people from. We would rather find people close to home and it is a long way for them to come, but until we can find the right people nearer home this is what we will have to do.”

It is not the first time that workers from Vietnam have moved to the Czech Republic. When the country was under communist rule as Czechoslovakia, Vietnam, also under communist control, and Cuba sent workers in return for arms and heavy engineering goods.

Many stayed in Czechoslovakia after the overthrow of communism in 1989 and set up small businesses. Now the Vietnamese are the third-largest immigrant group in the Czech Republic, behind Ukrainians and Slovaks.

Skoda, which has been steadily repositioning itself in the car market as more of a value brand, is one of the Czech Republic’s biggest employers. It has more than 27,000 workers in its three factories.

The open-borders policy of the European Union means that it is suffering recruitment problems. Many Czech workers have left for better paid jobs in Western Europe. Additionally, those from the neighbouring countries of Poland and Slovakia, which traditionally have made up the majority of foreign workers in the Czech car industry, are also choosing to go further or to take jobs in their own growing automotive industries.

The Czech Republic’s automotive industry employs more than 120,000 people, an increase of 40 per cent on 15 years ago. A number of Western carmakers have built factories in the country in recent years because of its lower labour costs and its central location in Europe.

Skoda’s own production, which includes some output from a factory in China, is set to exceed 640,000 vehicles this year. In 1994, the Czech company, which is more than 100 years old, produced only 173,000 vehicles. The carmaker believes that it can make one million cars in the forseeable future.

The Czech Republic is trying to make it easier for more migrant workers to settle in the country so that it can maintain a decent labour pool. It intends to issue green cards for workers outside the European Union that will combine rights for residency and work permits.

Vietnam’s emerging automotive industry and its broader economy are being closely watched for evidence that the country could be the next China in terms of rapid industrial growth. This year it became the 150th member of the World Trade Organisation. Its car industry is still young because traditionally Vietnam imported virtually all of its vehicles from communist Eastern Europe.

However, Japanese carmakers, such as Toyota, Honda and Mitsubishi, began to move into the country in the mid-1990s, producing cars in partnership with Vietnamese businesses.

Vietnamese strike at Nike plant


Thousands of workers have gone on strike at a Vietnamese plant that makes shoes for Nike, demanding higher pay.

Workers, who produce about 10% of the 75 million pairs of shoes made for Nike in Vietnam annually, want more pay, bonuses and cost of living allowances.

Strikes have become more common in Vietnam, as inflation – now at 9.5% – has risen.

The average monthly salary at the South Korean-owned plant is $62, about 20% more than the minimum wage.

Rising prices

The plant in Dong Nai, near Ho Chi Minh city, employs some 14,000 people.

“Given the fact that inflation is so high now, it is hard to say they are being too demanding,” said Kieu Minh Sinh, an official with Dong Nai Provincial Trade Union.

Rising inflation and growing industrial unrest has pushed the Vietnamese government to raise the minimum wage.

Last year, the government increased the minimum wage for workers at foreign firms by 25%.

The government has said it will increase the minimum wage by about 12% in January.

Nike is aware of the strike and is encouraging workers and management to resolve their differences, a spokesman for Nike UK said. It is not clear how long the strike will continue for.

“There is a strike at the factory, one of several factories in Vietnam that produce Nike footwear,” he said.

“All our contract factories are required to comply with Nike company standards regarding working conditions and with local laws and regulations,” he added.

Officials at Tae Kwang, the South Korean company that runs the factory, declined to comment when they were contacted by the Associated Press news agency.