Strikes Hits Factories in Southern Vietnam

Workers have gone on strike at 38 foreign and locally owned companies

About 30,000 Vietnamese workers have gone on strike in 38 foreign and locally owned companies this month in a southern province near Ho Chi Minh City, an official and state media said Oct. 16. Workers at the plants in Binh Duong, including South Korean and Taiwan-owned factories, were unhappy with their salaries and working conditions, including in some cases the quality of canteen food, reports said.

Nguyen Phung Trung, deputy director of the provincial department of labor, invalids and social affairs, said that thousands of workers at a Taiwanese footwear company had gone on strike early last week, demanding better pay and conditions. He said that that most had returned to work Oct. 15 so they would keep their jobs. The Thanh Nien daily reported that employees at a South Korean firm in the Song Than Industrial Park had also gone on strike.

"Relations between employers and disaffected workers, mostly from Binh Duong-based Taiwanese and Korean firms, had apparently soured over poor salaries and rigid working conditions," the report said.

Vietnam, a country of 84 million where many factory workers earn as little as $50 a month, has become a popular destination for foreign producers of footwear, textiles, food stuffs, electronics and automobiles.

Labor unions independent of the ruling Communist Party are banned, and industrial relations experts say that most workplaces currently lack transparent arbitration mechanisms to settle labor disputes. Activists of the banned United Workers-Farmers Organization, a group which has demanded the right to form independent labor unions, say police have arrested and jailed several of its members over the past year.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2007

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