Workers in industrial zones face dual challenges amid pandemic hinh anh 1Speakers discuss working conditions at industrial zones in Vietnam at the seminar held in HCM City. (Photo: VNA)

HCM City (VNS/VNA) - Workers, especially in industrial zones, are encountering dual challenges amid the COVID-19 pandemic: keeping their job in uncertain times while continuing to demand that their rights and entitlements remain protected, the deputy head of Cooperation at the EU Delegation to Vietnam said.

Speaking at a recent seminar on working conditions of workers in IZs in HCM City, Jesús Lavina noted that evidence-based research showed that the pandemic threatened to exacerbate the working and living conditions of workers in many parts of the world.

In Vietnam, 31.8 million people were seriously affected by the pandemic in the first nine months, including those who lost jobs, or had working hours cut or income reduced. 

The service sector was the worst hit by the pandemic, with nearly 70 percent of its workers affected, followed by the industrial and construction sectors with 66.4 percent of its workers affected, according to Lavina.

Worldwide, working hour losses in the final quarter are expected to reach 8.6 percent, or 245 million full-time equivalent jobs. The high working-hour losses have translated into substantial losses in labour income, at a global decline of 10.7 percent during the first nine months compared to the same period last year.

Prof Dr Nguyen An Ha, coordinator of the Empowering Civil Society and Workers, said due to the impact of the pandemic, working conditions at industrial parks had become even more difficult. 

According to the research results of the project, workers in the garment and electronics industries are still facing difficulties in their jobs and lives.

“Workers still rely heavily on working overtime to improve their incomes, while savings are very low despite the much raised minimum wages in recent years. Most workers are migrants and it is just too unaffordable to buy a house in cities where they work,” Ha said.

Married workers face even more obstacles, as most of the workers have no choice but to send their children to their hometowns for care by relatives or others. 

According to Lavina, the EU views the EVFTA as the most ambitious free trade deal the EU has ever concluded with a developing country. The trade pact could bring 15 billion EUR (18.4 billion USD) worth of additional exports annually to the EU by 2035.

EVFTA is not just about boosting trade and investment. It also includes legally binding rules on climate, labour protection and human rights, among others.

It includes commitments to implement International Labour Organisation (ILO) core conventions. “Vietnam has made some progress on the commitments. It has ratified seven out of eight ILO core conventions,” he said.

The conventions, which advance social justice and promote decent working conditions, cover freedom of association, collective bargaining, equality of opportunity and treatment, tripartite consultation, labour administration, labour inspection, employment policy and vocational guidance and training. 

Vietnam’s new Labour Code (which will take effect in January 2021) will for the first time provide rights to employees in enterprises to set up or join a labour representative organisation, according to Lavina.

The new law will also extend legal protection for employees who do not have a written employment contract, as well as give clear definition of sexual harrassment in the workplace.

“The amended code offers greater protection for employees and is viewed as better aligned with international best practices,” he said.

The conference organised by the Institute for European Studies was held within the framework of the Empowering Civil Society and Workers project. 

The project, from 2017 to 2021, is a follow-up action after two previous labour-related projects funded by the European Union, including Empowerment of Workers and Trade Unions in Vietnam (2009-2011) and Strengthening Workers’ Rights and Representation (2012-2015).

The project is conducted in three key economic regions (with a focus on industrial zones in Hanoi, Da Nang and HCM City and surrounding provinces)./.