Imprints of trade union support in a turbulent year

Wednesday, 2021-01-20 17:38:18
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President of the Vietnam General Confederation of Labour Nguyen Dinh Khang (far left) presents gifts to workers at Quang Tri Garment Joint Stock Company who have been affected by the historic flooding in central Vietnam, November 2020. (Photo: Vietnam General Confederation of Labour)
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NDO – Amid huge challenges posed by COVID-19 and natural disasters last year, trade unions at all levels have proved their adaptation to assert their position and role as a trusted and close support to employees in a such turbulent year.

2020 was a challenging year for the whole country in general and the trade union in particular. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and prolonged flooding in the central region laid a negative impact on the income and livelihoods of tens of millions of employees. In such context, difficulties have created a driving force for the trade union organisations to be adaptive to the new situation, wholeheartedly striving for the interests of union members and employees.

The "special" year

Every year, after the Lunar New Year (Tet) holiday, trade unions often focus on launching emulation movements encouraging its members and workers in labour. However, right in the early days of 2020, the Vietnamese trade union organisations urgently embarked on the prevention and control COVID-19, promptly sharing, encouraging and supporting members who were infected and affected by the pandemic.

It can be said that workers are the most affected by the epidemic. As of September 2020, the country has recorded 31.8 million people affected by COVID-19. Of which, 68.9% of them have seen reductions of both income and working hours or must take time off in rotation, and about 14.0% lost their jobs. The average monthly income decreased to VND6.7 million per month from the same period in 2019.

Under the leadership of the Party, the management and administration of the State, the direction of the Government and the participant of the entire political system, there have been positive and timely solutions in supporting the people, including employees, to overcome difficulties, creating the trust among all social classes. However, a part of workers cannot avoid being disturbed by the risk of losing jobs and reduced income due to the prolonged epidemic, as well as unusual changes of weather, environmental pollution, fire, explosions, and labour accidents.

Quickly identifying the challenges and difficulties from COVID-19 that weigh heavily on employees' shoulders and in sharing difficulties with enterprises, the trade union has quickly developed policies of delaying the paying of trade union fees to affected enterprises, exempting from union fee payment for members with incomes lower than the base salary, and encouraging full-time trade union officers to support one day salary each month during the three-month period from June to August 2020. At the same time, the trade union issued a decision to pay direct support to employees affected by the epidemic from the trade union's financial source. As a result, the trade union at all levels has spent VND657 billion to support and care for nearly 657,000 employees, of which the union's financial source was the main, accounting for over 65.2%. The union also organised visits to give gifts and encourage frontline forces who are on duty fighting against the epidemic, while directing trade unions at all levels to actively coordinate with authorities, professionals and employers in coping with COVID-19 and putting the health and lives of employees first.

Immediately after the second wave of COVID-19 started in Da Nang and Quang Nam, 41 workers and employees were positive, including one death, while more than 4,500 were quarantined and over 33,000 others affected. The Vietnam General Confederation of Labour (VGCL) organised a teleconference to discuss supporting solutions and actively proposed that the Government, relevant ministries and agencies build the second support package for those affected by the pandemic, along with other documents related to employees who have had to suspend their labour contracts amid COVID-19. Local trade unions strengthened communication to raise awareness and responsibility of union members and employees in the disease prevention and control, while coordinating with business owners to rearrange production, maintain jobs and settle policies for affected employees. The trade unions at upper levels have actively develop support policies and measures to assist union members and employees, with a range of initiatives like rice ATMs and zero VND supermarkets and zero VND meals have been deployed throughout the country to support union members and workers affected by the epidemic in time.

Facing the severe damages caused by natural disasters in the central region, the VGCL Presidium issued a document instructing trade unions to coordinate with authorities and expertise in organising flood prevention and post-disaster relief, calling employees, union members throughout the country, units, businesses and philanthropists to provide spiritual and material support to disaster-hit victims. Trade unions, especially those in affected localities, have taken many practical and meaningful actions, contributing to overcoming the consequences of natural disasters and taking care of union members, employees and people in distress.

The trade union "imprint"

Although in the context of the whole country focusing on overcoming difficulties and damages caused by the COVID-19 epidemic, the trade union still successfully organised the Worker Month with a theme on high productivity, labour safety, good income and maintaining jobs. Specific activities focused on performing the dual tasks of preventing and combatting the epidemic, while making best efforts to achieve the socio-economic development goals. The VGCL advised the Prime Minister to spend time visiting, motivating and giving gifts to workers and employees, thus expressing the concern of the head of Government towards working class and trade union, while coordinating with the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs to launch the Action Month for Occupational Safety and Health and Worker Month 2020.

Additionally, in the new special context, the Vietnamese trade union has had many outstanding initiatives in advising caring policies for employees when the pandemic occurs, including actively advising the Ministry of Health to submit to the Government a plan to increase the allowance for health workers directly examining, diagnosing and treating COVID-19 patients from VND150,000/people/day to VND300,000. As a result, the Government approved the plan in Resolution No. 37 on a number of specific regimes in the prevention and control of the COVID-19 epidemic. Immediately after the outbreak, the Vietnam Medical Trade Union was promptly present at the frontline units of the health sector to encourage and support the union members. Many local union agencies had new initiatives in the fight against COVID-19 to protect union members in the production of hand sanitiser, anti-droplet hats and face masks, as well as making financial donations and providing necessities to union members. Also, during the pandemic, there were 28 units implementing technical improvement activities such as improving the use of anaesthesia chambers, using robots to transport food for patients, advancing hoods and shields for patient sampling, and producing automatic hand washing machines.

In the difficult context, the Vietnam Trade Union has propagated and mobilised its members and employees to share difficulties with enterprises, while actively participating in emulation movements to improve labour productivity and reduce costs. Trade unions at all levels organised congresses and conferences at all levels to honour and reward typical collectives and individuals with outstanding achievements in such emulation movements. At the end of last September, the VGCL successfully organised its national patriotic emulation congress for the 2015-2020 period.

VGCL President Nguyen Dinh Khang said that 2021 is the third year implementing the Resolution of the 12th Congress of the Vietnam Trade Union and the first year implementing the Resolution of the upcoming 13th National Party Congress. of the Party. With the theme of "Improving the quality of grassroots trade union officials", in addition to regular tasks, trade union activities at all levels this year focus on proactively participating in building labour policies and laws and promoting harmonious, stable and progressive labour relations, in addition to replicating good models in caring for union members and employees, promoting emulation movements to restore production, overcoming consequences of natural disasters and epidemics, and ensuring employment and income for employees. The immediate task is to focus on mobilising resources to well organise activities to care for union members and employees during the 2021 Lunar New Year (Tet) with the goal of "Not letting any employees go without Tet".