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December 14th, 2011 WW Staff | NikeLeaks Cables: North and South America
 

USA: VIETNAM LABOR DELEGATION VISIT TO WASHINGTON: INFORMAL MEETINGS

     
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Reference ID: 08STATE127526
Created: 2008-12-03 22:22
Released: 2011-08-30 01:44
Classification: UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY
Origin: Secretary of State

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FM SECSTATE WASHDC
TO RUEHHI/AMEMBASSY HANOI 8186
INFO ASIAN PACIFIC ECONOMIC COOPERATION
ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS COLLECTIVE
RUEHHM/AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH CITY 2939
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHINGTON DC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 STATE 127526
 
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TREASURY FOR SCHUN
USTR FOR DBISBEE AND LKARESH
 
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ELAB EAID ECON ETRD WTRO EINV ECPS VM
SUBJECT: VIETNAM LABOR DELEGATION VISIT TO WASHINGTON:
INFORMAL MEETINGS
 
REF: STATE 117469
 
1. (SBU) Summary:  A delegation from the Vietnamese Ministry
of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs (MOLISA) participated
in a series of informal meetings organized by the Hanoi-based
USAID-funded Support for Trade Acceleration Project (STAR),
in the Washington area from October 20 to 22.  The meetings
took place in the context of MOLISA's efforts to reform
Vietnam's Labor Code and included discussion on a number of
key labor issues, including freedom of association, rights to
collective bargaining, labor code reform, and dispute
resolution.  Representatives from USAID, the U.S. Department
of Labor, and U.S. Embassy Hanoi also attended the meetings.
End summary.
 
---------------------------
DAY ONE: BROOKINGS AND NLRB
---------------------------
 
2. (SBU) The MOLISA delegation was led by Nguyen Thanh Hoa,
Vice Minister, and also included:  Dao Van Ho, Deputy
Director, Legal Department; Le Kim Dung, Deputy Director,
International Cooperation Department; and Nguyen Dung Tien,
International Cooperation Department, who served as
translator.  The meeting at the Brookings Institution focused
on American labor history from an academic and research
perspective.  The delegation showed particular interest in
the number of independent American labor unions and the
changing patterns of union membership.  (Note:  Although
Vietnam has many trade unions, they are all affiliated with
the Vietnam General Confederation of Labor (VGCL).  End
note.)
 
3. (SBU) In the next meeting, the National Labor Relations
Board (NLRB) gave a formal presentation regarding dispute
resolution mechanisms.  The delegation asked a number of
questions related to the purpose and function of the NLRB.
(Comment:  In the NLRB meeting, it was challenging for the
two groups to share experiences and make direction
comparisons since the U.S. and Vietnamese contexts differ
greatly.  End comment.)
 
--------------- ---------------------------------------------
DAY TWO:  AFL-CIO/SOLIDARITY CENTER AND FEDERAL MEDIATION AND
CONCILIATION SERVICE
------------------------------------------- -----------------
 
4. (SBU) On day two, AFL-CIO/Solidarity Center representative
Earl Brown summarized the history of the American labor
movement and its relationship to the development of American
labor law.  He explained that U.S. industrial relations were
based on an adversarial relationship between employer and
employee, and dialogue and collective bargaining are needed
to resolve differences.  Brown emphasized the role of unions
in society, saying that unions are a great engine for
democracy and for worker education.
 
5. (SBU) Brown also shared his analysis of the successes and
failures of the current American labor law and said that the
NLRB would be a poor model for Vietnam to follow.  The Vice
Minister explained that Vietnam's Labor Code, adopted in
1984, is being completely revised, including occupational
safety and health, labor inspection, and industrial
relations.  The final draft is due to the National Assembly
in 2010, and the National Assembly must adopt the revised
code by March 2011.  He said they will adopt aspects of the
American system, including a form of National Relations Labor
Board.
 
6. (SBU) The Vice Minister also expressed concern about
commonplace wildcat strikes in Vietnam, saying they are
taking place in part because Vietnam is in the early stages
of industrialization.  He also said that the VGCL is not
always very active, workers are reluctant to become trade
union officials, and workers and employers frequently will
not meet together.
 
7. (SBU) Brown emphasized that violence is not a remedy to
strikes.  Having visited Vietnam recently, he said it would
be worthwhile for the AFL/CIO, MOLISA, and the VGCL to plan a
 
STATE 00127526  002 OF 003
 
 
seminar on how to deal with wildcat strikes and he would like
to continue discussions through the Solidarity Center's
visitor program.
 
8. (SBU) Later that day, Federal Mediation and Conciliation
Service (FMCS) Commissioner Lynn Sylvester provided an
overview of the role and the function of the FMCS.
 
-----------------------
-----------------------------------------
DAY THREE:  NATIONAL LABOR COLLEGE, CITY OF BALTIMORE, AND
RETAIL AND APPAREL COMPANIES
---------------------------------------------
-------------------
 
9. (SBU) On October 22, the Provost of the National Labor
College welcomed the delegation and explained the school's
history and program of study.  The Vice Minister said that
the University of Labor and Social Affairs in Vietnam, which
graduates approximately 1000 students each year, is facing a
shortage of qualified educators.  He also explained that
Vietnam's in-service training program for adult learners is
lacking in quality due to a shortage of qualified educators
and textbooks.  The delegation asked the AFL-CIO/Solidarity
Center's representative if he would consider sponsoring three
MOLISA officials to attend the National Labor College; the
representative said he would follow up.
 
10. (SBU) City of Baltimore local officials, including the
city's Labor Commissioner, the regional FMCS Commissioner,
and representatives from the public services trade unions,
met the delegation.  The participants shared examples from
the complex and vibrant labor environment in Baltimore.
Participants said the city and its public services unions
recently concluded a two-year contract addressing working
conditions, grievances, arbitration, and seniority.
 
11. (SBU) Vice Minister Hoa described Vietnam's
industrialization process and the problems with wildcat
strikes.  He inquired about the relationship between local,
national, and international unions, and was particularly
interested in learning about the dispute resolution process.
He said he is seeking an approach to labor law reform that
promotes simultaneously investment and protects workers'
rights.  (Comment:  The delegation appreciated meeting local
government officials and grassroots union representatives
since many current MOLISA concerns involve interactions at
the local and provincial levels in Vietnam.  They noted the
effective interactions among union representatives and
management and mediators at the local level.  End comment.)
 
12. (SBU) The delegation's final meeting was with senior
representatives from retail and apparel companies, including
Target, Nike, Wal-Mart, Jones Apparel, and Hanes Brands.  The
meeting focused on the labor concerns of retail and apparel
companies.  The company representatives raised a range of
serious labor and trade-related issues that the delegation,
in the absence of the Vice Minister, who was not able to
participate, was either unwilling or unable to address.
 
13. (SBU) Retail and apparel company representatives
expressed concern about wildcat strikes and noted the
importance of provincial labor leaders gaining a better
understanding of MOLISA's labor reform, and continuing to
train workers to help them understand their rights.  MOLISA
responded that all parties want illegal strikes to cease and
the GVN government is taking action to minimize illegal
strikes by encouraging dialogue.
 
14. (SBU) One corporate representative asked about the
purpose of the one-percent "trade union fee" (to take effect
on January 1, 2009) that will be taken from the payrolls of
foreign-owned/invested enterprises.  MOLISA responded that
these funds will help train employees to raise awareness
about their rights at work.  The retail and apparel
representatives said that they expect factories to adhere to
human rights and international labor standards, and made
known that compliance in the factories would determine where
they buy merchandise.  (Note:  During the retail and apparel
meeting, the MOLISA delegation emphasized that one of the
main functions of the VGCL is to get workers to meet company
production targets.  End note.)
 
-------
COMMENT
 
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15.  (SBU) The MOLISA delegation's side meetings in
Washington did not provide directly detailed guidance on
labor code reform in Vietnam; however, the meetings did
provide opportunities for the group to hear a range of views
on labor issues, learn more about U.S. labor dispute
mechanisms, and make additional contacts that may be able to
provide resources for future cooperation.  End comment.
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