Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Vietnam: Hai Phong: 4,000 workers on strike

Wednesday, February 22 2006 @ 05:43 AM PST

VietNamNet – Some 4,000 workers of Hai Phong’s Gold Star Company strike on February 17 asking for salary increases.

According to workers, the minimum wage paid by Gold Star is too low, at VND400,000/month, and they have asked the company to increase it to VND710,000/month in accordance with Decree 03 on minimum wage in foreign-invested firms.

Pham Van Oanh, Head of Hai Phong Labour Federation’s Policy Department said that workers mistakenly believe that Gold Star is a foreign-invested company, when in fact, it is a 100% locally invested company which produces footwear for Taiwanese partners. This is the first strike in this port city in the past two years.

On February 19 the company agreed to increase minimum wage by VND80,000/worker/month, but 4,000 workers say that this level is still too low and continued striking. At present, only 2,000 are working at the factory.

“They asked us to explain why two companies located next to each other pay such dramatically different wages (VND710,000/month at one, while Gold Star pays only VND400,000). It is a really difficult for us to convene when the gap is so wide,” Mr. Oanh said.

This is also a problem for grassroots trade unions. Previously, thousands of workers at domestic companies in southern HCM City, Binh Duong, and Dong Nai asked for increases to their minimum salary in line with those paid by foreign-invested companies. However, this is unfeasible.

According to Pham Minh Huan, Head of the Ministry of Social, War Invalids and Social Affairs’ Salary Department, domestic companies are unable to catch up with minimum salary increases at foreign-invested firms. However, to ensure their interests, employees must negotiate for higher salaries because the minimum salary is currently too low.

Friday, February 17, 2006

WCPA Agreement!

Dear friends of the WCPA stagehands,

Yesterday, February 15, was our second meeting with
management and the Federal Mediators, and I am happy
to tell you that we have reached a tentative
agreement. Management presented an amended offer which
addressed several of our main concerns (scheduling,
covering all stagehands, seniority, and benefits), and
while not all of our issues have been remedied,
yesterday was a 180-degree turnaround from the first
meeting with the Federal Mediators on December 13. All
of the stagehands will have a chance to look at the
proposal and cast their vote.

What caused management's sudden change in attitude? I
don't think we can point to one single reason, but
raising the public's awareness through the media
outreach, the informational pickets, and communicating
with the Olympia City Council definitely played a
part. Workers from SEIU, IWW, Amalgamated Transit
Drivers (IT bus drivers), staff from the Evergreen
Labor Center, local user groups who rent the WCPA, and
the good citizens of Olympia stood with us at the
pickets, and contacted the City Council and the WCPA
Board. And we have to acknowledge the stagehands who
have stuck it out over the last 18 months, in spite of
some pretty rough times.

Our sincere thanks to all of you who expressed your
support. You helped us send a message that not only
are the arts important, but so are the dedicated men
and women who work behind the scenes to make it

Katy Fogg
WCPA Stagehands