Labor commitments are now major components of new generation FTAs. In 1995 there were only three FTAs in the world that included labor commitments.
In 2016, 267 FTAs were signed among 136 countries, in which 77 FTAs entail labor commitments, which have become conditions toward the signing of FTAs.
Challenges faced by Trade Union
When Vietnam joined new generation FTAs, particularly the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), the country for the first time issued regulations on allowing multiple trade unions. It’s a challenge for the Vietnam Trade Union to attract members from labor representative organizations at the grassroots level.
It has changed people’s notion of Trade Union’s organizational and operational principles, its core values, and traditions established and practiced over the past 90 years.
Independent trade unions are not entitled to undertaking political tasks but taking care of, representing, and protecting workers’ rights, whereas the Vietnam Trade Union has so far operated as a socio-political organization.
If the Vietnam Trade Union doesn’t reform its organization and performance, it will be difficult to attract members and compete with workers’ representative organizations.
Vietnam Trade Union tasked to reform itself
Under the CPTTP, Vietnam will have 5 years to institutionalize law on labor and related issues to match the country’s international commitments. Trade Union units at all levels have urgently refreshed their mindset and methods to better handle industrial relations and represent workers to protect their legitimate rights and interests.
Tran Thanh Hai, Vice President of the Vietnam General Confederation of Labour (VGCL), said, "Trade Union organizations have to continuously improve themselves to represent workers, create better lives for them, and gain their trust. Trade unions at all levels have to identify their own tasks. Trade unionists should be enthusiastic, responsible, and competent to work for workers’ benefits.”
In June, the National Assembly approved Vietnam’s accession to the International Labor Organization’s Convention 98 on the Application of the Principles of the Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively as well as revised the Labor Code. Vietnam is amending the 2012 Trade Union Law.
Le Dinh Quang, Deputy Head of VGCL’s Department of Labor Relations, said, "When revising the Trade Union Law, we have concentrated on discrimination behaviors to match current situation. Convention 98, which Vietnam has just ratified, demands independent trade union activities and collective bargaining.”
Countries joining new generation FTAs are not allowed to create competitive advantages by lowering labor standards. As Vietnam integrates more extensively in the global economy and honors its international commitments, the country is facing numerous challenges. But the economic gains Vietnam will receive during this process are expected to overshadow challenges.