WE@WORK - WEE: WHY?
SOURCE: RESPECT VIETNAM 2016
SOURCE: RESPECT VIETNAM 2017
How can RESPECT VIETNAM fill the gap?
1. Industrial and labor disputes have been negatively affecting social development and economic growth in Vietnam. More than 6000 wildcat strikes in the past 20 years mark Vietnam as the destination of unhealthy and undesirable places to work for workers and to invest for businesses. Disrespect-with-dignity cases such as expat managers kicking pregnant female worker, spiting in male worker’ face, time-framing when workers can go toilets, lobbying to water down maternity benefits in Labor Code, etc. triggered mass collective actions in reality and anti-campaigns on social media everywhere. Labor disputes also incited the 2015 anti-China riots involving hundreds of thousands of workers and political discontents. Disputes that lead to lawsuits, slow-down, absenteeism, turnovers, poor productivity, etc. although poorly featured in public media have also been wide spreading in reality. In short, industrial and labor disputes in all forms have been creating lose-lose situation for both blue-&-white-collar workers and employers of all business types, damaging the health of workplace relationship, forming an ugly image of labor markets in Vietnam and making the country an unstainable place to live and work.
2. Statistics in industrial and labor disputes have been poorly forecasted, recorded and analyzed. Solutions to these problems therefore have been only on tip of iceberg. For examples the rootcauses of wildcat strikes are poor labor law enforcement in all aspects of employment. However, the government believes that national minimum wage hikes every year can solve the problem. Unfortunately, arbitrary corporate governance allows employers to cut off other job benefits which makes low-income workers keep struggling with increasing living costs resulted by annual wage hikes. Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives although considered better law enforcement tools in labor-intensive industries (garment, apparel, footwear, furniture, electronics, etc.) yet have been deploying labor auditing methodology that poorly engages with workers. Labor audits when generating poor data can suggest inaccurate or even wrong remedies for employers to execute. CSR investments therefore become a burden for a number of businesses who want to do good. They also found out that they have become less competitive in terms of compliance costs compared with those who constantly violate local and international labor standards without bearing any economic or legal sanctions.
3. Recognizing the problems analyzed above, Respect Vietnam is determined to seek for rootcauses from below the iceberg by developing the WE@WORK program that has been considered a ground-breaking model for sustainable workplace solutions in Vietnam. It (i) promotes individual and collective voices of blue-&-white-collar workers, (ii) provides cost-effective solutions to solve workplace disputes and change organizational behaviors for all-type employers, and (iii) enables concerned stakeholders to make accurate judgments and insights about which business or CSR program is respecting human rights, labor rights and level the playing field in Vietnam.
4. In September 2017, 1250 WE@WORK cases from March 2015 to March 2017 were documented and 850 were shared with the International Labor Organization Office in Switzerland with recommendations to make meaningful changes in ILO interventions for Vietnam. The cases have captured real-time, hypothesis-free conflicts where poor national labor law enforcement allowed a variety of violation degrees and frequencies in eight workplaces, ranging from apparel, footwear, electronics, furniture manufacturers to hotels. Lately, We@work by RespectVN was regarded by accredited academic professionals as one of three contemporary models to monitor compliance and tackle unfair labor practices in addition to ILO Betterwork and Vietnam Trade Union. With We@work findings, RespectVN has been able to make concrete recommendations on Labor Code Reform in a hope to curtail endless controversies and enhance effective enforcement in such controversial issues as corruption in governmental inspection, fair compensation instead of baseless minimum wage increases, legitimate eligibility conditions for employers who prefer 500 overtime hours per year, late payments and private labor mediator and arbitrator services, for Vietnam National Assembly, Civil Society Organizations. At the same token, RespectVN has been also invited to contribute to labor provisions in free trade agreements that Vietnam is entering, namely Trans-Pacific Partnership, Europe-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement given We@Work databases and findings. Lastly, RespectVN also participated into various global efforts such as Social Dialogue Initiative by USAID and the Global Deal introduced by the Swedish Government in promoting social dialogues among governments and stakeholders to tackling unfair labor practices globally
5. Earlier in 2014, RespectVN created EASYFORM (as part of We@work later) together with Fair Labor Association to reach out more than 35 workplaces that were willing to listen to about 100,000 workers’ (non)anonymous suggestions. With EASYFORM, RespectVN was able to make sound and concrete labor recommendations for the government of Vietnam, American business associations, and other stakeholders. Easyform statistics and experiences also contributed to RespectVN’s work until now.
6. However, We@work (Easyform earlier) has still facing a number of challenges including accelerating costs for physical travels, experts, trainings, workshops, etc. Meanwhile Vietnamese workers including the low-income ones have been becoming smart-phone users. RespectVN therefore invested in higher technology for Wee-your own fair job guru, a smart app that has similar functions to We@work but affords better user-friendly reach-out, broader user population and more cost-effective knowledge sharing at users’ finger tips. Wee has been selected as Top 12 start-ups that promote Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) by United Nations in Vietnam. Wee also got public attention for an initiative that is determined to promote good practices for a better society and economy of Vietnam. In 2017, Wee – WE@WORK also was official announced to receive a USD 500,000 grant from Global Woman Fund to tackle unfair practices including gender-based violence at work.