July 28, 2009
HA NOI — Trade union representatives from 18 countries gathered in Ha Noi yesterday to discuss measures to secure employment for workers amid the global economic crisis.
The seminar was used as a forum for information and experience sharing aimed at formulating trade union strategies for securing employment, income and livelihood for union members and workers, said President of the Viet Nam General Confederation of Labour Dang Ngoc Tung.
"The global financial crisis and economic downturn have resulted in significant impacts to every country and all people throughout the world. Workers were the first to suffer," he said.
"According to unsubstantiated data, 67,000 workers were laid off in Viet Nam in 2008, 25 per cent of them female. In the first quarter of 2009, 65,000 workers lost their jobs," said Tung.
"Although the Government of Viet Nam and other countries launched stimulus packages worth of billions of US dollars, economies remain in crisis and the risk of unemployment and underemployment remains a great challenge to workers and trade unions," he said.
"On a worldwide level, figures show that unemployment has been consistently growing at a very fast pace," said World Federation of Trade Unions General Secretary George Mavrikos. He added that in early 2009, it was estimated that 40 million workers lost jobs.
In order to ease the burden and consequences of the crisis on workers and people, the federation proposed that public investments and jobs should be created with full labour rights. Workers should receive real wage and pension increases and social spending for workers should also be increased.
Mavrikos also added that dismissing workers should be prohibited and that real aid should be provided to unemployed workers without exception; there should be full respect of labour rights for immigrants, young workers and women; and cancellation of third world country debts was also necessary.
To assist enterprises and redundant workers, confederation President Tung said the Vietnamese Government had taken various measures to stabilise the macro economy, ensure social security, help enterprises overcome difficulties and secure workers’ employment. Measures included a capital lending scheme at a preferential rate, tax reductions, trade promotion and building houses for people and workers.
The confederation proposed the Government work out assistance policies for redundant workers, including providing no-interest loans to enterprises facing difficulty due to the crisis for a period of 12 months to pay worker salaries. Loans from the National Fund for Employment could be given to redundant workers at low interest rates for self-employment or vocational training.
" People’s Committees of provinces and city could advance the State budget to pay wages to workers who have lost their jobs and can not recover wages owed to them because their employers have run away," he said.
"The confederation has regularly updated information about the unemployment situation and union information from different levels for the implementation of programmes supporting affected workers," Tung said.
These programmes include co-ordinating with local authorities to help unemployed workers get jobs; providing them with vocational training and funding job creation.
G R Shivashankar, chairman of the Trade Union Co-ordination Centre of India, said workers were losing their jobs in many sectors, particularly in the construction, banking, automobile, metal, tourism, information technology and communications industries.
"Migrant workers are the worst sufferers of the economic crisis. Thousands of workers have lost their jobs and have been forced to return to their countries," he said.
"It is the duty of the working class to strengthen their struggle against imperialist forces. The federation plays a role in mobilising and encouraging working people all over the world to continue their struggle against imperialist-capitalist exploitation," Tung said.
"While reiterating its commitments to strengthen the unity of international workers, the Trade Union Co-ordination Centre suggests that more regular interactions between trade unions at the regional level are necessary to exchange views and share experiences," he said.
Representative from the Chinese delegation, Li Zhipei, said "To fight against the financial crisis, the Chinese Government has made timely adjustments to its macro economic policies together with policies aimed at creating more jobs."
"Chinese trade unions have always put workers first and made great efforts in tiding over the crisis, focusing on saving jobs and keeping proper wage levels; requesting enterprises, especially State-owned ones, to be socially responsible while calling on workers to make efforts to save energy and reduce waste at enterprises," he said.
"Various measures such as flexible working hours, on-the-job training and job transfers have been adopted to avoid wage cutting or dismissal of employees," Li added.
"Trade unions at all levels have offered job services and job guidance for graduates and those from needy families are the first in line to attend skills training courses or qualify for internships; organised job fairs; taken initiative to employ some graduates from poor families in the union-run activities; encouraged and supported new graduates in starting up their own businesses by offering entrepreneurship training, policy consultancy, project development and micro-financing," he added.
Participating countries at the seminar included Australia, Bangladesh, Brazil, Cambodia, Congo, China, Cuba, Cyprus, Greece, India, Japan, Laos, Nigeria, the Philippines, South Africa, Syria, Sudan and Viet Nam. — VNS