Pou Yuen Vietnam employees gather for a negotiation with labor union officials at their factory during a strike in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, on Tuesday. Witnesses in the industrialized suburbs of Ho Chi Minh City said hundreds of workers massed peacefully inside and outside the factory owned by Pou Yuen Vietnam, a footwear maker for firms that include Nike and Adidas, and brands such as Lacoste, Converse and Reebok.
Thousands of Vietnamese workers at a major footwear factory were on strike for a sixth day yesterday over a social insurance law in a rare challenge to government policy.
Several thousand people at the Taiwanese-owned Pou Yuen factory in Ho Chi Minh City began the stoppage on Thursday last week.
Pou Yuen Vietnam, which employs more than 80,000 workers, is a subsidiary of Pou Chen Group. As many as 90,000 of the workers went on strike last week, the online newspaper VnExpress reported.
It is unclear which shoemakers the facility supplies to. Workers said they make footwear for Nike and other companies, while Nike has denied sourcing from the factory affected.
The workers continued the peaceful strike in the factory’s compound yesterday under a heavy police presence. They marched along Highway 1 with banners and beating drums on Monday and Tuesday, blocking traffic on the main road artery.
They are protesting a new law, which is scheduled to take effect next year and says that workers will get a social insurance monthly allowance when they retire instead of getting a one-time payment if they resign. The striking workers said that if they quit earlier, they would have to wait until retirement age — 60 for men and 55 for women — to get the allowance, and they prefer the lump sum to pay for their daily needs while seeking new jobs.
Workers have also said they are concerned the money may not be there in the future.
“The workers want to raise their voices and speak out on this government policy,” Serena Liu (劉美德), chairwoman of the Council of Taiwanese Chamber of Commerce in Vietnam, told Bloomberg by telephone. “They feel this is the only way they can do it. It’s not about working conditions.”
Pou Chen called on the Vietnamese government to provide assurances to workers on the social insurance issue, Pou Chen spokesman Amos Ho told Bloomberg by telephone.
The work stoppage, which began on Thursday last week, may cause some production delays, Ho said.
Vietnam is hit by several hundred labor strikes a year, but they are mostly over poor working condition and low pay. Protests over government policies are rare.
Vietnamese Vice Minister for Labor Doan Mau Diep on Tuesday met with the workers and said that his department would propose to allow them to choose whether to get one-time social insurance benefits when they quit or receive them upon retirement. His words were met with applause from the workers, according to state media reports, but if was not clear that he had persuaded them to stop the strike.
Vietnam General Confederation of Labor president Dang Ngoc Tung said in a statement on the trade union’s Web site that the strikers should return to work and authorities will address their concerns.
He also told them not to allow “bad elements” to take advantage of the situation to stir up unrest that would affect security, order and the company’s operations.