Towards an independent workers’ voice in Vietnam?

Publication Name

Labour and Industry


The 2019 Vietnamese Labour Law, coming into effect on 1 January 2021, allows for the establishment of workers’ representative organisations, namely Internal Employee Organisations (IEOs), independent from official trade unions of the Vietnam General Confederation of Labour. This reflects widespread endemic industrial conflicts marked by illegal wildcat strikes led by unofficial workers’ representatives in the absence of effective trade union representation. The new legislative framework can be seen as a significant step towards industrial democracy and there is the potential to see a change of course in Vietnamese industrial relations in regards to representative dynamics at the workplace level, with likely outcomes in terms of working conditions, law enforcement and conflict resolution to be assessed. However, more than two years have transpired since the legislation was enacted, no IEO has been established to date. This paper provides an in-depth analysis of why this is the case. It also demonstrates how the corporatist and authoritarian political system in Vietnam has adapted to sustain its longevity and legitimacy in the era of globalisation. Finally, the paper outlines a research agenda on the conditions of emergence, development and future function of IEOs.

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