Last update 6/28/2011 10:00:00 AM (GMT+7)

Strike action turns tragic
VietNamNet Bridge - Leaders of a Taiwan-backed firm in Hanoi’s Phu Nghia Industrial Park may escape legal action after one of its workers was killed by a security guard during strike action involving the company.

Witnesses related that at 7.30am on June 23, a 1.5-tonne lorry came to the Taiwanese-owned company to pick up goods. But the vehicle could not enter as the gate was blocked by the company’s more than 200 workers who had been calling a strike to demand a pay rise, and an improvement of working conditions and other allowances.

However, instead of asking the workers to make way for the lorry, the 36-year-old security guard on duty opened the gate and then forced the lorry’s driver out of the vehicle. He then took control of the lorry and drove straight into the crowd.

Seven workers – all female – were seriously injured and rushed to Hanoi’s Chuong My Hospital. One of them, 26-year-old Nguyen Thi Lieu, a mother of two died en route. Several other workers received minor injuries in the incident.

The security guard was pulled from the lorry and violently beaten. He was then arrested.

A source from the Hanoi Industrial Park and Export Processing Zone Authority, however, said Just Special Material Co., Ltd. managers could escape liability for the accident. “This is because the Taiwan-backed company did not enter into an individual labour contract with the security guard. Instead, it signed a contract with a security service company which employed the killer.”

The source said the killer would be prosecuted, but more time was needed for further investigation.

Cao Ba Khoat, director of Hanoi-based K&Associates Business Consultancy Company, told VIR: “If the Taiwanese firm and the security service company did not ask the killer to do that, they will not get involved in legal trouble, and vice versa. I think in this case, the killer will have to bear responsibility for his actions as an individual.

“But this case needs careful investigation before final decisions can be made,” Khoat said.

After the incident, the company’s trade union representative trumpeted a rise in monthly salaries from VND1.2 million ($60) to VND1.68 million ($70). The official also promised the lunch allowance would rise from VND10,000 ($0.5) to VND13,000 ($0.65). The workers responded by demanding larger bigger rises.

But the Hanoi Industrial Park and Export Processing Zone Authority source said the workers had failed to give a notice to their employers and the trade union before downing tools. “Thus, their collective strike was illegal. Meanwhile, the firm is not violating Vietnam’s Labour Code as it applies the minimum salary for workers stipulated by the government.”

Local media quoted the security guard as telling the police that he had been told over phone by head of the company’s administration office to drive the lorry inside the company “at any price”. This was despite his not having a driving licence and the gate being blocked.

VIR tried to contact the company’s executives, but its receptionist said the firm’s leaders were refusing to reply any external phone calls in the wake of the incident.

Just Special Material Co., Ltd. Vietnam is a fully-owned Taiwanese company manufacturing and trading in automobile parts and accessories.

Statistics from Vietnam General Confederation of Labour showed that since 1995, Vietnam has seen over 3,840 strikes. There were 424 strikes in 2010 and over 220 strikes in 2011’s first three months. Of these, over 80 per cent of the strikes were from foreign-invested enterprises.

In 2010, there were 128 strikes at Taiwanese firms, accounting for 37.8 per cent of the country’s total incidents of industrial action at foreign-invested enterprises. Eighty per cent of the strikes resulted from disputes over pay rises.

Source: VIR