The year 2021 ends with not very positive figures for the Vietnamese economy: GDP growth rate of 2.58% is the lowest in the past 30 years, the number of unemployed people increases, the average salary of workers decreases.
For Vietnamese workers, last year is with not-so-good signs: the minimum wage is frozen, workers will have to work more, due to the new regulations allowing to increase over time, even up to 72 hours a week.
In addition, the Lunar New Year (Tet) bonus was low, causing dissatisfaction which leads to a strike like in the recent Pou Chen Company.
The minimum wage in 2022 is the same as in 2020, which in fact means a reduction in wages
Before 2020, the minimum wage of workers is usually increased by 5-7% each year to partially compensate for the expensive daily life.
In 2021, there was support for businesses because of the pandemic, the minimum wage for workers was not increased.
Likewise, in 2022, the minimum wage will remain the same. Specifically, VND4.43 million/month for workers in Region I such as Hanoi and Saigon; or VND3.07 million/month for workers in Region IV, in remote areas.
It should be recalled that Vietnamese workers normally work 48 hours/week. Thus, workers in Region IV are paid about VND16,000/hour, equivalent to 0.624 euros/hour.
Ordinary income including salary, allowances, and bonuses is not enough to cover life. Therefore, the freezing of the minimum wage in fact means a reduction in wages due to the increasing price of goods every day, creating more difficulties for workers.
Raising working hours to 72 hours/week in all occupations, including hazardous and dangerous jobs, is consistent with Labor Law 2019?
Due to the influence of the “Zero Covid” policy in 2021, many businesses had to stop operating or operate in moderation (the policy of 3 places, 1 route) for a long time.
To assist these enterprises in completing signed contracts, the Ministry of Labor, War Invalids, and Social Affairs on December 15, 2021, issued Circular No. 18/2021/TT-BLDTBXH, effective from January 1, 2021. January 2022 (abbreviated in the article as regulation 2022), stipulating the working time for employees doing seasonal jobs, processing jobs according to orders.
Circular issued on December 15, 2021, on working hours of Vietnamese workers from 2022:
“Article 6. Limits on standard daily working hours and overtime hours
- The total number of standard working hours and overtime hours in a day must not exceed 12 hours.
- Limits on standard working hours and overtime hours per week and month are regulated as follows:
- a) The total number of standard working hours and overtime hours in a week must not exceed 72 hours.
- b) The total number of overtime hours in a month must not exceed 40 hours.”
There are differences from the previous regulations, in the direction of worsening for workers:
To be able to fully measure the consequences of the new regulation, especially over time, we need to compare the differences of this circular with the regulations that were in effect in the Circular 54/2015/TT. – BLDTBXH (the abbreviated in the article is the 2015 regulation), as well as the provisions related to overtime work in the Labor Code 2019 and Decree 145/2020 NDCP.
The most important difference between the 2015 regulation and the 2022 regulation is that regulation 2022 abolishes the distinction between normal work and heavy, hazardous or dangerous work and allows an increase in weekly working hours to 72 hours/week for all jobs.
According to the 2015 regulations, workers doing heavy, hazardous, and dangerous jobs work daily for 6 hours, with overtime up to 9 hours. Normal work per day is 8 hours, maximum 12 hours. The total workweek limit is 48 hours for heavy, hazardous, or dangerous work, 64 hours for normal work. The limit of overtime hours in a month is 24 hours for heavy, hazardous, or dangerous work, and 32 hours for normal work.
Regulation 2022 does not care about heavy, hazardous, dangerous work or not, fixing daily working hours for all occupations at 8 hours, plus overtime up to a maximum of 12 hours. Total weekly hours increased to 72 hours/week for all occupations. That means an increase of up to 24 hours/week for heavy, hazardous, and dangerous work, an additional 8 hours/week for normal work compared to 2015. The overtime rate in a month is fixed at a maximum of 40 hours/month. That means an increase of 16 hours/month for heavy, hazardous, and dangerous work, or an increase of 8 hours/month for normal work compared to 2015.
Regarding the limit of overtime hours in the year, the new regulation 2022 allows up to 300 hours, unlimited in any profession. This is not consistent with the Labor Code 2019, which only allows up to 200 hours/year (chapter VII, item 1, article 107, clause 2c). Up to 300 hours of overtime work only within certain occupations clearly detailed in paragraph 3 of article 107.
Regulation 2022, regardless of whether the industry is hazardous or not, is not only a step backward compared to the 2015 regulations, but also goes against the spirit of the 2019 Labor Law. Chapter VII, Section 1, Article 105, point 3 of the Labor Law clearly states: “The employer has the responsibility to limit the working time in contact with dangerous and harmful factors…”.
Therefore, it is necessary to consider whether overtime work according to Circular 18/2021/TT-BLDTBXH violates the Labor Law 2019 or not?
Regulation 2022 puts the interests of the owner above?
Reputed as a socialist state led by the working class and peasantry, the policy clearly favors business owners: from freezing the minimum wage to increasing working hours for workers so that businesses can complete the order contract after the peak of the Covid epidemic.
In addition, regulation 2022 has no time limit in effect. This means that in the future when the Covid epidemic is over, the regulations on increasing over time will continue to be in effect. Enterprises still have legal documents to force workers to work overtime.
Not only that, the state control is minimized when the regulation allows the employer to include the report of overtime work in the annual report on occupational safety and health. Previously, the notice was no later than 15 days from the date of overtime work (Decree 145/2020 NDCP, article 62, clause 2).
What about the workers? They have to work more, but in terms of rest time, the 2022 regulation is no more than the 2015 regulation. Accordingly, workers are entitled to one day off per week. During the seasonal months or in a rush to process export goods, workers may still have to work continuously for 26 days a month, without weekends.
With the implementation of the new regulation 2022, this cannot be accepted. Increasing working hours without enough rest time will make workers exhausted, leading to substandard products and an increased risk of occupational accidents, especially in hazardous and dangerous jobs.
Workers continue to bear the disadvantage with meager wages standing still. They continue to have to work overtime to earn enough money to cover their lives. Regardless of whether their work is hazardous, arduous, or dangerous. Regardless of the consequences of poor health, lack of time for the family, for themselves, and for the care and upbringing of children.
Increasing wages, not overtime, is the need of workers
The solution can only be to raise living wages so that workers do not have to work overtime (overtime) excessively. The job, if it is a lot, then the factory must receive more workers to solve it, but cannot force workers to work too much overtime.
This is the solution of a humane labor policy, the foundation of sustainable development.