ILO Director-General visits Better Work-enrolled factory in Viet Nam to talk balance between economic growth and decent work

3 Jul 2023

ILO Director-General Gilbert F. Houngbo’s first official visit to Viet Nam includes a factory stop in Hung Yen Province to ensure that the economic potential of supply chains goes hand-in-hand with decent working conditions, safety and health.

HUNG YEN PROVINCE, Viet Nam, 30 June 2023 – On the final day of his first official visit to Viet Nam, Director-General of the International Labour Organization (ILO) Gilbert Houngbo toured the factory floor of Minh Anh Khoai Chau factory, an ILO/IFC Better Work-enrolled factory. 

“It is important for us to see how the factories, particularly in the garment sector, are working with our Better Work programme, which is in cooperation with IFC, to ensure that supply chains can continue growing and providing decent work to employees. We expect to see progress to uphold labour rights, including on occupational safety and health,” said the Director-General.

Leadership from ILO, Better Work, Minh Anh Khoai Chau factory, the workers’ union, and worker-manager committees meet to discuss issues facing the Vietnamese garment sector at the country and factory levels.

During his visit, Director-General Houngbo praised Viet Nam’s record of rapid economic development and expressed his appreciation for the country’s commitment to ratification and implementation of the ILO’s Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, ensuring decent work and more progressive, stable, and harmonious industrial relations. Minh Anh Khoai Chau factory demonstrates both the growth of the garment sector in Viet Nam, as well as a commitment to a worker-centric approach.

“What we have seen today is a good example of how we can combine both the need for economic growth and the protection of workers and workers’ rights,” said Director-General Houngbo. “I am delighted to see how the factory management reaps productivity increases by investing in new, modern, and automated machines, and on the other hand, has plans to move into greener production and a digital economy.”

On the factory visit, Director-General Houngbo was accompanied by Ms. Ingrid Christensen, ILO Viet Nam Country Director, Ms. Hitomo Nakagome, Senior Advisor for Asia  and Ms. Nguyen Hong Ha, Better Work Viet Nam Programme Manager. The ILO delegation was welcomed by Mr. Vu Van Toan, Director General of Minh Anh Group, Ms. Pham Quynh Hoa, Vice Director General of Minh Anh Group, Ms. Duong Thanh Thao, Senior Assistant to the Board of Directors of Minh Anh Group, Ms. Nguyen Thi Hieu, Trade Union Chairwoman, and other chairpersons of worker-manager committees. The factory representatives stressed the unique values that Better Work has brought to the factory, which differentiates the programme from other compliance initiatives. 

“Better Work does not just focus on assessment, but has helped us build up capacity through training, industry seminars and advisory sessions, where we could diagnose our problems and come up with the solutions,” said Ms. Duong Thanh Thao, Senior Assistant to the Board of Directors, Minh Anh Group.

The factory has focused on improvements that align with priorities of the Better Work programme and larger ILO, namely, improving working conditions generally and improving gender equality and inclusion specifically, and strengthening social dialogue between workers and managers. Minh Anh Khoai Chau factory, which employs 1,700 workers, 77% of whom are women, has been enrolled in Better Work since 2017.

“Participating in the Better Work programme sets the foundation for factory improvements and opportunities, including the chance to join industrial seminars, ” said Ms. Pham Quynh Hoa, Vice Director General of Minh Anh Group. “There, we can share our best practices and sustainable development progress with other non-Better Work participating factories, particularly small and medium enterprises.”

The factory has embraced internal and external knowledge-sharing, including developing workers’ supervisory and technical skills by participating in training to assist women workers with career advancement, and has attended to occupational safety and health (OSH) improvements like safer modern machinery, air conditioning and fire safety systems. The factory has also established worker-manager committees to facilitate dialogue and created different channels for worker feedback. 

“After participating in the Better Work programme, we have gained many positive changes and more trust from brands, particularly new brands placing orders with the factory,” said Director General Vu Van Toan. 

ILO Director-General Gilbert F. Houngbo shakes hands with Mr. Vu Van Toan, Director General of Minh Anh Group.

During recent decades, Viet Nam has made significant progress in labour reforms, notably with the revised 2019 Labour Code in the areas of industrial relations, sustainable enterprises, social protection and other related social and labour policies. Better Work’s focus in the country has been on bolstering the competitiveness and growth of the garment industry while bringing attention to workers’ rights and improving labour conditions. In addition to engaging at the factory level, Better Work Viet Nam has focused on how trade policy incentives, like the EU-Viet Nam free trade agreement, and efforts to ratify core ILO Conventions, can support improved labour conditions and social development outcomes.  

“Better Work is a partnership-based programme, and we aim to support constituents to build the capacity of national institutions and strengthen the governance of labour markets. In the next five years, we will focus on sustaining the programme impacts through  public-private partnership and by working  closely with the national  tripartite partners to transfer ownership to the factories. Minh Anh Khoai Chau is a good example of how partnership translates into great improvement when the factory fully owns the process,” said Nguyen Hong Ha, Better Work Viet Nam Programme Manager.

During his visit, Director-General Houngbo praised Viet Nam for successful economic development while calling for greater focus on the creation of decent jobs and protection of workers’ rights.  During his stay, he discussed the progress of and next steps for the ILO’s cooperation work in the country with the Vietnamese Prime Minister, Pham Minh Chinh, National Assembly Chairman Vuong Dinh Hue, and Minister of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs, Dao Ngoc Dung.  

He also shared his vision for a Global Coalition for Social Justice and emphasized the importance of focusing on the social dimensions of sustainable development and economic growth. He expressed hope that countries, including Viet Nam, will join hands in the coalition. 

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