Better Work Vietnam was established in 2009 to improve working conditions and competitiveness in the country’s garment sector. One of the principal strategies used to achieve these goals is to develop enterprise-level bipartite worker-management committees – Performance Improvement Consultative Committees (PICCs) – to encourage dialogue and joint problem solving. This research brief summarizes the findings from an independent research project that explored the causes and outcomes of recent strike activity in Vietnam, and asked whether improved communication through the PICC dialogue mechanism reduces the incidence of such events.
The research finds that worker-management committees such as PICCs may contribute to lower strike rates if they maintain a certain level of quality as a dialogue mechanism. They have the most potential to prevent strikes when combined with other well-functioning employment relations institutions. In order for PICCs (and similar bipartite mechanisms) to fulfil this potential, the researcher identifies four interrelated factors that must be present. Workers participating in the committee must be: : 1) freely elected, 2) able to carry out their representative function, 3) protected from retaliation, and 4) empowered to advocate for their positions. The study finds considerable variation in these factors – and overall quality – among PICCs studied, and also notes that all have room for improvement.
The study also concludes that well-functioning PICCs alone are not sufficient to reduce strike rates, arguing that only with independent and fully representative unions, which elect their leaders and engage in proper collective bargaining processes, can the root causes of industrial unrest be fully and sustainably addressed.