After being on strike for four days, Vietnamese shoe workers on February 29 returned to work when their employer agreed to rescind new attendance policies that workers said violated the country’s labor law and could lower their pay.
More than 17,000 workers walked off the job on February 25 at the Pou Chen shoe factory in Bien Hoa City.
Pou Chen is a Taiwanese company that makes shoes for some of the largest brands in the apparel industry. Its main clients are Nike, Adidas, Reebok, Asics, Under Armour, New Balance, Puma, Converse, Salomon, and Timberland.
The new attendance policy would have reduced year-end bonuses for workers who missed four or more days of work.
Vietnamese law requires that workers receive at least 12 days of paid leave a year.
The company in a news release said that the strike did not affect production, but the day after the strike began, Pou Chen management tried to coax the strikers back to work by promising to hold discussions with them about the new policy.
The strikers, however, refused to budge.
On Monday, February 29, the workers returned to work after Pou Chen agreed to suspend the new policy and pay workers for the days that they were on strike.
The Bien Hoa City strike was not the first time that Vietnamese shoe workers have been on strike.
In March 2015, Workers at a Pou Chen factory in a suburb of Ho Chi Mien City walked off the job to protest a new government pension law.
The new law was passed to shore up the country’s under funded retirement plan that pays pensions to workers when they reach retirement age–60 for men, 55 for women.
The new law would have restricted lump sum payments to workers when they quit or leave a job for other reasons.
Many workers use lump sum payments to tide them over during periods of unemployment until they find a new job.
News accounts of the strike report that 90,000 workers took part in the strike.
To get the strikers back to work, the government agreed to look for other means to deal with the under funded pension problem.
Pou Chen, one of the largest shoe manufacturers in the world, has faced large strikes at other factories that it owns.
In 2014, 30,000 workers struck Pou Chen factories in China because the company was not making social insurance and housing benefit payments.
Chinese law requires that employers contribute to its social insurance fund, which covers retirement, health care, maternity leave, and other social benefits. The law also requires that companies pay a housing benefit as well.
As a result of the strike, Pou Chen agreed to pay the money that it owed and to make regular payments in the future.
Like the strike in China, the strike by Vietnamese workers was a success, but that success may be short live.
After the workers returned to work, the company said that it would do a better job of explaining the new attendance policy to the workers and indicated that it might try to reintroduce the new policy in 2017.