Parliament to decide whether Vietnam joins convention on forced labor

By Hoang Thuy   May 21, 2020 | 12:36 am PT
Parliament to decide whether Vietnam joins convention on forced labor
Inmates work at a prison in the northern province of Bac Giang. Photo courtesy of Bac Giang Prosecutors Office.
Vietnamese legislators are discussing whether to join Convention 105 (C105) on the abolition of forced labor at an ongoing National Assembly session.

Speaking at the NA meeting in Hanoi on Wednesday, Minister of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs Dao Ngoc Dung said C105 regulations are globally considered basic labor standards, demonstrating the progressive value of humanity, as forced labor deprives humans of both liberty and dignity.

"In Vietnamese law, forced labor is prohibited while violations are strictly dealt with," he said.

However, there is confusion over terms and conditions once Vietnam joins one of the core International Labor Organization (ILO) conventions.

Nguyen Van Giau, Chairman of the NA’s Committee on Foreign Affairs, said he agrees with the necessity to join C105 but that some members have suggested reviewing whether to have inmates work in prison, as per the 2019 Law on Execution of Criminal Judgments.

According to the law, a prison would consider the health, ages and skills of inmates to decide which jobs they are suited to. Working hours are regulated at no more than eight hours per day, with inmates afforded breaks on the weekend and other holidays.

The law states working inmates would be "rewarded" for good performance and that once they finished serving time, they would receive help finding jobs.

NA delegate Luu Binh Nhuong also questioned whether it was correct to make prisoners work when their sentences did not stipulate this necessity.

"Once we ratify C105, and ILO sees we make prisoners work, what will happen? I totally agree that we assist inmates reintegrate into their communities, but not for commercial purposes," he held.

Minister Dung said working inmates are not regulated by ILO Convention 105 but Convention 29.

Adopted in 1930, Convention Concerning Forced or Compulsory Labor (No. 29) is one of eight fundamental ILO conventions. Its object and purpose is to suppress the use of forced labor in all its forms irrespective of the nature of the work or the sector of activity in which it may be performed. The convention defines forced labor as "all work or services exacted from any person under the menace of any penalty and for which the said person has not offered himself voluntarily," with exceptions like compulsory military service. The convention excludes "adult able-bodied males," to whom legal imposition of forced labor is allowed.

Signed in 1957, Abolition of Forced Labor (No. 105) has also formed part of the eight ILO fundamentals. It cancels certain forms of forced labor still allowed under Convention 29, such as punishment for strikes and as a punishment for holding certain political views.

As regulated by Convention 29, working inmates are treated as exceptions and are not considered forced labor.

The work of prisoners shall comply with the provisions of Law on Execution of Criminal Judgments and placed under supervision and management of the prison, non-transferable or imposed for private use.

"In consultation with ILO, most countries operate their own working inmate laws. If prisoners work for commercial purposes, they must have an employment contract and receive payment," Dung said.

It is expected the NA would vote for Vietnam to join Convention 105 on Thursday next week.

The ninth session of the 14th NA opened Wednesday and will last for one month until June 19.

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