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Cablegate: Hcmc Private Sector Joins Forces to Stem Tide of Labor

VZCZCXRO0655
OO RUEHDT RUEHPB
DE RUEHHM #1276 3620207
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O P 280207Z DEC 07
FM AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH CITY
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 3493
INFO RUCPDOC/USDOC WASHDC PRIORITY 0055
RUEHC/DEPT OF LABOR WASHINGTON DC
RUCNARF/ASEAN REGIONAL FORUM COLLECTIVE
RUEHHI/AMEMBASSY HANOI PRIORITY 2384
RUEHHM/AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH CITY 3712

UNCLAS HO CHI MINH CITY 001276

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/MLS, EEB/TPP/BTA/ANA
STATE PASS TO USTR DBISBEE
LABOR FOR ZLI
COMMERCE FOR HHPHO
USAID/ANE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ECON PGOV BEXP SOCI ELAB VM
SUBJECT: HCMC PRIVATE SECTOR JOINS FORCES TO STEM TIDE OF LABOR
ACCIDENTS


1. (U) Summary. Vietnam's strict labor safety laws are poorly
enforced, allowing a growing epidemic of deadly industrial
accidents that is concentrated in the industrialized south. As
part of their ongoing corporate social responsibility efforts in
Vietnam, AmCham HCMC companies including Intel, ConocoPhillips
and other major multinationals have formed the non-profit
Vietnam Occupational Health & Safety Environment Alliance
(VOHSEA) to promote work safety and increase government
oversight. It is still too early to see the results, but
American companies are spearheading this effort to increase
labor safety law awareness and enforcement. End Summary.

Welders in Sandals and Sunglasses
---------------------------------
2. (U) Vietnam's strict Standards and Specifications on Labor
Safety are poorly enforced. Ministry of Labor, Invalids, and
Social Affairs (MoLISA) industrial accident statistics for 2006
paint a troubling picture of deteriorating work safety: a 31
per cent year-on-year increase in the number of labor accidents,
a 32 percent increase in the number of victims, and a 12 percent
increase in the number of fatalities. The growth in the number
of accidents is faster than the growth of Vietnam's industry and
construction sector, roughly 17 percent in 2006. Ho Chi Minh
City (HCMC) and neighboring Dong Nai province account for 36
percent of Vietnam's industrial accidents. While the absolute
numbers are significant -- 6,088 people killed in 5,881
industrial accidents in 2006 -- most experts believe
underreporting makes these a lower limit. A stroll past
work-sites within blocks of the Consulate provided evidence of
the conditions underpinning these grim statistics: welders in
sandals and sunglasses or furniture finishers without
respiratory or eye protection equipment are common.

Work Safety Packs AmCham Lunch
------------------------------
3. (U) An overflow crowd of AmCham business representatives
turned out to hear Intel and ConocoPhillips safety officers
contrast slipshod local work practices with the zero-tolerance
for injury policies they apply to their own workers and
sub-contractors world-wide. Numerous AmCham participants then
described local sub-contractors who ignored safety regulations,
absconded with safety equipment or were otherwise oblivious to
their company's "injury-free environment" message. Non-stop
questions from the audience on how to instill and maintain a
safety ethic in local partners pushed the December 5th meeting
into overtime, demonstrating that the topic hit a nerve with the
foreign-invested manufacturers and construction industry
representatives present.

Private Sector To The Rescue?
-----------------------------
4. (U) The formation of the Vietnam Occupational Health & Safety
Environment Alliance (VOHSEA), a cross-sector, multi-industry
non-profit organization scheduled to begin operation in 2008,
was announced at the conclusion of the AmCham meeting. The
fledgling organization--consisting to date of Intel, Strategic
Marine, Conoco Phillips, Adidas, SeaTag, Cai Mep (Maersk), and
Petro Vietnam--plans to promote occupational safety by means of
awareness campaigns, information exchange, and training
programs. It will also prod local authorities to increase and
systematize enforcement of labor safety regulations.

Comment:
--------
5. (U) A blend of altruism and self-interest likely motivates
the multinational heavy hitters that have joined VOHSEA so far.
While firms such as Intel set the gold standard for corporate
social responsibility worldwide, unilaterally taking the high
road in the regulatory enforcement vacuum that is today's
Vietnam places a firm at a competitive disadvantage. By
jump-starting the transition to work-safety standards found in
more developed economies, VOHSEA hopes to both level (i.e.,
raise for all participants) the regulatory playing field and
reduce the likelihood of a major industrial accident with its
attendant mega fines and notoriety. End comment.

6. (U) This cable was coordinated with Embassy Hanoi.

FAIRFAX

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