A common voice in labor relationship needed
Covid-19 has forced many enterprises to lay off their employees. However, the biggest headache in the labor relationship is how to seek a common voice between employers and employees.
Workers may feel the difficult situation of their enterprises when the volume of their daily work becomes smaller and the time of shifts is reduced. Amid the fear for the coronavirus pandemic, uncertainties at the company make them feel more insecure. The workers are facing an unprecedented abnormality where both health and economic issues are in the red zone. Therefore, their psychology is now very sensitive, though they hardly imagine how their enterprises are in hardship.
The hardships for enterprises are they are forced to shut down business, national borders are closed and international trade comes to a halt. It’s now a tough problem for them to maintain operations.
The difficulty of employees and the hardship of employers are clear. However, does one party put itself in the position of the other to understand each other?
Many fiscal, credit and social support packages have been launched to help enterprises and people overcome the hardship. They are really lifesavers for enterprises to survive for a few months. Enterprises may work out specific plans and figures from these packages and figure out scenarios for survival.
Labor re-organization a tough job
Labor re-organization is a solution, but it’s a tough problem for employers. Labor cost is a big expense in business operations, especially for enterprises in the industrial sector. However, how to reduce the labor cost reasonably and lawfully?
The Labor Code has projections and many options for employers, such as to suspend the labor contract, stop execution of the labor contract, re-negotiate the labor time, and terminate the labor contract. Employers can chose suitable options depending on their business health.
However, quite a few enterprises have taken advantage of the pandemic, seen as an opportune time to lay off workers they have earlier planned to fire but have yet to find an opportunity. Elderly workers and those with high seniority are the most vulnerable.
Regarding revenue, enterprises see disadvantages in elderly workers, such as poor health, less flexibility and adaptability to the production pace than young workers, and high expenses for salaries and social insurance.
Elderly workers are in an insecure situation as they are old and it’s very difficult to find a new job. Therefore, they may think that they are taken advantage of by their employers upon termination of the labor contract though this is not in the employers’ thinking.
Today’s information is diverse and comes from many channels. However, it is both superfluous and lacking, with plenty of misinformation but shortage of reliable information.
Enterprises often pay attention to external communications to build the corporate image and promote their products, but neglect internal communications, which is particularly important during sensitive times. The Labor Code also has regulations for dialog at enterprises. However, most enterprises do it just for form’s sake. Employers still hold the position as decision-makers and employees are always in a passive status. Meanwhile, State management agencies perform supervision based only on papers and documents presented and explained by employers. Therefore, this becomes a bottleneck in internal communications.
The lack of internal communications is the cause of strikes. Some strikes have occurred because the communications from the top leaders to workers is not smooth and consistent due to disruption at the middle level managers. However, such strikes are easily solved, as employers’ policies and decisions are essentially lawful and reasonable, but are only stuck in communications.
There are also strikes because information from workers cannot reach employers, or employers do not take into full account the interests of workers as per the law, and so have unreasonable, unlawful policies and decisions. These contradictions usually last long and are hard to resolve. They are cases of wrong communications at the start.
Enterprises should pay attention to internal communications so as to provide official, accurate and unique information from the competent person of the enterprise, provide transparent information so as not to cause ambiguity which breeds the ground for subjective deduction of employees and rumors, help employees understand, share difficulties with and get confidence in employers, and gain the consensus from employees to avoid disputes and strikes which lead to an increase in operational cost and affect the operation, revenue, image and prestige of enterprises.
The hardship amid Covid-19 is also an opportunity for employers to look back at their ways of management and operation, which need synchronization and tightness at the start and must be adjusted upon risk. The principle of effective labor employment and no layoff upon some opportunity should be observed right at the recruitment phase, and reviewed monthly, quarterly and yearly according to the company regulation. The Labor Code allows employers to sign definite term contracts with employees twice, with a total maximum time of six years. Upon termination of the term, employers have a lawful opportunity to end the contracts with ineffective employees.
For employees with indefinite term labor contracts, employers can exchange with them during the annual performance review or talk with them over rectification of their shortcomings.
Internal communications should be conducted regularly by enterprises whenever possible to seek a common voice. Understanding will foster human, sustainable relationship and mutual benefit. SGT
Phan Thi Ngoc Thang
Large companies are not recruiting workers, while small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are laying off workers as they cannot maintain a big staff during the Covid-19 crisis.