How to Convince Employees to Join the Trade Union?

The employee is free to join Trade Unions. Joining a Trade Union is at the employee’s own discretion and nobody has right to enforce such participation. This leads to a situation where although the enterprise wishes to establish a Grassroots Trade Union (GTU), it cannot do so if all the employees are not willing to join the GTU. In other cases, an enterprise has established its GTU, but a number of employees are not willing to join, and therefore, there are employee members and non-members of the GTU in such enterprise. One reason for this reluctance to join is that the employees do not realize the benefits of being a Member of the GTU. In addition, they have to pay an additional monthly amount for trade union fees. Further, the fact that many GTU members have lower positions than the employers, and even completely side with the employers over some issues, makes it appear that some GTU’s fail to protect the rights of the employees. There are many other reasons why employees turn away from a GTU: the GTU may be inactive, only organizing impractical activities to follow the crowd that are not helpful to the employees; or if the GTU is either too distant from the employees’ collectives or there is no cohesion and mutual understanding between the employees’ collectives and the GTU, etc.

Therefore, an enterprise needs to help the employee recognize the material and spiritual benefits of joining a GTU. In short, the enterprise has to provide an answer to the employee’s question: “Why should I join a GTU?”.

Benefits upon Becoming a Member of the GTU

Besides the basic rights of an ordinary employee, an employee joining the GTU shall have the following additional rights and benefits

Firstly, the employee shall enhance his/her role in the enterprise, which shall balance the interests and status of such employee with the employer.

As a Member of the GTU, the employee shall have very important rights such as (i) participating in the drafting, the giving of opinions, and approving or disapproving of regulations affecting the rights and interests of the employee’s collective (such as internal labor regulations, collective bargaining agreements, bonus regulations, salary scales) and (ii) giving opinions, organizing and leading strikes at the enterprise. Joining and developing the GTU means that the employees shall collectively fight to bring about greater benefits to each employee. If the employee fights for his/her individual interests alone, such employee is completely vulnerable to the employer.

Joining Trade Unions is also a trend all over the world, especially in developed countries. According to the 2016 data of the Bureau of Labor Statistics (the United States Department of Labor) 1, the rate of employees joining Trade Unions was quite high, especially in fields involving skilled human resources, such as education and training (34.6%) and library services (34.5%). The employees joining Trade Unions also have a 20% higher average income than the employees who do not join the Trade Unions. In European countries, Trade Union participation rates have always led the world (91% in Iceland, 67% in Sweden, 55.1% in Belgium) 2. Therefore, the Trade Union movements in these countries are very strong and the employee benefits are always guaranteed.

Secondly, the employee shall be protected and supported by the Trade Unions when his/ her legitimate rights and interests are violated, e.g. the Trade Unions shall provide free legal advice and legal aid relating to labor laws and trade union regulations, as well as represent the employee in proceedings related to labor matters.

Thirdly, the employee shall be supported by the Trade Unions in both materially and spiritually:

When a GTU is established, it is allowed to retain 67% of the trade union fund (contributed by the enterprise), 60% of the trade union fee (contributed by the Members of the GTU) and 100% of other revenues in order to develop its own and the employees’ activities. These retained amounts shall be used for providing financial support to the employee, such as:

  • Supporting activities involving representing and protecting the legitimate rights and interests of the Members of the GTU and the employee’s collective: Expenditures on hiring lawyers to protect GTU officials in representing the employees while protecting their legitimate interests upon unlawful contract termination, being dismissed or being transferred to other jobs with reduced income by the owner of the enterprise; expenditures on organization of strikes under the law; expenditures on court fees and other litigation costs of lawsuits filed by the Trade Union, etc.
  • Supporting leave and providing allowances: Expenditures on assisting the Members of the GTU and employees who suffering from sickness, maternity, accident, having a funeral of biological parents, parents-in-law, spouses, or children and on the Members of the GTU’ wedding occasions; to visit family and give gifts to employees on the lunar new year; to give birthday presents to the Members of the GTU; to provide allowance to the Members of the GTU and employees facing difficulties due to occupational accidents, incidents, natural disasters, fires, and serious illnesses affecting their health or property, etc.
  • Supporting employee achievement and providing rewards: Expenditures on rewards for employees who have accomplished outstanding achievements in their work; expenditures on rewards for children of the Members of the GTU and employees who have accomplished outstanding achievements in their studies; expenditures on coordination and organization of activities on the occasion of Children’s Day, Mid-Autumn Festival, etc.
  • Supporting cultural, sport and tourism activities: Expenditures for employees who take part in cultural and artistic activities; expenditures on rewards for collectives or individuals achieving prizes for performance and sports day organized by the GTU; expenditures on coordination with agencies, organizations, and enterprises in organizing tours for the Members of the GTU and employees, etc.
  • Supporting activities on gender and gender equality: Expenditures on purchasing equipment and facilities for the enterprise’s kindergarten (if any); supporting the Members of the GTU and employees whose children attend nurseries or kindergartens; expenditures on promoting and organizing activities on the occasions of Women’s Day (March 8), Vietnamese Women’s Day (October 20), Vietnamese Family Day (June 28), International Day of Happiness (March 20) and Population Day (December 26); etc.

The Vietnam General Confederation has focused on practical benefit programs for the employees who are Members of a Trade Union

Accordingly, On March 09, 2017, the Vietnam General Confederation of Labor issued Guidance No.284/HD-TLD on implementing the theme of 2017 being ‘Year for promoting the interests of the Members of Trade Unions’. Accordingly, the Vietnam General Confederation of Labor has focused its attention on practical benefit programs for the employees who are Members of a Trade Union, for example:

  • The signing of cooperative agreements between Trade Unions and commercial groups, corporations, or companies shall be based on the following principles: Members of the GTU are a potential group of customers for the enterprise. Therefore, when the Trade Union directs such potential group of customers to use the products and services of the enterprise, the enterprise must provide a discount on the price for Members of the GTU. The agreements shall focus on products and services essential for Members of the GTU such as food products; consumer utility products, household and electronic products; traveling and recreation services, medical treatment, physical training and sport, culture, learning equipment and materials for the children of Members of the GTU.
  • Tourism, culture, sport and vocational training facilities of the Vietnam Trade Union shall give more preferential treatment to Members of the GTU than non-members, specifically:
    • Hotels and guest houses of the Trade Union must provide discounts for Members of the GTU;
    • Universities, colleges, vocational training schools, and vocational training centers of the Trade Union shall research ways to provide support to Members of the GTU, or their children, who are studying at schools;
    • Legal consultancy centers and offices shall explore options to provide free legal consultancy and initiation of lawsuits at the request of a Member of the GTU, if such cases relate to labor and Trade Union matters;
    • Kindergartens and nurseries of the Trade Union shall research and implement the early and late pick-up/transportation of children of the Members of the GTU to match with the working hours of Member employees at industrial zones and export processing zones. Further, the Trade Union shall implement a policy for reducing the cost of childcare for Members of the GTU.
  • If the agencies of the Trade Union organize cultural activities, physical training and sports activities; activities involving sightseeing, relaxation, recreation and entertainment, Members of the GTU and their spouses or children shall be given priority to join; and Members of the GTU are entitled to a reduction or exemption from the participation fees.
  • Additional activities of Trade Union (e.g. the Housing Program named ‘Union Home’, providing loans for the creation of jobs through the National Fund for resolving employment, the Capital Supporting Fund for poor self-employed workers; supporting activities for employees’ children through the Child Protection Fund of the Vietnam Trade Union; visiting and providing support to Social Charity Funds and the Golden Heart Fund of the Trade Union). These activities and organizations shall give priority to Members of the GTU first and then to others with similar situation.

The GTU need to Improve and Enhance its Role of Protecting Employees 

From a practical perspective, the operations of the GTU at the present have not been overly effective. Many GTUs are still very weak and often stand on the side of the employers, failing to protect the interests of the employees. Their operations consist only of crowd-following activities and are not practical, leaving the employees with little trust in the GTU and deterring workers from joining. The ineffectiveness of the GTU can be most clearly seen in the statistics for illegal strikes in Vietnam over the years. According to data gathered from the Vietnam General Confederation of Labor 3, in the period between 2013 (the year the 2012 Labor Code came into effect) until the end of June 2016, there were more than 1,000 strikes throughout the country, but none of them complied with the regulations of the 2012 Labor Code.

To overcome the above reality and encourage employees to actively participate in the GTU, the GTU shall properly perform its role in representing and protecting the best interests of its members in particular, and of the employees in general, when negotiating or in dialogue with the employer concerning collective agreements. The GTU can promote the benefits to employees if they become Members of the GTU. At the same time, there should be practical and beneficial activities such as visiting and seeking leave for employees who are sick, assisting Members of the GTU who are in financial distress, as well as other useful and positive activities such as recreation and entertainment. The goal is for employees to believe and understand that participating in a Trade Union is not a meaningless waste of time but instead will bring them material and spiritual benefits, as well as serving as a helpful resource when they encounter difficulties.

This article contains legal knowledge and professional terms. If you have any questions or concerns regarding regulations on establishment of Grassroots Trade Union, benefits of joining Grassroots Trade Union, how to convince employees voluntarily join the Grassroots Trade Union in accordance with Vietnamese laws, our Labor Lawyers are always available at

  1. Article titled “Union Members Summary”, published on web portal of Bureau of Labor Statistics (the United States Department of Labor) on January 26, 2017.
  2. Article titled “Which countries have the highest levels of Labor Union Membership?” (Niall McCarthy), published on web portal of Forbes Magazine on June 20, 2017.
  3. Article titled “Để đình công đúng luật” (Bảo Duy), published on web portal of Vietnam General Confederation of Labor on September 13, 2016.