In the first three months of this year there were 220 work stoppages, compared with 216 for all of 2010, Vietnam News quoted a senior labour leader as saying.

Mai Duc Chinh, the deputy director of the state-controlled Vietnam general Confederation of Labour, said workers' wages had not kept pace with rising prices.

"They therefore require a pay rise and more allowances, such as help with their lunch and travelling costs," Chinh was quoted as saying.

In principle, workers need permission 20 days ahead of time before going on strike in Vietnam, where all unions are state-controlled.

According to government figures late last year the average monthly income in Vietnam was 1,365,000 dong ($65).

Official estimates put April's inflation figure at 17.51 percent compared with the same month a year earlier.

Vietnam "has one of the top five inflation rates in the world," the outgoing United Nations chief in Vietnam, John Hendra, said last week.

"It will increase the poverty rate. Whether it's one or two percent or more, we'll have to see."

The communist government, which said fighting inflation is its top priority, has tightened monetary policy and set a series of targets to help stabilise an economy facing challenges including a struggling currency and a trade deficit.

Hendra said the government is clearly focused in its inflation-fighting efforts, a commitment that must be maintained and implemented rigorously.

Agence France Presse - May 20, 2011