Global March

ITUC publishes new global survey on violation of trade union rights

8 June 2011: Global March Governing Board member the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) has published its 2010 Annual of Violations of Trade Union Rights. Colombia and the Americas maintain the lead in a grim record of murder and repression of workers involved in trade union activities in the latest world survey which was released by the ITUC at the 100th Session of the International Labour Conference of the International Labour Organization (ILO), Geneva, Switzerland, 1-17 June 2010.

Conducted across 143 countries, the survey paints a picture of people fighting for greater economic rights and freedom to organise, with many governments and businesses responding with repression, sackings, violence, death threats and murder. This year, the survey reveals:

  • 90 murders of trade union activists (49 in Colombia alone);
  • another 75 recorded death threats and at least 2,500 arrests;
  • at least 5,000 sackings of unionists because of union activities.

“Around the world, workers, communities and populations are trying to claim basic rights to decent work and a decent life, and in many countries these people are being met with sackings, violence and in extreme cases murder by governments and by employers and businesses,” said ITUC General Secretary Ms Sharan Burrow.

The global trends highlighted in the survey include: governments not enforcing labour laws; lack of support for the funding of inspection or protection; the lack of rights and abuse of migrant labour across the world, but particularly in the Gulf States; and the exploitation of the mainly female workforces in the world’s export processing zones.

Across the Middle East, the survey paints a picture of governments trying to repress their people engaged in trying to better their lives economically through trade union representation, better wages and collective bargaining:

In Egypt, the report shows sackings and reprisals by employers, police violence and numerous arrests as more and more workers joined independent trade unions and took strike action.

In Tunisia, the report spotlights the rising tide of social protest linked to the fight for economic rights, and the government responding by interfering in the affairs of the trade union movement.

In Bahrain, the report underscores the recurrent problem of unemployment and inequality, and this year the ITUC is monitoring the disappearances, arrests and violence directed at independent trade unionists over the past months.

“Independent trade unions are essential to improving the living standards of ordinary workers across the globe. The ITUC Annual Survey shows that in fighting for basic rights to a decent job and decent life, many unionists put their lives on the line for the good of their communities,” said Ms Burrow. She also issued a warning to the global governing bodies and the G20: “The world’s unemployment queue is growing. Without proper jobs or hope for the future, governments risk increasing political instability. Union rights are fundamental to democracy, to economic growth and to a civilised future.”

Global March Chairperson Kailash Satyarthi welcomed the launch of the online annual survey saying: “Trade unions and trade union freedoms underpin global efforts to tackle child labour. Where trade unions are strong and well organised, child labour cannot survive. It is quite shocking in this day and age to learn that committed trade unionists may be threatened, sacked or even murdered because of their belief in fundamental human rights. We stand in solidarity with the ITUC and its members worldwide and express our appreciation for their fortitude and their strong support for the global elimination of child labour. We also call on the world’s leaders to pay heed to Sister Burrow’s important reminder that trade union rights are fundamental to democracy, economic growth and a civilised future.”

The ITUC’s Annual Survey is presented in an accessible online format on the organisation’s web site. To access the web pages of the survey, click here

In addition, the survey can be ordered in printed format or on a USB stick directly from the ITUC. For more information, click here


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