Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Dying for the union

From the ITUC 2010 annual survey of violations of trade union rights.

At least 101 trade unionists and labour activists were murdered in 2009 compared to 76 the previous year: 48 were killed in Colombia, 16 in Guatemala, 12 in Honduras, six in Mexico, six in Bangladesh, four in Brazil, three in the Dominican Republic, three in the Philippines, one in India, one in Iraq and one in Nigeria. Colombia was yet again the deadliest country in the world: 22 of the trade unionists who died were senior trade union leaders and five were women.A further 10 attempted murders and 35 serious death threats are recorded, again mostly in Colombia and Guatemala.

Furthermore, many trade unionists remained in prison and were joined by around hundred others in 2009. Many others were arrested in Iran, Honduras, Pakistan, South Korea, Turkey and Zimbabwe, in particular. The general trade union rights’ situation has continued to deteriorate in a number of countries, including Egypt, the Russian Federation, South Korea and Turkey.Thousands of workers demonstrating to claim wages, denounce harsh working conditions or the harmful effects of the global financial and economical crisis have faced beatings, arrest and detention, including in Algeria, Argentina, Belarus, Burma, Côte d’Ivoire, Egypt, Honduras, India, Iran, Kenya, Nepal, Pakistan and Turkey. Dismissals of workers due to their trade union activities were reported in many countries. In Bangladesh, six garment workers on strike for a pay increase and settlement of outstanding wages died after a police intervention.

Union busting and pressure continue to be widely used by employers. In several countries, companies threatened workers with closure or transfer of production sites, should they organise or join a trade union. Often employers simply refused to negotiate with legitimate workers’ representatives while the authorities did nothing. Some labour codes were amended to permit more “flexibility” and to unravel social welfare systems which often impacted the existing industrial relations systems and thus curtailed trade union rights.

2009 was the 60th Anniversary of the ILO Convention on the Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining, 1949 (no. 98). Countries such as Canada, China, India, Iran, the Republic of Korea, Mexico, Thailand, the United States and Vietnam have still not ratified it. Thus, approximately half of the world’s economically active population is not covered by the Convention. Even when ratified, implementation of this vital Convention is frequently weak.

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