Friday, May 23, 2014

Workers Restricted Rights

The International Trade Union Confederation's (ITUC) Global Rights Index, which ranks countries on how well they protect employment rights such as freedom of association, collective bargaining and the right to strike, was published this week.

Of 139 countries surveyed in 40% of states rights were violated systematically or simply not guaranteed. In the past year, governments of at least 35 countries have arrested or imprisoned workers as a tactic to resist demands for democratic rights, decent wages, safer working conditions and secure jobs. In at least 9 countries murder and disappearance of workers were commonly used to intimidate workers. Workers in at least 53 countries have been dismissed or suspended for attempting to negotiate better working conditions. As the report itself says “Indeed, employers and governments are  complicit in silencing workers’ voices against exploitation.”

Laws and practices in at least 87 countries exclude certain type of workers from the right to strike.

“The increase in precarious employment relationships has further deepened the vulnerability of workers to discrimination at the workplace. Governments in the vast majority of countries have been convinced to alter their labour legislation to encourage various forms of precarious work. In virtually all countries, temporary work, agency work, subcontracting and other types of informal work are expanding rapidly. Given their unstable employment situation and the high risk of dismissal, precarious workers are discouraged from joining unions and being covered by collective bargaining. This means that workers in precarious forms of employment do not have the necessary support to improve their work situation”

 The UK falls within the category 3 of nations where people's workplace rights are regularly violated, alongside Sri Lanka, Tanzania and Venezuela.

Cambodia’s labour law fails to cover many civil servants, there are undue restrictions on the right to elect union representatives, and in 2013 the government responded with lethal force to demonstrators seeking a decent wage and working conditions. Qatar and Saudi Arabia is yet to allow unions at all for its many migrant workers, which means that effectively more than 90 per cent of the workforce is unable to have access to their rights leading to forced labour practices in both countries supported by archaic sponsorship laws.

While in Latin America, Guatemala was one of the worst places to be a worker, with no guarantee of rights.

At a time when corporate power has never been greater  the ITUC Global Poll 2014 found almost two-thirds of people want governments to do more to tame corporate power.
“The World Bank’s recent Doing Business report naively subscribed to the view that reducing labour standards is something governments should aspire to,” Sharan Burrow said. “This new Rights Index puts governments and employers on notice that unions around the world will stand together in solidarity to ensure basic rights at work.”

Read the report

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