All around the world: trade union rights violations report

The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) has released the 2011 Annual Worldwide Survey of Trade Union Rights Violations, and it's a depressing picture.

Colombia continued to be the most dangerous place in the world to be a trade unionist with 49 documented murders this year (in practice the number is far higher, but the killers don't always leave a note explaining the reason for the murder…)

But it's a mistake to assume that these violations – which occur all over the world, north and south – are just anti-union. They are all, at heart, attacks on ordinary working people fighting for better living standards: better jobs, better wages, better health and safety. That means trade unionists get on the wrong side of some pretty powerful (and rich) people, and they often suffer as a result.

Launching the report at the ILO Annual Conference in Geneva, ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow said "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 a decent life, many unionists put their lives on the line for the good of their communities."

This year there is a special focus in the report on the countries of the Middle East and North Africa. The report covers 2010, so misses out the momentous events of the Arab Spring. But it unveils the conditions of repression and violence that led to the uprisings:

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 meddling 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 the independent trade unionists over the past months.

Owen Tudor

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