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Trade Union Rights October 2020

This is a quick survey of some of the major trade union issues in the world today, collated from ITUC.

It was noted in June 2020 that the violation of workers’ rights across the world was at a seven year high.  It was also noted that, “this trend, by governments and employers, to restrict the rights of workers through limiting collective bargaining, disrupting the right to strike, and excluding workers from unions, has been made worse by a rise in the number of countries that impede the registration of unions

It was also reported that the seventh edition of the ITUC Global Rights Index had ranked 144 countries on the degree of respect for workers’ rights. Key findings included the following:

  •  85 per cent of countries violated the right to strike.
  •  80 per cent of countries violated the right to collectively bargain.
  •  The number of countries that impeded the registration of unions has increased.
  •  Three new countries entered the list of ten worst countries for workers (Egypt, Honduras, India)
  •  The number of countries that denied or constrained freedom of speech increased from 54 in 2019 to 56 in 2020.
  •  Workers were exposed to violence in 51 countries.
  •  Workers had no or restricted access to justice in 72 per cent of countries.
  •  Workers experienced arbitrary arrests and detention in 61 countries.

Unpaid work

It was also reported that evidence from the Asian and Pacific regions suggested that millions of hours of unpaid work are being done on a daily basis.

Yamei Du, Intern at the ILO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific has commented that,from subsistence food production to looking after children and the elderly, 187 million hours are spent on unpaid production work every day in five countries in the Asia-Pacific,2 60 per cent of which are worked by women. With the vast majority of working-age persons engaged in unpaid production work — 24 out of 28 million in the five countries analysed — the scale and weight of collective hours spent warrant greater efforts to incorporate unpaid production work into any standard assessment of labour, productivity and economic growth outcomes. Increasingly, survey instruments do allow us to measure the scope and scale of unpaid production work and thus could be used to make such invisible work visible.

News from India

It was reported in September that the Indian parliament had passed laws attacking the rights of working people.    The ITUC were said to be appalled at the new laws, which were condemned by Indian trade unions.

Suppression of Strikes in Belarus

It was reported in September that the government of Belarus had imposed 15-day prison sentences on striking workers at the Belaruskali mining conglomerate. The workers included Siarhei Charkasau, co-chair of the strike committee at the Belaruskali mining conglomerate and vice president of the Belarus Independent Union, an affiliate of the BKDP, and his colleagues Raman Liavonchyk and Pavel Razumovskiy. Belaruskali is the major global exporter of potash and is a key source of income for the country.

In October, the ITUC called upon people to show solidarity with the people of Belarus on Monday 12 October 2020. The ITUC, along with other Brussels based trade union organisations, demonstrated at the Belarusian Embassy in Brussels on Monday 12 October 2020.

The ITUC said that they  supported the demands of independent trade unions in Belarus to:

  1.  stop the violence, persecution and arrests;
  2.  release all imprisoned union leaders, activists, and civil society representatives;
  3.  respect the right to strike and
  4.  start a dialogue with the opposition council, including representatives of independent trade unions, in order to re-run the election with an independent election commission and international observers.


Trade Union Congress blocked in Afghanistan

Again in September, it was reported that the ITUC had called on the president of Afghanistan, Mohammad Ashraf Ghani, to end the government’s obstruction of legitimate trade union work in the country and allow the ITUC-affiliated national trade union centre NUAWE to hold its congress.

New laws in Qatar

On a more positive note, new laws were adopted by the State of Qatar on 30th August 2020, which were described as “a game changer in the protection of workers’ rights” in that country.

ITUC Calls for End to Trade Union oppression in Cambodia

In August the ITUC condemned the arrest on 31 July and later prosecution of Rong Chhun, the president of the Cambodian Confederation of Unions (CCU) and prominent unionist in Cambodia. He was arrested for his comments about the land loss of farmers and irregularities in the border demarcations between Cambodia and Vietnam.

The Philippines

In July the Council of Global Unions (CGU) – representing more than 200 million workers from across the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) and Global Union Federations including the Trade Union Advisory Committee to the OECD joined Philippine trade unions in condemning the Philippine government’s continued attacks on democratic institutions and its relentless suppression of the democratic rights of Filipino workers.

It was also reported that, In the ITUC Report of 2020, the Philippines is included in the top 10 most dangerous countries in the world for workers. The Philippine trade union movement can attest to the alarming level of repression of workers’ rights in the country. There have been too many unexplained disappearances and killings of labour leaders and members. Moreover, in its attempt to silence dissident labour leaders, the Philippine government has resorted to ‘red-tagging’. This tactic has not only jeopardized the lives of labour leaders, it has also undermined efforts of trade unions to hold employers and government accountable for anti-labour actions since these efforts are always maliciously exposed as bearing ‘communist sentiments.


In October 2020, the ITUC wrote to the President of Somalia to demand an immediate stop to police interference in trade union activities in his country.

Peter Sagar October 2020

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