ITUC’s fourth Global Rights Index shows rising violence against workers


ITUC released its 4ths Global Rights Index on 13 June. It records violations of workers’ rights across 139 countries.

The report finds that the ten worst countries for workers are Qatar, the UAE, Egypt, the Philippines, Colombia, Kazakhstan, Republic of Korea, Guatemala, Turkey and Bangladesh. In addition, other countries have seen their ranking rise this year, including Ecuador and Myanmar, Argentina and Brazil.

The Middle East and North Africa remain dangerous places for trade unionists in terms of violence, arbitrary arrests and unjustified detention. It was once again the worst region in the world for workers. The reports highlight that the very fact of being a trade unionist in the region often makes the exercise of freedom of association impossible in practice. Five countries provide no guarantee of rights due to the breakdown of the rule of law: Palestine, Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Libya.

The number of countries in which workers were killed for their trade union activity rose from 10 to 11 (Italy, Bangladesh, the Philippines, Brazil, Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Peru, Venezuela and Mauritania) and the number of countries where workers were exposed to violence increased from 52 countries in 2016 to 59 countries in 2017. This violence included threats, kidnappings and physical violence from state security forces and gangs working on behalf of companies.

Rights to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly were violated in 50 countries in 2017. However, the report points at a slight decrease in the number of recorded instances where the rights to free speech and public protest were repressed through the police and security services. In 2017, 50 countries imposed practical restrictions on these rights – one less country than in 2016. The report highlights that public protests are often being used as grounds for arrests and detentions of trade unionists.

The report highlights that many workers are still excluded from freedom of association. In 2017, 84 out of 139 countries surveyed excluded certain types of workers from this right. In addition, the report points at 116 countries which violated the right to strike in practice in various forms, including exclusion/restriction based on the objective and type of the strike, the imposition of compulsory arbitration and interference in strike action.

There is a worldwide trend, especially in more advanced economies, to seek to deprive workers of employment rights through non-standard forms of employment. In particular, precarious and informal workers are often left outside the scope of the labour law.

The report recorded many forms of anti-union discrimination, including dismissal and suspension of workers, especially union leaders, which was recorded in 70 countries.

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