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ITUC reports increased suppression of workers’ right

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The annual International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) Global Rights Index (GRI), has highlighted how systematic dismantling of the foundations of workplace democracy, and the violent repression of strikes and protests put peace and stability at risk.

The GRI notes extreme violence against the defenders of workplace rights that saw large-scale arrests and detentions in India, Turkey, and Vietnam.

Commenting on the report, ITUC General Secretary, Sharan Burrow, said: “From Hong Kong to Mauritania, the Philippines to Turkey, governments are attempting to silence the age of anger by constraining freedom of speech and assembly. In 72% of countries, workers had no or restricted access to justice, with severe cases reported in Cambodia, China, Iran, and Zimbabwe.

“The breakdown of the social contract between workers, governments, and business has seen the number of countries, which exclude workers from the right to establish or join a trade union increased from 92 in 2018 to 107 in 2019. The greatest increase took place in Europe where 50% of countries now exclude groups of workers from the law, up from 20% in 2018. Decent work is being affected and rights are being denied by companies avoiding rules and regulations.

“No worker should be left behind because their employer chooses to adopt a business model that obscures employment responsibility or their government refuses legislation to enforce workers’ rights. More and more governments are complicit in facilitating labour exploitation because workers are forced to work in the informal sector of the economy.”

According to the report, attacks on the right to strike in 85% of countries, and collective bargaining in 80% of countries undermine the role of trade unions.

All strikes and demonstrations were banned in Chad, while court orders were used to stop strike actions in Croatia, Georgia, Kenya, and Nigeria.

Europe, traditionally the mainstay of collective bargaining rights, saw companies in Estonia, the Netherlands, Norway, and Spain undermine workers’ rights.

“Companies who have systematically attacked workers’ rights now face global protests. Uber is battling strikes and regulatory battles from Australia to South Korea, Mumbai to San Francisco. Workers in Amazon warehouses in Europe and the USA engaged in protests and strikes and unions across Europe staged the biggest strike in Ryanair’s history. Corporate greed may be global, but workers’ actions are unified on a scale not seen before,” Burrow added.

The ITUC Global Rights Index 2019 ranks 145 countries against 97 internationally-recognized indicators to assess where workers’ rights are best protected in law and in practice.

The ITUC has been collecting data on violations of workers’ rights to trade union membership and collective bargaining around the world for more than 30 years.

This is the sixth year the ITUC has presented its findings through the GRI, putting a unique and comprehensive spotlight on how government laws and business practices have deteriorated or improved in the last 12 months.

The three global trends for workers’ rights identified in the 2019 GRI show that democracy is in crisis, governments are attempting to silence the age of anger through brutal repression, but legislative successes for workers’ rights are still being won.

“After four years of campaigning by Dunnes Stores workers and union activists, the Irish government brought in legislation to ban zero hours contracts and strengthen the regulation of precarious work. The New Zealand coalition government too, has continued to repeal regressive labour laws, and restore protections for workers, and strengthen the role of collective bargaining in the workplace,” said Burrow.

The 2019 ITUC Global Rights Index rates countries according to 97 indicators, with an overall score placing countries in rankings of one to five plus.


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