ITUC Global Rights Index shows workers’ rights under threat despite public support for strong labour laws

1,951 trade unionists faced violence and 629 were unlawfully detained for collective action in 2013

Corporations, using their power over governments, are attempting a co-ordinated global attack on workers’ rights, including the right to strike, according to new analysis from the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) presented at the 103rd International Labour Conference in Geneva today.

The ITUC Global Rights Index found that while the right to strike is recognised in most countries, laws and practices in at least 87 countries exclude certain types of workers from the right to strike.

Sharan Burrow, General Secretary of the ITUC, said governments are acting in favour of big business – not their people who overwhelmingly support labour rights. The ITUC Global Poll 2014 measuring the opinion of the general public in fourteen countries found 75 percent of people supported the right to strike.

"Despite strong public support for the right to strike, 37 countries in the last 12 months imposed fines or even imprisonment for legitimate and peaceful strikes.

"Governments and employers can no longer hide their attacks on workers’ rights after a ranking of 139 countries against 97 indicators in the ITUC Global Rights Index exposes the best and worst of labour conditions around the world," said Sharan Burrow.

The new ITUC Global Rights Index will be presented to government, employers and workers groups at the ILO today. The index is drawn from the ITUC’s real-time survey database of violations which also shows rising levels of violence faced by workers and their unions.

  • In 2013, 1,951 trade unionists faced violence and 629 were unlawfully detained for collective action.
  • Union leaders were murdered in ten countries including Cambodia, Bangladesh, the Philippines, Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala, Colombia, Mauritania, Egypt and Benin.
  • The highest number of murders in a single country took place in Colombia where 26 trade unionists were killed in 2013, an increase of eight worker deaths from the previous year.

"The weight of evidence of abuses of workers’ rights for case hearings and the ILO supervisory mechanism is growing.

"The legal analysis undertaken to rank countries includes ILO data and is an important analysis for governments to review their standing on workers’ rights in law and practice," said Sharan Burrow.

"Alongside trend data on public support for core labour rights, governments have been put on notice to tame corporate power and act in the interests of their citizens," said Sharan Burrow.

The ITUC Global Poll 2014 found

  • 77 percent of people support laws that protect workers’ health and safety.
  • 94 percent support laws that establish and protect a decent minimum wage.
  • 89 percent support laws that give workers the right to collective bargaining.
  • 88 percent support laws that give workers the right to join a union.

A report with regional analysis from Africa, the Americas, Asia Pacific, Europe and Central Asia, Middle East and North Africa and snapshots of 82 countries from the 139 country database will be presented to governments, employers and worker groups in Geneva.

ENDS

Notes to Editor

The ITUC Global Rights Index presents carefully verified information from the last 12 months in an easy-to-use format so that every government and business can see how their laws and supply chains stack up.

The real-time base surveying violations in laws and practices of workers’ rights in 139 countries is available here

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

1 – Irregular violations of rights: 18 countries including Denmark and Uruguay
2 – Repeated violations of rights: 26 countries including Japan and Switzerland
3 – Regular violations of rights: 33 countries including Chile and Ghana
4 – Systematic violations of rights: 30 countries including Kenya and the USA
5 – No guarantee of rights: 24 countries including Belarus, Bangladesh and Qatar
5+ - No guarantee of rights due to breakdown of the rule of law: 8 countries including Central African Republic and Somalia.

Report - ITUC Global Rights Index: The worst places in the world for workers

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For more information contact gemma.swart@ituc-csi.org +32 479 06 41 63