ITUC survey looks into dark places for workers’ rights
The ITUC’s new Annual Survey of Trade Union Rights and makes for grim reading. Last year, there was a sharp increase in the number of trades unionists killed around the world. 101 were murdered, an increase of 30% on 2008, with another 10 attempted murders and 35 serious death threats. And this is against a background of growing pressure on fundamental workers’ rights around the world, as the impact of the global economic crisis on employment deepened during 2009.
Of course, this is only what the ITUC’s survey was able to uncover in the 140 countries it studies. Many other violations will have remained unreported, where people are unable or unwilling to make their voices heard, often due to the fear for their jobs or even their safety.
A year of international tensions has put unions, as key players in democratic civil society, right on the front lines. Workers protesting unpaid wages, harsh working conditions or the harmful effects of the global financial and economical crisis have faced beatings, arrest and detention, in countries such as Algeria, Argentina, Belarus, Burma, Côte d’Ivoire, Egypt, Honduras, India, Iran, Kenya, Nepal, Pakistan and Turkey.
The survey estimates that some 50% of the world’s workforce are now in vulnerable employment. Job insecurity especially affects workers in export processing zones of South East Asia and Central America, as well as domestic workers in the Middle East and South East Asia, and migrant and agricultural workers worldwide. It will come as scant surprise that many of the worst affected sectors here are those with high proportions of women workers.
Informal employment has grown right across industrial sectors and regions. Workers in ‘atypical’ employment find it harder to organise or union rights, which compounds their vulnerable position in the labour market.
2009 was the 60th Anniversary of ILO Convention 98 on the Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining. This Convention still hasn’t been ratified by countries such as Canada, China, India, Iran, South Korea, Mexico, Thailand, the United States and Vietnam, meaning around half of the world’s economically active population is not covered by these vital work rights.