COUNTING THE TOLL:
Here's an interesting item that Molly recently discovered on the AFL-CIO Blog. It's a story on the International Trade Union Confederation's Annual Survey of violations of Trade Union Rights. The article below concentrates on the murders of trade unions in the year 2007, but the report itself hardly restricts itself to this most grievous of employer crimes. Well worth looking at.
91 Trade Unionists Murdered in 2007:
by James Parks, Dec 1, 2008
A total of 91 trade unionists were murdered for fighting for workers’ rights worldwide in 2007, according to the International Trade Union Confederation’s (ITUC’s) Annual Survey of Violations of Trade Union Rights, released late last month.
Colombia, where 39 union members were killed in 2007, again tops the list of most dangerous countries to be a union member. While there was a slight reduction in killings in Colombia compared with the previous year, ITUC says many attempts to kill Colombian unionists failed, and there was a notable increase in forced removals, arbitrary arrests, illegal raids and threats, especially in agriculture, health and education.
In Guinea, 30 unionists were murdered. ITUC says the regime of President Lansana Conte was directly responsible for the killing of 30 unionists during the brutal repression of union-organized public demonstrations against corruption and violations of fundamental rights.
The survey also noted a disturbing increase in violence in Guatemala as trade unions were increasingly targeted, with four unionists murdered and a worsening climate of threats and harassment.
ITUC General Secretary Guy Ryder says:
"Repression of legitimate trade union activities…continued unabated in every continent. Murder, violence and torture, along with harassment, dismissal and imprisonment, were all used to stop working people organising unions and bargaining collectively for decent pay and working conditions. Several governments were only too ready to openly or covertly support unscrupulous employers who deny fundamental rights to their employees.
Governments have failed to do enough to protect workers’ rights, either at home or in their international diplomatic, economic and trade relations. "
The survey also singled out the United States and Australia among industrialized nations for restricting workers’ freedom to form unions, citing court decisions in Australia and the Bush National Labor Relations Board rulings in this country.
Several disturbing trends emerged in the survey, which covers worker rights violations in 138 countries. Among those: collusion between some governments and employers to deprive workers of their legitimate rights to union membership and representation. Serious and systematic harassment and intimidation was reported in 63 countries.
Seventy-three unionists were sent to prison in 2007, including 40 in Iran, where systematic suppression of workers organizing in transportation and education continued. Fourteen unionists were jailed in Morocco and seven in Burma, where the junta targeted union activists as part of its brutal crackdown on any moves for democracy and human rights.
In Africa, employers in several countries used lax labor laws to encourage splits in trade unions and create employer-controlled groups to replace independent trade unions. Conditions were especially bad in Zimbabwe and Swaziland, which also appeared on a list of countries where Chinese-owned and -funded projects were cited for poor working conditions and exploitation of the workforce.
In the Middle East and Asia:
**Saudi employers beat four female Indonesian domestic workers so badly that two died, and police forcibly removed the other two from the hospital.
**Two trade unionists, one of whom was abducted and tortured, were killed due to their union activities in Iraq.
**Murders of trade unionists were once again reported in Cambodia and the Philippines.