Workers’ rights are ‘under attack like never before’, says International Trade Union Confederation chief

Police during strike in Turkey

The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) has published its 2021 report on workers’ rights across the planet. And ITUC general secretary Sharan Burrow stressed that “workers are under attack like never before”.

The latest Global Rights Index reveals that:

The ten worst countries for working people in 2021 are Bangladesh, Belarus, Brazil, Colombia, Egypt, Honduras, Myanmar, the Philippines, Turkey and Zimbabwe.

As is usually the case, most countries on the ‘worst ten’ list are allies or associates of the West. In recent years, for example, NATO member Turkey has been a regular wrongdoer. Colombia, the Philippines, Brazil, Egypt, Honduras, and Bangladesh are also repeat offenders.

Western governments, meanwhile, have approved arms export licences to numerous countries that consistently abuse workers’ rights, like Saudi Arabia, Kazakhstan, Guatemala, and Zimbabwe. The UK in particular gave military training to Bangladesh, Colombia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Kazakhstan, and Zimbabwe between 2018 and 2020.

Exploitation and violence

Burrow asserted:

Governments and employers exploited the pandemic to exploit the people the world depends on by increasing surveillance, breaking agreements, laying off workers, blocking and intimidating unions and resorting to violence and murder.

The ITUC highlighted the murder of trade unionists in “Brazil, Colombia, Guatemala, Myanmar, Nigeria and the Philippines”. And it stressed that:

the number of countries which impeded the registration of unions increased from 89 countries in 2020 to 109 and the number of countries where freedom of speech and assembly was denied or constrained increased from 56 in 2020 to 64 this year.

Because of ongoing conflict in numerous places in the Middle East and North Africa, this remained “the worst region in the world for working people for eight years running”.

Main article image via Democracy Now!/screenshot