Tim Newman, Campaigns Assistant, International Labor Rights Forum
The International Trade Union Confederation just released their 2007 Annual Survey of Violations of Trade Union Rights. The annual survey compiles statistics and information from all over the world about violations of workers' right to organize. This year's report found that in 2006:
- The number of murdered trade union activists rose to 144 from 115 in 2005
- 832 trade unionists were injured, tortured or beaten
- About 5,000 workers were arrested and 500 were jailed
- Colombia continues to be the most dangerous country for union organizing, accounting for more than half of the world's total of trade union murders in 2006
- The Philippines continues to be a major cause of concern as at least 33 unionists were killed in "an orgy of extrajudicial violence"
Keep reading to find out more.
Colombia continues to be the most dangerous country in the world for trade union organizing. The report details the obstacles workers face in realizing their right to organize and also shows how paramilitary groups and national security officials face impunity for their involvement in the murder of trade unionists. While Colombian President Alvaro Uribe and his government spends millions of dollars trying to convince the world that he is protecting workers' rights, ITUC Secretary General Guy Ryder responds simply, "They are lying." The report comes as a reminder that Colombia is still a country where labor rights are not respected and union organizing is brutally suppressed just as the Bush Administration is pushing for Congress to approve a Free Trade Agreement between the US and Colombia.
As the report details, extrajudicial killings of trade union leaders (as well as other human rights activists) in the Philippines is a grave threat to workers' rights. A whole range of tactics have been used to undermine union organizing in that country, earning it the nickname "The Colombia of Asia." The report provides a number of examples of how unions are intimidated with impunity, including highlighting workers in the Export Processing Zone and the Chong Won factory, which ILRF has been supporting through our Wal-Mart campaign. Chong Won is also discussed by ILRF in the recent civil society critique of Wal-Mart's sustainability initiative organized by the Big Box Collaborative.
You can check out our GSP complaint focusing on trade union rights violations in the Philippines here.