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International Confederation claims repression is rife
By Robert Taylor, Employment Editor, Labor News, Friday 13 June 1997
Trade unions are being repressed across the world in more countries than ever before, according to the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions. It claims trade union repression occurred in 108 countries during 1996, the largest number it has ever recorded.
The Brussels-based body represents 124m workers in 195 affiliate trade union bodies. "Poverty and inequality have increased in the developing countries, which globalisation has drawn into a downward spiral of ever lower labour standards to attract investment and meet the demands of enterprises seeking a fast profit," Mr Bill Jordan, the confederation's general secretary, writes in his introduction to the ICFTU's annual report on workers' rights, which is published today
He claims trade unionists are being attacked by governments which have "chosen to bow to pressure from the financial markets rather than from their own electorates".
One of the root causes of anti-union repression, he says, is "the combination of governments seeking to shed their powers of economic intervention and employers and the business world striving to increase theirs".
The report says at least 264 trade unionists were murdered in 1996, with most of the killings taking place in Latin America - 98 workers were murdered in Colombia, 24 in Brazil and nine in Bolivia - as well as Algeria, Lesotho and Nigeria.
The report also estimates that a further 1,761 people were injured in the course of their trade union activities.
As many as 4,264 trade unionists were arrested last year for carrying on activities recognised by core labour standards codified by the International Labour Organisation, the report claims. It also counts an estimated 7,626 cases of harassment and intimidation against trade union members. A further 153,494 workers were dismissed for being trade union members.
It says that China has "one of the worst records of trade union repression, with hundreds of trade unionists and their families being ill-treated or imprisoned in labour camps for minor crimes like printing tee-shirts with slogans advocating free trade unions".
The report also highlights attacks on trade union activity in former Soviet bloc countries, particularly in Belarus, where a presidential decree has suspended all independent trade union activity.
Copies of the report are available from the ICFTU, 155 Boulevard Emile Jacqmain, 1210 Brussels, Belgium.