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"Trade Union Rights are Human Rights"

ICFTU Online..., 319/971210/DD, 10 December 1997

Brussels, December 10 1997 (ICFTU OnLine): "Trade Union Rights are Human Rights" says a new campaign launched today - Human Rights Day - by the ICFTU, to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of ILO Convention 87.

The International Labour Organisation's Convention 87 which grants workers the right to organise themselves into trade unions, provides international recognition of trade union rights, yet almost one third of the world's countries (61 out of a total of 190) have refused to ratify it. This is a staggering number, says the ICFTU, considering that the Convention, which was adopted in 1948 is the one on which all other union rights are based.

Countries which have not ratified include industrial giants such as USA and South Korea, Asian "tigers" such as Indonesia, and Malaysia; countries which are fast industrialising, such as Brazil, India and China, as well as developing countries like Sudan and El Salvador.

"It is no accident", said Bill Jordan, ICFTU General Secretary "that countries which have not ratified are the ones in which the most serious and consistent violations of trade union rights occur."

For example in the USA, one in ten union supporters campaigning to form a union is illegally fired by the employer.

In Malaysia, the government acts rather like a police state in the tight control which it exercises over union matters.

In Brazil, a trade union activist was murdered in front of her children, and workers in textile factories are regularly intimidated, and violently attacked by police when trying to form unions.

In China, any worker who attempts to form a trade union independent of government control is branded a traitor and sentenced to many years in a `re-education camp'.

In Sudan trade union officials are arrested, and held in "ghost houses", detention centres where they are tortured, as they are suspected of opposition activities.

Meanwhile in El Salvador, workers are sacked when they join unions, and Iliberto Dominguez, a union official has been assaulted eight times because of his union activities.

The campaign which will last until December 10 1998, will pinpoint those countries which have not ratified, and will be putting pressure on them to do so. In addition, trade unionists will be watching countries which have ratified to make sure that they allow their workers to exercise their rights.

To celebrate Human Rights Day this year, trade unionists round the world are organising marches, meetings, rallies and debates. In the Asia and Pacific, affiliates and friendly organisations of the ICFTU - Asia and Pacific Regional Organisation are celebrating a Trade Union Rights Week from December 7 - 13, with activities in Malaysia, Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, Hong Kong, Turkey, Taiwan, Korea, Mongolia, Fiji, Australia and Japan.

During the rest of the year, booklets, research studies and posters will be produced, and there will be a special section of the ICFTU's website dedicated to getting countries to ratify. There will also be special activities on July 9, the actual anniversary of the adoption.

Next week, the ICFTU will launch "Stand Up For Your Rights", a new booklet giving trade unionists detailed information on how they can ensure that their rights at work are respected.

International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) Boulevard Emile Jacqmain 155, B - 1210 Brussels, Belgium. For more information please contact: Luc Demaret on: 00 322 224 0212 - luc.demaret@icftu.org