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Date: Wed, 18 Jun 97 08:38:44 CDT
From: rich@pencil (Rich Winkel)
Subject: Women Workers Hit By SAPs/Restructuring

/** labr.global: 451.0 **/
** Topic: Women Workers Hit By SAPs/Restructuring **
** Written 11:09 PM Jun 17, 1997 by labornews in cdp:labr.global **
From: Institute for Global Communications <labornews@igc.apc.org>
Subject: Women Workers Hit By SAPs/Restructuring

Women workers the worst victims of global restructuring

ICFTU Online, 162/970613/DD, 13 June 1997

Geneva, June 13 (ICFTU OnLine): "As governments dismantle their public services and multinational companies look for the cheapest workers, women are increasingly in the front line of anti-union repression" says the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU).

The ICFTU's Annual Trade Union Rights Survey, launched today details how women workers are victimised both because the public sector - where many employees are female - is being decimated through global restructuring, and because sweatshops and export processing zones are being set up in countries where multinational companies can find cheap, non-unionised workers. This year's survey picks out 108 countries, the largest number ever, where trade union rights violations have occurred, as more and more countries are effected by the ravages of globalisation. Many of the same countries are persistent offenders says the ICFTU. Trade unionists were threatened and attacked in Guatemala. All trade unions are banned in Burma, and the FTUB is in exile. In Nigeria the unions are run by a government administrator. Colombia has done nothing to stem the murders of trade unionists.

Once again hundreds of trade unionists die fighting for union rights. In 1996, at least 264 trade unionists were murdered.

  • The bulk of killings took place in Latin America, where 98 people were assassinated in Colombia, 24 in Brazil, and nine in Bolivia. In Colombia many of them were agricultural workers, pushing for union rights.
  • Algerian trade unionists were among the 100s of social activists killed by both sides in the civil war, which has so far claimed 60,000 deaths.
  • In Lesotho 15 construction workers were shot dead as they protested about wages and conditions at the Lesotho Highland Water Project.

Ill-treatment of trade unionists is also still very prevalent - and in 1996 1761 people were injured in the course of their trade union activities.

  • A 'reign of terror' exists in many of the factories in the Dominican Republic's Santiago free trade zone, where thugs wielding pipes, clubs and knives threatened anyone who sided with the union.
  • In Cambodia, which joins the list of miscreants for the first time, there was a wave of strikes in the mainly foreign-owned emerging garment industry, to protest about the long hours, pitiful wages, and beatings which the - mainly young women - workers face.

Clampdowns on trade unionism, or trade union protests are increasing. Altogether there were 4264 arrests and a stunning 153,494 dismissals during the year.

  • China has one of the worst records of trade union repression. Hundreds of trade unionists and their families are ill-treated or imprisoned in labour camps for minor crimes like printing tee- shirts with slogans advocating free trade unions.
  • Over 1500 workers were arrested in Turkey in a single demonstration organised by the newly established public sector confederation, using laws inherited from the military regime.
  • In Zimbabwe, the government sacked the entire participants in a public workers strike - estimated at 135,000, who were then reinstated almost immediately after international pressure. Privatisation and restructuring policies, which are often used as an excuse to attack trade unions, were a major cause of strikes.
  • As a direct effect of globalisation, in December 1996, the South Korean government slipped legislation through Parliament which attacked workers rights. This led to massive strikes throughout the country for several weeks
  • In Congo, a five-day protest at the proposed privatisation of public services, paralysed the state sector. Its leaders were arrested and tortured. Later police smashed up the union leader's house with axes.
  • In Peru over 2500 workers were dismissed in 1996 during the waves of privatisation which hit the country. Countries which had recently emerged from the Soviet bloc also had labour problems.
  • In Belarus a Presidential Decree, suspending all independent union activity, was used to arrest ten leaders of the Free Trade Union of Belarus (SPB). When they were released without charge, President Lukashenko said they had been arrested for drunkenness.
  • in Russia workers protested over the chronic non-payment of wages.
  • Lithuania members of their local union who were victimised after they had gone to court over unpaid wages, were forced to sell their blood to look after their families.

Workers in Industrialised countries found themselves increasingly under attack from both employers and governments.

  • At least one in ten workers campaigning to form a union in the USA is illegally fired by the employer.
  • Shortly after its election the Australian government introduced a Bill, which, if passed, would destroy trade union rights. Belgium and the United Kingdom continued to undermine the right to strike.

"These figures are the tip of the iceberg", says the ICFTU. "We are seeing a continued clamp down on trade unions, because they have become the bastion against the unjust effects of globalisation and corporate greed, fighting for workers' and human rights."

The Brussels-based ICFTU is the world's largest trade union international with 124 million members in 195 affiliates organisations in 137 countries and territories.

For further information, copies of the report please contact:
Luc Demaret in Brussels on: 00322 224 0212
Daphne Davies in Geneva (June 11-13) on: 917 7318 or (mobile)