Trade Union Rights Under Assault, ITUC Survey says

June 7, 2012, 12:00 PM EST

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An annual survey of trade union rights around the world shows that 2011 was a dangerous time for many trade unionists who faced dismissal, arrest, imprisonment and even death.

On June 6 The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) released its annual survey of violations of trade union rights in 143 countries.

"Colombia is once again the most dangerous country in the world for trade unionists," states the ITUC in a release. "Of the 76 people murdered for their trade union activities, not counting the workers killed during the Arab Spring, 29 lost their lives in Colombia. And in Guatemala yet again trade unionists paid a heavy price, with 10 assassinations committed with impunity. A further eight trade unionists were murdered in Asia."

The increase in precarious forms of work has made it extremely difficult for trade union organizations to defend workers rights, particularly, for example, in countries such as South Africa, Bangladesh, Cambodia and Pakistan.

The survey said governments around the globe have generally persisted in favouring austerity measures over stimulating growth and employment, which means the world economic crisis continued to impact unfairly on workers.

"The consequences have been devastating, particularly for the young. Unemployment reached 205 million in 2011. In Spain, 40 per cent of young people are out of work while Greece has an unemployment rate of 21 per cent," the ITUC says.

The survey also outlines how strikes have been fiercely repressed in many countries including Georgia, Kenya, South Africa and Botswana, where 2800 workers were dismissed after a public sector strike. But it's not only the developing world where trade union rights come under attack.

"They are also under threat in many industrialized countries, including Canada, whose Conservative government has repeatedly sought to undermine union organizing and collective bargaining rights."

The ITUC represents 175 million workers in 153 countries and territories and has 308 national affiliates.

Read the complete survey at

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