ITUC E-News No. 27 – April 2013


ITUC E-News is produced by the International Trade Union Confederation

NO LETUP IN ANTI-UNION PRESSURE IN COLOMBIA

19 April 2013: The ITUC has strongly condemned the threats issued to 92 organisations and leaders defending human, political and labour rights. The activists were slandered and declared “enemies and permanent military targets” for having “attacked the government’s good and noble intentions to foster peace”. They were warned that “the threats will be acted upon” if their activities are not brought to an end.

“This endless wave of anti-union and anti-social pressure is unacceptable,” said ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow. “The Colombian authorities have a duty to protect their people and their workers, and, above all, to bring an end to impunity.”  Over 280 trade unionists received death threats and 20 were killed in Colombia during 2012. Four trade unionists have already been assassinated in the first three months of 2013.

National, regional and international trade union movements have once again joined with the three Colombian trade union centres, CUT, CGT and CTC, in reiterating their unwavering condemnation of the relentless attacks on the Colombian trade union movement, including the constant intimidation, harassment, persecution and murder of union leaders and members, in blatant violation of the core ILO Conventions ratified by Colombia.

In a letter (in Spanish) to the Colombian authorities, the ITUC vehemently condemned the threats issued and firmly rejected the unfounded accusations regarding the human rights activists’ alleged links with the insurgency, and demanded constitutional guarantees with respect to the fundamental right to organise and freedom of association.


INTERNATIONAL UNIONS CALL ON FIFA TO RERUN THE VOTE FOR THE QATAR 2022 WORLD CUP

17 April 2013: The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) has written to FIFA calling on the international football federation to rerun the vote for the 2022 World Cup and establish workers rights as a criteria for any future bid.

The move comes after a series of broken promises and no sign of any change from FIFA or the Qatari Government to address the fact that hundreds of workers are dying and thousands more are injured in Qatar.

ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow said more than a million migrant workers faced continued exploitation, poverty wages and denial of the most basic rights.

“This is not a move we take lightly. The 2022 World Cup was awarded years ahead of schedule, if a new venue is selected in the next two years there is still time for the infrastructure to be in place in time for the games. FIFA must act now- the longer the delay, the more workers will suffer and die.

“FIFA and Qatar have spoken frequently about need for reform, but the record is rife with broken promises. The Qataris have pledged to ensure that international labour standards are met, while construction workers die at a rate eight times that of other rich countries,” said Ms Burrow.

A leaked copy of a ‘Workers Charter’ written by the local organizing committee for the games obtained by Equal Times shows contradictions with Qatari law and fails to give workers any real rights or protection from slavery conditions.

The 2022 World Cup has been plagued with controversy since it was awarded to Qatar in December 2010.

“Allegations of corruption and vote-buying among FIFA executives, extreme heat endangering athletes and migrant workers receiving poverty pay and even fewer legal protections are enough reasons for FIFA to reopen the voting process,” said Sharan Burrow.

The ITUC Equal Times campaign  is asking union members and football fans to pressure FIFA to change the venue for the 2022 World Cup unless workers rights are respected.

Qatar could maintain its candidacy for the 2022 event, but should only win confirmation of its bid if it truly meets global labour standards and stops treating the people building the World Cup facilities as slaves.

The global campaign is in 11 languages – Arabic, Dutch, English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish. Campaign materials can be downloaded from Re-Run the Vote.  A campaign pack is available for ITUC affiliates by contacting press@ituc-csi.org.


ITUC STATEMENT ON VENEZUELA

17 April 2013: The ITUC expresses its deep concern at the post-election violence in Venezuela, and calls on all parties to refrain from any acts or statements which could inflame the situation. More than 80% of the country’s eligible voters are believed to have taken part in the election, which was narrowly won by Nicolás Maduro Moros.

“There are processes under Venezuelan law to handle any dispute over the election outcome, we call on all concerned to avoid any action which could inflame divisions”, said ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow.

The ITUC Regional Organisation for the Americas, TUCA, has issued a statement calling for the international community to accept Maduro’s election.

“There was huge participation in the elections, which were conducted in a peaceful manner. We condemn the calls to reject the decision of Venezuelans, as well as the acts of violence and destabilisation which have cost innocent lives,” said TUCA General Secretary Victor Baez.

Click here to read the TUCA statement (in Spanish).


IMF LABOUR MARKET PRESCRIPTIONS CONDEMN WORKERS TO WORSE JOBS AND MORE INEQUALITY

17 April 2013: IMF labour market advice, as part of the Troika, undermines democracy and risks economic dictatorship across Europe and beyond warned the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), and will create more divisions and social unrest, without producing any economic benefits.

The ITUC Frontlines 2013 report, “ Ideology without economic evidence: IMF attacks on collective bargaining” is released on the eve of the IMF Spring meetings as extreme levels of unemployment and rising inequality continue to dominate the global economy.

Sharan Burrow, ITUC General Secretary said the new report provides empirical evidence demonstrating there is no sound economic case for attacking workers’ rights, with its devastating impact on families, communities and economies. “The global economy is no more secure today than it was five years ago.

International institutions are failing to regulate greed and prevent the next banking crisis.

“Wealth distribution tools such as collective bargaining are being stripped away. While the evidence shows countries with strong unions, high collective bargaining coverage and synchronised collective bargaining systems have distinct economic advantages.

“Implementing labour market reforms and weakening protective labour market institutions at a time when the demand for labour is greatly depressed and there is already plenty of unemployment, will only condemn many more workers to join the ranks of the unemployed,” said Ms Burrow.

Speaking on a panel with IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde, Ms Burrow will warn that austerity is only adding to inequality.

“Countries with strong collective bargaining systems have performed better in terms of unemployment as they produce a wage distribution that is more compatible with social cohesion and stable economic growth.”

According to the OECD the earnings of the richest 10% of employees have taken off rapidly, relative to the poorest 10% in most cases, adding to the long-term trend of rising income inequality.

New data for the United States, shows that the share of after-tax household income for the top 1% more than doubled, from nearly 8% in 1979 to 17% in 2007. Over the same period, the share of the bottom 20% of the population fell from 7% to 5%.

Using IMF data, analysis from Columbia University’s Initiative for Policy Dialogue and the South Centre of austerity measures around the world found that 119 out of 181 countries will engage in fiscal contraction in 2013. The number is projected to increase at least until 2016, and with it inequality.

The ITUC is calling for a new reform agenda based on economic evidence.  “Trust has been destroyed by austerity and draconian labour reforms. To rebuild trust, attacks on collective bargaining and workers’ rights must stop.”

“Paying workers more in countries which have consistently recorded a surplus in their current account, and ensuring their rights are fully respected would help stimulate global demand and help rebalance the global economy,” said Sharan Burrow.

Michael Sommer, President of the DGB Germany and the ITUC said, “The people in Germany who keep the country running and generate it’s wealth deserve to get their fair share.”

The ITUC report concludes that sustainable growth, decent jobs for all, economic efficiency and greater equity are common ambitions which require comprehensive collective bargaining systems and strong labour market institutions in all countries.  John Evans , ITUC Chief Economist, said “Increasing economic equality and tackling vested interests are key policies to follow the great recession, just as they were after the great depression and WWII,”

Read the ITUC Frontlines 2013 report

Read the ITUC Frontlines report 2013 Summary

The report and the Summary will be available in French, Spanish and German from the end of April.

The global report reviews collective bargaining rights in Australia, New Zealand, the US and European-wide countries including the Nordic countries, and with country chapters on Romania, Greece, Spain and Portugal.


BANGLADESH – MURDER OF AMINUL ISLAM

15 April 2013: Just over one year ago, labour activist Aminul Islam was tortured and murdered in Bangladesh. It appears that Mr Islam was not the victim of random violence but rather targeted for his trade union work.

His murder was no doubt meant to send a clear message to trade unions and NGOs not to protest the low wages, gruelling hours and poor working conditions that characterize the RMG industry. Some suspects have been interrogated, but as yet no one has been arrested, much less prosecuted. It is believed that members of the intelligence service are involved in his murder.

More troubling, Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hassina, appearing on the BBC, cast doubt on the fact that Aminul Islam was ever a labour activist and further claimed that no one had ever heard of him before his murder. This extraordinary statement was made even after the murder was featured in the international media and after then-US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had raised it with the PM herself. See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GJcP7TDXwPw (at minute 4:00).

The ITUC wrote to the government immediately after the murder and has raised it subsequently. Last week, the ITUC again called on the government to conduct a full investigation into the crimes and the arrest and prosecution of those responsible.