ITUC E-News No.24 – February 2013


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

Colombia: Armed Attack on Trade Union Leaders in Cali

26 February 2013: The ITUC has firmly denounced the attempt on the lives of Luis Miguel Morantes, the President of its affiliated organisation, the CTC (Confederación de Trabajadores de Colombia), and Adolfo Devia, vice president of the Cali municipal workers’ union, the USE (Unión Sindical Emcali).

The attack took place on Saturday 23 February in the city of Cali. The trade union leaders had just left a meeting with International Labour Organisation (ILO) and government representatives, regarding the dismissal of over 400 public workers in Cali.

The assailants shot at the trade unionists’ vehicle several times before being fended off by the team of bodyguards accompanying them. Fortunately the vehicle was armoured, saving the passengers from any injury.

This criminal act is one in a series of attacks marking an escalation in anti-union violence in Colombia since the start of the year.

“The situation is extremely grave. The Colombian government has made countless commitments at international level to tackle the climate of intimidation and violence against trade unionists. These latest incidents place us on red alert,” said ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow.

In a letter to the Colombian authorities, the ITUC urged President Juan Manuel Santos to take every action necessary, and with every urgency, to ensure that the culprits are found and to guarantee the protection of the trade unionists.


Stop Violence Against Women and Girls Now!

25 February 2013: Next week, the 57th session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (UNCSW) will meet in New York on the issue of violence against women and girls.

The ITUC urges the international community not to give in on any of the draft conclusions.
Last year the Commission failed to reach agreement because of conservative governments questioning the very principle of gender equality. “This cannot happen again!” said Sharan Burrow, ITUC General Secretary, denouncing the current attacks on women’s rights and the cuts in budgets allocated to women’s issues.

The trade union delegation present in New York consisting of 100 women coming from Italy, Senegal, Canada, the UK, Angola, Morocco, Brazil, Singapore, Colombia, and other countries will actively demand that governments live up to their international and national obligations on the prevention and elimination of violence against women and girls.

On Monday 11 March, a new ITUC–UN Women report “Domestic Workers Count Too: Implementing Protections for Domestic Workers” will be launched at a side event of the UNCSW57 in New York.

See the Global Union Statement to the 57 UNCSW

See the Equal Times special report on violence against women


India: Huge National Strike Marred by Death of Union Leader

21 February 2013: A two-day general strike organised by India’s national trade union centres, which has had a massive impact across the country, has been marred by the tragic death of Haryana transport union leader Narendra Singh, who was killed by a bus at a transport depot yesterday.

“We express our deepest condolences to Narendra Singh’s family and colleagues, and expect the Indian authorities to carry out a full and impartial investigation into the circumstances of his death,” said ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow.

The strike was called after the government refused to consider union proposals on workers’ rights, social security, job creation and a decent minimum wage.

“The rich in India are doing very well indeed yet the government, as in so many other countries, is failing to ensure that economic growth is reflected in job creation and decent living standards for the mass of the population. India’s workers have had enough of the lopsided and unequal economy, and the government’s latest moves will only make matters worse,” said Burrow.

A general strike in Greece, organised by the ITUC-affiliated GSEE and the ADEDY, brought the country to a halt yesterday, while Belgian workers will take to the streets today in protest at austerity policies.


Algeria:  North African Trade Unionists Arrested and Attacked

22 February 2013: The ITUC has firmly condemned the attacks on the rights of North African trade unionists visiting Algeria to take part in the first North African Forum to Fight Unemployment and Precarious Work.

“The police raided the hotel where the trade unionists were staying and proceeded to arrest five Moroccans, three Tunisians and three Mauritanians, including two women,” reported the independent national public workers’ union SNAPAP. They were then driven directly to the airport and deported from the country, without being able to inform anyone by telephone.

The trade unionists detained were due to take part in a meeting at the Maison des syndicats, hired by the SNAPAP in Dar El Beïda (Algiers). Police surrounded the trade union premises early in the morning and prohibited any attempt to access or vacate the building. The police also went on to arrest Abdelkader Kherba, a member of the Algerian League for the Defence of Human Rights, LADDH, and the National Committee to Defend the Rights of the Unemployed, CNDDC, along with three members of the SNAPAP National Executive.

Following a number of meetings in Tunisia and Morocco, the representatives of unemployed graduates and young precarious workers in the Maghreb established the North African Union to Fight Unemployment and Precarious Work (L’Union maghrébine pour la lutte contre le chômage et le travail précaire). The meeting in Algeria was organised in preparation for the World Social Forum (WSF) to be held in Tunis from 26 to 30 March 2013. The Tunis WSF will place special emphasis on the stakes in terms of rights and social justice in the Maghreb region.

In a letter sent to the Algerian authorities (french), the ITUC firmly condemned the attacks against the trade unionists and urged the government to take every action to ensure that those arrested are released without delay.

“The ITUC bitterly regrets this display given by the Algerian authorities, through these attacks on trade unionists, of the need to continue to fight for respect for trade union rights and freedoms. The ITUC firmly condemns the police’s arbitrary action against members of the SNAPAP and their guests, and demands the immediate and unconditional release of all those still under arrest,” said ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow.


G20 Must Break the Circle of Rising Unemployment and Falling Confidence and Trust

21 February 2013: As the first G20 Employment Task Force meeting of 2013 opened in Moscow, international unions underscored that a jobs target from the G20 is essential to tackle unemployment and inequality and stem the social crisis which has followed in the wake of the financial crisis.

Sharan Burrow, General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation, said a vicious circle is being set in motion with the jobs outlook remaining as bleak as ever.

Unemployment is set to rise in 2013. More than 200 million people will be without work, and 40% of those without work are young people.

“A youth guarantee and scaling up apprenticeships are measures that can alleviate the pressure of 45 million young people looking for a job vacancy each year.  “Income led recovery, quality employment and a social protection floor are key drivers to tackling the jobs crisis and reducing inequality,” said Sharan Burrow.

According to the ILO, the global economy needs to create 600 million productive jobs over the next decade to maintain social cohesion.

Growing social unrest from austerity, high fuel prices and low wages has spread from Greece, Bulgaria and India.

“In 2009, G20 countries committed themselves to a coordinated stimulus package. Since then, the room for manoeuvring has diminished for a significant number of economies. There is room for policy makers to act immediate and create a holistic plan for jobs,” said John Evans, ITUC Chief Economist.

“In July the first joint meeting of G20 Employment and Finance Ministers will take place with expectations of employment playing a vital role in recovery plans, as wages constitute the basis for stable and shared consumption-based recovery,” said John Evans.

International unions have put forward the following measures to the G20 to grow jobs and economies.

  • Investing in and facilitating investing in infrastructure, including shifting taxation to environmental negatives to promote environmentally sustainable growth;
  • Ensuring affordable credit for small to medium enterprises;
  • Minimum wages, wages on which people can live, to arrest wage deflation and stabilise demand;
  • Strengthening collective bargaining to reduce the gap between productivity and profit and ensure working families have the capacity to shore up local business;
  • Investing in scaling up quality apprenticeships and internships to include young people in the labour force and increase skills;
  • Target cash-transfers to low-income households, particularly where government subsidies, such as those on fossil fuels, are reduced.