ITUC OnLine – February 26, 2010

Zimbabwe: Trade Union Leader Arrested

Brussels, 26 February 2010:  The ITUC, together with its regional organisation the ITUC-Africa, has condemned and strongly protested against the arrests of Assistant General Secretary Gift Muti and President Manjemanje Munyanyi of the General Agricultural and Plantation Workers’ Union (GAPWUZ). They were clearly arrested because of their trade union activities.

According to the information received by the ITUC, on 25 February the police visited GAPWUZ offices and arrested the two trade unionists. The police said they wanted information on the video and the report, If Something is Wrong, which is an account of the atrocities committed during the government-driven, chaotic land reform since 2000. It documents farm workers’ testimonies of murder, torture, and violence perpetrated by the state. 

Gift Muti has been  released, but Munyanyi is still in police custody. The police interrogated GAPWUZ General Secretary Gertrude Hambira some days ago, and have been again hunting for her; however, she has managed to avoid capture for the time being.  Hambira has been threatened and harassed on several occasions in the past, also due to her trade union activities. 

Persistent violations of trade union rights over the many years have led to a decision in 2008 to launch an ILO Commission of Inquiry, one of the strongest measures the ILO can take, into the lack of respect of freedom of association and collective bargaining in the country.  “It is extremely regrettable that these new violations are taking place just as the ILO prepares to examine the report of the Commission of Inquiry on 22 March. The ITUC had hoped that the creation of an inclusive government would have made anti-union repression a thing of the past. Unfortunately, it is clear that elements within the government are not willing to undertake reform,” said ITUC General Secretary Guy Ryder. 

In a letter sent to the authorities, the ITUC urges President Mugabe to release GAPWUZ President Manjemanje Munyanyi immediately and stop further harassment of GAPWUZ staff. It also urges President Mugabe to stop further investigation of Ms. Hambira in connection with her legitimate activities as the general secretary of the GAPWUZ and the production of the report If Something is Wrong. 

“We will monitor developments in this case very closely and will of course consider bringing these latest violations to the ILO supervisory mechanisms” added Ryder.

Turkey: International Day of Action

Brussels, 26 February 2010:  The ITUC, together with Belgian affiliates and EI and ETUC, met with the Turkish ambassador in Brussels on Friday, 26 February, on the occasion of an international Day of Action. The delegation has expressed its concerns regarding the trade union rights’ situation in the country, and urged that a negotiated solution to the TEKEL case be found – a solution which meets the workers’ demands. Another delegation, composed of the ITUC Geneva office, BWI, IMF, IUF, UNI, ICEM and PSI, was received by the Turkish mission in Geneva. In ten different countries, Turkish embassies received similar letters to the one that was handed over by the delegations in Brussels and Geneva. 

In the letter, the international union movement has denounced the deteriorating situation of trade union rights in Turkey in general, and the situation of the workers of the former state tobacco and alcohol monopoly TEKEL in particular. This state company was recently privatised, which caused no less than 12,000 workers to lose their jobs, without them being given alternative employment with their full employee benefits, as the law on privatisation provides. (See previous ITUC release regarding the Tekel case.)   

The trade union delegation in Brussels pointed out that in 2009 the trade union rights  situation in Turkey deteriorated in a worrying manner. The ITUC had written or co-signed letters on nine different occasions and never received any reply. Issues ranged from a call to refrain from violence against peaceful protesters, mass detentions of trade union members and leaders, often followed by trials on “terrorism” charges, an assassination attempt on the president of DISK, to ill-treatment of and deprivation of medical care for trade unionists in detention. 

The delegation also highlighted the high-level bipartite mission which, at the request of the ILO Commission of Experts (CEACR), will be leaving for Turkey next week, to assist the government in bringing its legislation and judicial framework in line with EU standards and ILO Conventions. It also reiterated that in November, the ITUC, together with a large number of other trade union organisations, had participated in an international observers’ delegation to the trial against public sector union KESK, which was marked by its lack of conformity with national as well as European judicial standards. After the trial the ITUC denounced the fact that several trade unionists remained in prison without knowing the exact charges against them, and also denounced the recurring pattern in the long series of trials against Turkish trade unions. Finally, the delegation stressed that it wanted to send a strong signal to the Turkish authorities not to resort to violence and to continue to strive for a negotiated solution in the TEKEL workers’ case, especially since Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan announced he would no longer tolerate further actions after the end of February. To date, the TEKEL workers continue to demonstrate in front of the offices of ITUC affiliate Türk-Is for the 74th day in a row, in very tough circumstances. The police have already made several violent interventions. 

“There is a serious problem of anti-union harassment in Turkey,” declared Guy Ryder, ITUC general secretary. “Turkey ratified ILO Convention 87 in 1993, but what is happening in Turkey is totally in contradiction with this international instrument.” he added.


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