ITUC OnLine – June 14, 2013



ITUC’s ’12 by 12’ Campaign keeps up the pressure on governments for the ratification of the Domestic Workers Convention

Brussels, 14 June 2013 (ITUC OnLine): On 16 June,  actions and mobilisations in dozens of countries (from Spain to India, Senegal to Chile ) are expected to keep up the pressure on  governments to  better protect domestic workers in law and practice and  to put a hold on the exploitation and abuse of the 50 to 100 million domestic workers.

Two years on from the historical adoption of the ILO Convention 189 at the International Labour Conference (ILC) on 16 June 2011, the ITUC is intensifying the campaign to get more ratifications and to strengthen domestic workers’ unions.

The adoption of a Convention and of a Recommendation, which are aimed at extending fundamental labour rights to an estimated 50 to 100 million domestic workers worldwide, represents a landmark step in the fight against discrimination and abuses. However, that fight is still far from over, since more governments need to ratify Convention 189 and to modify their national labour laws accordingly.

ITUC’s  ’12 by 12’ Campaign  aims at  12 ratifications of C189, a goal nearly achieved with the two ratifications of C189 last week: Germany and South Africa – making up a total of 10 ratifications.

Other aims and impacts of the ’12 by 12’ Campaign include major labour law reforms (including Brazil, Argentina, Philippines, Vietnam and in two states in the U.S., namely Hawaii and Oregon),  significant pay rise of minimum wages in Kenya, Tanzania and Malawi and new collective bargaining agreements in Italy and Uruguay.   New unions have been established in Paraguay, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Sri Lanka, Columbia, Egypt and Angola and tens of thousands of domestic workers have been organised in unions.   The ‘12 x 12’ Campaign  is a broad coalition gathering unions, NGOs and other civil society partners in more than 90 countries, working  together on improving rights and protection for domestic workers.

Background information:

So far, there have been 10 ratifications:  seven countries whose ratifications are registered at the ILO (Uruguay, Philippines, Mauritius, Italy, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Bolivia) and three who finished their ratification process at national level and still need to register at ILO: Colombia, Germany and South Africa.

ITUC ‘s ’12 by 12’ Campaign international partners are the International Domestic Workers Network, IUF, PSI, ETUC, Human Right Watch, Anti-Slavery International, Amnesty International , Caritas, SOLIDAR, Migrant Forum Asia , World Solidarity and FOS.

For more information, see:

The 12 by 12 Newsletter  

The 12 by 12 Flyer

The 12 by 12 Webpage

New global poll shows overwhelming voter support for policies to curb multinational tax scams.

 G8 expected to commit to new tax standards

Brussels, 14 June 2013 (ITUC OnLine): Eighty-five per cent of voters in 13 countries including six G8 economies support policies to stop large and multi-national corporates avoiding tax, according to a new public opinion poll released by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) ahead of the G8 Summit in Lough Erne, Northern Ireland.

The UK ranked top of the G8 countries polled to measure voter support to curb tax havens and with 96% of voters in support of policies followed by 91% Germany; 88% Canada; 82% France; 75% Russia and 74% Japan.

The G8 is expected to commit to work on new global standards to tackle tax evasion when it meets for the Lough Erne Summit 17-18 June in Northern Ireland. In the Global Unions Statement released on the eve of the Summit, unions warned commitments must be backed by concrete deliverables as action taken to date is inadequate.

Sharan Burrow, General Secretary of the ITUC, said G8 members including Canada, Germany, Russia, the UK and the USA are failing to comply with standards set down by the Global Forum on Tax Transparency.

“Workers are paying for the financial crisis with their jobs, while corporations are denying ailing economies the revenue they so badly need.

“The sheer scale of tax evasion revealed by one corporate tax scandal after another is matched only by the injustice to workers and their families.

“In developing countries, national economies are robbed of revenues which could be used to address critical needs such as food security, health, poverty alleviation and education,” said Sharan Burrow.

John Evans, General Secretary of the Trade Union Advisory Committee to the OECD and  ITUC Chief Economist, said worldwide unemployment is forecast to rise above 200 million. Young women and men are particularly scarred by the crisis with 74 million young people under 25 unemployed globally.  

“The slow down in economic activity is likely to push even more into unemployment by 2014.

“The stakes are high, as we face a financial, economic and social crisis that threatens to divide and fracture our societies. G8 leaders must act urgently to put fairness at the heart of our economies. Curbing tax havens is one lever the G8 leaders have in their hands to put fairness and equality back on the table,” said Evans.

Read the Global Union’s statement to the G8 Lough Erne Summit covering  global union calls for action on taxation, transparency in the extractive sector and putting equality and fairness in trade policies.

For more information on the ITUC global poll 2013 contact Gemma Swart

Countries and dates of research

Between April 18, 2013 and May 1, 2013, TNS Opinion carried out the survey International Trade Union Confederation Global Poll 2013. This project covers the adult (18 years and over) populations of Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Japan, Russia, South Africa, Spain, UK and the USA.


The sample in each country has been selected by quotas to reflect national proportions in terms of age, gender and region.

In each country 1000 interviews were targeted for a total of 13.015 conducted interviews.

All interviews were conducted online.

Readers are reminded that survey results are estimations, the accuracy of which, everything being equal, rests upon the sample size and upon the observed percentage. With samples of about 1,000 interviews, the real percentages vary within the following confidence limits:

Observed percentages  10% or 90%      20% or 80%      30% or 70%      40% or 60%      50%

Confidence limits         ± 1.9 points       ± 2.5 points       ± 2.7 points       ± 3.0 points       ± 3.1 points

World Day Against Child Labour

Brussels, 12 June 2013 (ITUC OnLine): The ITUC is calling on governments to step up commitment to the global fight against child labour, with new evidence from the ILO that progress is slowing.  215 million children are still at work instead of in school.

“The two ILO Conventions on child labour have been ratified by the vast majority of governments, but tens of millions of children are experiencing the exploitation and misery of child labour when they should be getting a decent education.  The economic crisis, and the obsession with austerity, are severely hampering efforts to get the children out of work and into school,” said ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow.

177 governments have now ratified ILO Convention 182 on the Worst Forms of Child Labour, while 165 have ratified Convention 138, which is the main global reference point for the age at which people under the age of 18 can begin work experience, apprenticeships or enter work full-time.

A special focus on the World Day Against Child Labour this year is the situation of children trapped in domestic servitude, facing some of the most severe exploitation and physical and psychological abuse.  So far, 10 countries have ratified Convention 189 on Domestic Work, adopted by the ILO just two years ago.

“Out of sight, out of mind, can no longer be the reality for children in domestic servitude or indeed in any other form of exploitation.  The global community needs to boost action directed specifically at tackling child labour, and also focus on quality education, social protection and labour inspection, instead of the erosion of these crucial services to satisfy subjective fiscal targets that are tearing communities apart,” said Burrow.

The union movement is concerned that much of the focus for action on child labour has been on specific projects, without governments putting comprehensive policies in place.  An overall government policy and programme approach is essential.  Without this, sustained impact from individual projects to tackle child labour in particular locations or sectors is difficult or even impossible.

For more information, see: ILO-IPEC

Global March Against Child Labour

12 x 12 Campaign

New ITUC Report on Violations of Trade Union Rights

Special focus on seven countries at risk for trade unionists and trade union rights: Zimbabwe, Swaziland, Guatemala, Burma, Fiji, Georgia and Bahrain

Brussels, 12 June 2013 (ITUC OnLine): Unemployment rates and income inequality are increasing globally. Trade unionists continue to fight for jobs, rights and equality. This fight often costs them their jobs, and sometimes even their lives, in various parts of the world.  Since 2006, the ITUC, the largest and most democratic social movement of the world, has been monitoring violations of trade union rights. This report points at key findings in 87 countries with a special focus on seven countries where the existence of trade unions and other democratic institutions are under extreme risk: Burma/Myanmar, Bahrain, Fiji, Guatemala, Swaziland, Zimbabwe and Georgia.

According to the ITUC report, despite international legal instruments that protect and promote freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining, unions and their members are still exposed to severe violations of their rights. Unions are increasingly under attack, fighting to maintain the ability to effectively promote and defend the interests of workers. 

In more than half of the countries surveyed, workers have been dismissed or otherwise subjected to discrimination because of their trade union membership. The report includes detailed information on physical violence committed against trade unionists for their trade union activity in 24 countries. For example, 18 trade unionists were murdered in Colombia in 2012, and at least four already this year. Two workers were killed by police in Sierra Leone for protesting for better working conditions in mines in January 2013. Collective bargaining has been severely weakened in countries with strong industrial relations such as Portugal, Greece, Romania, Spain and Italy. In 28 of the countries surveyed, the report examines the arrest and detention of workers for their trade union membership and activities. Ninety-one members of the trade union KESK (22 women and 69 men) are still in detention in Turkey.

Guatemala has become the most dangerous country in the world for trade unionists. Since 2007, at least 53 union leaders and representatives have been killed, and there have been numerous acts of attempted murder, torture, kidnapping, break-ins and death threats, which have created a culture of fear and violence where the exercise of trade union rights becomes impossible.

Trade unionists in Africa’s last absolute monarchy, Swaziland, are calling for the election of a democratic and accountable government in 2013 and have therefore been targeted by the King and the authorities. The only national centre, the Trade Union Congress of Swaziland, was de-registered in April 2012, and six trade union leaders were arrested in May 2013.

In Fiji, the military regime is trying to strengthen its illegitimate power at the expense of workers’ rights. Trade unionists are excluded from bringing the voice of workers into the political debate by decree which prohibits them from expressing support for political parties.

“Hundreds of millions of working people, in developing and in industrialised countries, are denied the fundamental rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining,” said Sharan Burrow, ITUC General Secretary. “For many, especially those in precarious employment, this denial wreaks havoc on their lives, as they work extremely long hours in hazardous or unhealthy situations with incomes so low that they are unable to support themselves and their households properly.  Lack of respect for workers’ rights has increased inequality around the world, and that inequality helped trigger the global economic crisis and stand in the way of recovery.”

An online website with constant updates on trade union rights violations will become publicly available in October 2013.

Read the whole report here.    

For further information or to request an interview, please contact Mathieu Debroux on +32 476 62 10 18  –

Bangladesh Labour Law Changes Inadequate

Brussels, 11 June 2013 (ITUC OnLine):  Changes to Bangladesh’s notoriously weak labour laws being discussed in parliament are inadequate and will leave workers still without protection guaranteed under global labour standards, according to the international trade union movement. 

Sharan Burrow, General Secretary of the ITUC, said, “After years of inaction, the government is trying to hose down criticism of a system which has cost thousands of lives and kept the country’s garment workers on dollar-a-day wages to feed the corporate bottom line.  The changes being debated in parliament won’t change that, so major trading partners including the US and the EU will now need to step up pressure for real reform.”

The 360,000 workers in the country’s eight export processing zones will remain excluded from labour law coverage and instead relegated to a separate law that prohibits workers from even forming a union.  Remaining union-free appears to be one of the promises made to investors who set up in the zones. “With so many factory owners holding seats in parliament, it is no surprise that workers’ rights are still being stifled,” said Burrow.

One of the worst clauses in the old labour law, a requirement that factory owners be given the names of workers wanting to join unions, is likely to be scrapped; however, cosy relations between many government officials and the country’s employers mean that workers will still risk their jobs by signing up to unions.  The revised law, through a series of administrative obstacles, still makes it extremely hard for workers to form unions; such obstacles include high membership thresholds for registering unions, restrictions on who can serve as a union official and unreasonable limits on collective bargaining and the right to strike.

There is no sign that another common anti-union tactic, where government officials simply don’t process union registration requests, will diminish.  Registrations have often increased when previous factory disasters have put Bangladesh under the international spotlight, only to taper off when the global pressure eases.

“Partial measures are not good enough.  Bangladesh needs to bring its laws fully into line with ILO standards, especially on freedom of association and collective bargaining.  We’re pressing for that in tomorrow’s debate at the ILO Conference, and we’re keeping up the pressure on the global clothing brands and on governments to convince Bangladesh to do the right thing by its own people,” said Burrow. 

Gap Hitches Ride on Walmart’s Bangladesh Race to the Bottom

Brussels, 5 June 2013 (ITUC OnLine): The decision by US clothing retailer GAP to join Walmart in a non-binding and unenforceable “Bangladesh safety programme” is a sham, according the ITUC.  The two retail giants have ignored calls to join the global Bangladesh Fire and Safety Building Accord that has already been welcomed by the ILO and OECD, and signed by more than 40 US, Canadian and European brands.

Sharan Burrow, ITUC General Secretary, said, “Gap and Walmart are now unfortunate bedfellows in a public relations effort that aims to protect their business model rather than Bangladeshi workers.  Their refusal to join the global, binding effort brings shame upon them.”

Walmart and Gap have announced they are working on their own “safety programme” with some employer lobby groups and the US Bipartisan Policy Center, a think-tank of US political figures that “works to address the key challenges” facing the USA.

“The Bipartisan Policy Center has a very strong track record on advocacy around US policy issues, but it doesn’t seem to have any background on fire and building safety or on Bangladesh.  Walmart and Gap have avoided any commitments and can simply step away from their own programme any time they choose,” said Burrow. “Three weeks ago Walmart said its own unilateral plan would bring faster results than the global accord, yet now they are launching into a new programme with Gap, causing even greater confusion and uncertainty.  Gap said earlier that they were close to signing the global accord, but in the end didn’t want anything legally-binding.”

See also: Joint statement by AFL-CIO and ChangetoWin 

The ITUC represents 175 million workers in 156 countries and territories and has 315 national affiliates.

Follow ITUC on the web  and YouTube

For more information, please contact the ITUC Press Department on: +32 2 224 02 04 or +32 476 621 018  


Share and Follow: