ITUC OnLine – May 12, 2009

New ILO Study emphasizes possible impact of global economic crisis on forced labour

Brussels, 12 May 2009 (ITUC OnLine): The ITUC has welcomed a new ILO Global Report on forced labour worldwide, which will be submitted to the ILO’s annual International Labour Conference in Geneva in June.

Entitled “The Cost of Coercion”, it details, among other aspects, the growing number of unethical, fraudulent and criminal practices that can lead people into situations of forced labour, and calls for increased efforts to eradicate these forms of exploitation. The report also charts the significant international and national progress in reducing and preventing forced labour, but warns of the possible negative impacts of the global economic and jobs crisis on efforts to eliminate it.

The report’s USD 20 billion estimate of the “opportunity cost” of the coercion of workers affected by these abusive practices, in terms of lost earnings, puts the economic case alongside the clear moral and legal imperatives to eliminate forced labour.

It also points out that among intensified international and national efforts to reduce and prevent forced labour, are new laws and policies at national and regional levels as well as growing provision of social protection for those most at risk of forced labour and trafficking. In addition, it offers much-needed guidance and expertise on effective means to combat these practices.

The ITUC, through its own forced labour programme, is supporting union action on the issue in general, along with specific attention groups, such as domestic workers, where the extent of forced labour is not widely recognized. One area of growing concern which the report did not emphasise concerns the use of forced prison labour, which is regulated by ILO Convention 29, and which is also subject to WTO restrictions under article XXe of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade.

“The fact that forced labour still exists, and especially on such a huge scale, is an absolute scandal which the international community simply should not tolerate. Governments must work together, especially to combat the scourge of human trafficking, through effective laws and proper enforcement,” said ITUC General Secretary Guy Ryder, adding that “trade unions, often working with NGOs and governments, are actively working to prevent forced labour and to identify and assist those affected.”

Click here to see the ILO report:

To see an ITUC video on forced labor click here.


Assassinations continue in Colombia

Brussels, 12 May 2009 (ITUC OnLine): The ITUC has strongly condemned and denounced the murders in April and May of five trade union activists dedicated to improving the lot of workers in Colombia.

The national, regional and international trade union movements have joined with the three Colombian union confederations, CUT, CGT and CTC, in their unwavering condemnation of the relentless attacks on the Colombian trade union movement, committed in blatant violation of the core ILO Conventions ratified by Colombia. These attacks take the form of intimidation, persecution and threats along with continuous murder of trade union members and leaders for simply trying to defend workers’ rights.

These five deadly crimes against the trade union movement take the number of trade unionists assassinated in 2009 to seventeen. Over the last decade, Colombia has seen the murder of 2711 trade union leaders and activists in total. These assassinations seriously call into question the numerous claims by members of the Colombian administration that the violence, murders and stigmatisation suffered by the trade union movement are declining.

In a letter to the Colombian president, Alvaro Uribe, the ITUC called on the Colombian authorities to carry out urgent and conclusive investigations to bring those responsible to justice, and thus break the chain of impunity characterising the murders of trade unionists.

“The ITUC will send the relevant information to the ILO Committee on Freedom of Association within the framework of Case no. 1787,” said Guy Ryder, general secretary of the ITUC. “Real justice is urgently needed in Colombia!”