Violation of workers’ rights at seven-year high

Four Asian countries make the International Trade Union Confederation’s list of top 10 worst countries for working people.
By: | June 23, 2020

There is a growing breakdown in the social contract that governments and employers have with working people, leading to more working rights restricted through violations of collective bargaining, withholding the right to strike and excluding workers from unions.

Calling this the worst violation of workers’ rights in seven years, the International Trade Union Confederation’s (ITUC) 2020 ITUC Global Rights Index also identified a number of scandals over government surveillance of trade union leaders in an attempt to instill fear and put pressure on independent unions and their workers.

Sharan Burrow, General Secretary of the ITUC, said, “These threats to workers, our economies and democracy were endemic in workplaces and countries before the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted lives and livelihoods.

“In many countries, the existing repression of unions and the refusal of governments to respect rights and engage in social dialogue has exposed workers to illness and death, and left countries unable to fight the pandemic effectively.”

Of the 10 countries identified by the ITUC as the worst for working people in 2020, four Asian countries make the list – Bangladesh, India, Kazakhstan and the Philippines.

Some of the key findings from the seventh edition of the ITUC Global Rights Index, which ranks 144 countries on the degree of respect for workers’ rights, include:

  • 85% of countries violated the right to strike.
  • 80% of countries violated the right to collectively bargain.
  • The number of countries that impeded the registration of unions increased.
  • The number of countries that denied or constrained freedom of speech increased from 54 in 2019 to 56 in 2020.
  • Workers were exposed to violence in 54 countries.
  • Workers had no or restricted access to justice in 72% of countries.
  • Workers experienced arbitrary arrests and detention in 61 countries.

Calling the Rights Index more than just a list of violations, Burrow added, “It is a stark picture of the rights deficits we need to address as we build the new economic model the world needs as it recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It must be a resilient global economy built on a New Social Contract: a new commitment to workers’ rights, renewed investment in compliance and the rule of law, and a foundation for workplace democracy.”