Globalisation is taking its toll on workers rights

Workers-rightsjBy Tony Burke

According to a new report, the UK falls within the category of nations where people’s workplace rights are regularly violated workers rights.

Last week, during its third World Congress, the International Trade Union Confederation published a damning report on violations of employment rights throughout the world, which highlighted the link between inequality, prosperity, decent employment rights and collective bargaining.

The report shows that globalisation is taking its toll on workers rights. Alongside the imposition by the IMF, the World Trade Organisation and the World Bank of a flexible, low wage, ‘race to the bottom’ economic model on many countries, goes systematic violations of workers rights.

Only Denmark honoured all 97 fundamental employment rights out of 139 countries.

In 40 per cent of countries employment rights were violated or simply not guaranteed; and in 53 countries workers had been dismissed or suspended simply for trying to secure pay increases or establish collective bargaining.

Shamefully, the UK falls within the category of nations where people’s workplace rights are regularly violated.

“Countries such as Denmark and Uruguay led the way through their strong labour laws, but perhaps surprisingly, the likes of Greece, the USA and Hong Kong, lagged behind,” said re-elected ITUC general secretary Sharan Burrow.

“A country’s level of development proved to be a poor indicator of whether it respected basic rights to bargain collectively, strike for decent conditions, or simply join a union at all,” she added.

The ICTU has been collecting data on the violations of trade union rights around the world for the past 30 years, but for the first time their Global Rights Index contains verified information from the last year in a format that can be easily used.

For example, Cambodia’s labour law fails to cover many civil servants, there are undue restrictions on the right to elect union representatives, and in 2013 the government responded with force to demonstrators seeking a decent wage and working conditions.

This resulted in Cambodia receiving a score of five in the Rights Index – the worst possible rating other than for those countries where the rule of law has completely broken down.

In the Middle East, Qatar (controversial home of the 2022 FIFA World Cup) does not allow unions at all for migrant workers, while in Latin America, Guatemala was one of the worst places to be a worker, with no guarantee of employment rights.

The key finds of the report include:

▪ In the past year, governments of at least 35 countries have arrested or imprisoned workers as a tactic to resist demands for democratic rights, decent wages, safer working conditions and secure jobs.

▪ In at least 9 countries murder and disappearance of workers were commonly used to intimidate workers.

▪ Workers in at least 53 countries have been dismissed or suspended for attempting to negotiate better working conditions.

▪ Laws and practices in at least 87 countries exclude certain type of workers from the right to strike.

“The World Bank’s recent ‘Doing Business’ report naively subscribed to the view that reducing labour standards is something governments should aspire to,” Burrow said.

“This new Rights Index puts governments and employers on notice that unions around the world will stand together in solidarity to ensure basic rights at work.”

The ITUC Global Rights Index rates countries from one to five according to 97 indicators, with an overall score placing countries in one to five rankings.

1 – Irregular violations of rights: 18 countries including Denmark and Uruguay

2 – Repeated violations of rights: 26 countries including Japan and Switzerland

3 – Regular violations of rights: 33 countries including Chile and Ghana

4 – Systematic violations of rights: 30 countries including Kenya and the USA

5 – No guarantee of rights: 24 countries including Belarus, Bangladesh and Qatar

5+ – No guarantee of rights due to breakdown of the rule of law: 8 countries including Central African Republic and Somalia.

In examining the index – and by isolating OECD nations – countries with the best employment protections and widespread collective bargaining are the least unequal including Denmark, Sweden and Norway – but those with the most violations are the most unequal which includes the UK and the USA.

This blog was first published on Left Foot Forward, May 26th, 2014.

This entry was posted in Campaign For Trade Union Freedom News, European Employment Rights, International Employment Rights, Publications & Websites, Research, UK Employment Rights. Bookmark the permalink.

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