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IndustriALL at the International Labour Conference

23 June, 2015IndustriALL Global Union joined nearly 4500 delegates from 169 countries attending the 104th International Labour Conference in Geneva, Switzerland from 1 to 13 June. 

During the two-week conference, 24 countries were shortlisted for review by the Committee on the Application of Standards (CAS) for failing to implement the Conventions of the International Labour Organization (ILO).

The Committee is a tripartite body with representatives from workers, employers and governments.

Of particular interest for IndustriALL were cases regarding the non observance of Convention 87 on Freedom of Association and the Right to Organize, including Bangladesh, Belarus, Mexico and Swaziland.

In Mexico IndustriALL continues to fight against protection unions, which do not represent workers and serve only the interests of employers and corrupt government officials. The Committee recognized the existence of protection unions and made strong recommendations to the Mexican government to put in place legislative reforms and measures to prevent the registration of the protection unions. Read more here.

Worker statements illustrated the serious challenges that lie ahead in putting Bangladesh in line with the Convention 87, ranging from legal problems, issues with EPZs (export processing zones), anti-union discrimination and violence, and trade union registration, among other factors.

IndustriALL denounced anti-union violence in Bangladesh with particular reference to the case caught on camera of two female union leaders getting beaten up at a factory owned by the Azim Group.

The Committee recommended a high level tripartite mission to Bangladesh in order to make a closer assessment of the country.

The Minister of Labour in Belarus referred to the recent decision by the country’s President Lukashenko to amend his own decree, which dictated a 10 per cent minimum union membership as condition for creation of a new union, to a lesser threshold of 10 people.

Although this is a positive development, workers’ and trade union rights are strangled in Belarus through the dominance of short-term contracts as well as bureaucratic hurdles that prevent independent unions from official registration.

During the Conference, Belarus was listed as one of the world’s ten worst countries for workers by the ITUC as it launched its 2015 Global Rights Index. The report says Belarus is characterized by anti-union discrimination, forced labour and repression of protests.

No wonder that the Committee expressed “deep concern that, ten years after the Commission of Inquiry’s report, the government of Belarus has failed to take measures to address most of the Commission’s recommendations. Workers continue to face numerous obstacles in law and in practice to the full exercise of their right to form or join trade unions of their own choosing.”

Despite having registered labour federation Tucoswa last month, Swaziland was again shortlisted for examination by the Committee which concluded that the government has a way to go before Swaziland is in full compliance with Convention 87.

The conclusions of the discussion on Swaziland list nine actions that the government is urged to take immediately. At the top of the list is a call for the unconditional release of a jailed lawyer for the Trade Union Confederation of Swaziland (Tucoswa), Thulani Maseko, who is serving a two year sentence for contempt of court; as well all other imprisoned workers whose right to free speech has been violated.

The committee also called for the registration of IndustriALL’s affiliate, the Amalgamated Trade Union of Swaziland (Atuswa) without further delay. Atuswa was formed through a merger in 2013 of several unions that organize industrial workers in Swaziland, including textile, garment and metal workers. An affiliate of Tucoswa, Atuswa has not been registered despite meeting the requirements set out by government for the registration of a trade union.

The Committee also listed legislative reforms required to bring the country into compliance with the freedom of association Convention and has urged the Swazi government to accept technical assistance to achieve this.

Read the full report from this year’s Committee on the Application of Standards here