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Rapid decline in workers' rights globally

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13 June, 2024The launch of ITUC’s 2024 global rights index makes for sad reading as workers’ rights are in decline around the world. Bangladesh, Belarus and Eswatini are among the ten worst countries in the world for working people.

“For eleven years now the Index has tracked a rapid decline in workers’ rights in every region of the world. Workers are the beating heart of democracy, and their right to be heard is crucial to the health and sustainability of democratic systems. When their rights are violated, democracy itself is attacked. Democracy, trade unions and workers’ rights go together; you simply cannot have one without the other,”

says ITUC general secretary Luc Triangle.

87 per cent of countries in the world violate the right to strike and 79 per cent of the countries violate the right to collective bargaining.

The worst region for working people is the Middle East and North Africa, while European workers are witnessing the biggest decline in rights seen in any region in the world over the past ten years. The right to strike and the right to collective bargaing is under constant attack, as the example of Tesla refusing to sign a CBA in Sweden bears witness to.

The rights index lists Belarus as one of the ten worst countries in the world for workers with systemic repression, unjustified detention of activists and arbitrary dissolution of unions.

“Belarus is a world champion in violating trade union rights,”

says Lizaveta Merliak, from IndustriALL affilaite BITU.

After four years of international campaigning, 42 union leaders remain in jail, labelled terrorists by the government. They are forced to wear a yellow label on their prison uniform, a sign for staff to mistreat them. The political prisoners are often put in solitary confinement where temperatures are often too hot or too cold, and they are denied access to fresh air. Women prisoners are kept in so-called colonies where they are forced to work in textuke factories, making uniforms for the military.

Says IndustriALL assistant general secretary Kemal Özkan:

“This year's index increases concerns over the status of labour rights; workers’ rights are deteriorating along with democratic standards around the world. Without workers’ rights there cannot be a democratic world. Now more than ever, the union movement must stand united in determination to mobilize to defend our fundamental rights.”

The ITUC global rights index is a comprehensive review of workers’ rights in law ranking 151 countries against a list of 97 indicators derived from ILO Conventions and jurisprudence, and as such is the only database of its kind. It rates countries on a scale from 1 to 5+ based on the degree of respect for workers’ rights. Violations are recorded each year from April to March.