From the TUC

Syria needs free trade unions: promises of partial reform insufficient

26 Mar 2011, By

Demonstrations across Syria after dozens of protestors were by security forces mean that one of the least democratic states in the Middle East has now joined the wave of pro-democracy uprisings across the Middle East/North Africa. The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) has called for an end to the violence and the freedom to join trade unions. You can support the creation of free trade unions by donating to the TUC Aid MENA appeal.

Partial reforms promised by the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad are unlikely to quell the anger spreading across the country, nor satisfy demands for democracy and human rights. Scores of people have been detained since the protests began, although the regime has said they will now be released.

Despite promises by the regime to introduce limited reforms, reports from Syria indicate that security forces are still using live ammunition against demonstrators as protests spread across the country including to Damascus. Heavy restrictions on journalists trying to report on the situation remain in place.

“Just as in other countries in the region, people are rising up in protest at repression of fundamental rights and the lack of decent jobs and prospects for the future. It is time that the Syrian authorities respect fundamental rights and freedoms, including the right to form and join genuine trade unions to represent their interests. The Assad regime must immediately stop its violent repression, open a dialogue with its opponents, and allow the development of legitimate civil society organisations,” said ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow.

A large proportion of Syria’s population lives below the poverty line, with unemployment around 30%. The country has existed under a state of emergency since 1963, with heavy restrictions on civil and political rights, and the trade unions under the full control of the regime.