Ten countries not to go to, if you’re a trade unionist
Although holiday season is almost upon us, this isn’t really the TUC Holiday Show. Over the last fortnight, trade unionists, employers and governments from all over the world have been in Geneva for the annual conference of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), and every year, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) takes the opportunity to launch a league table showing which countries have the worst record of workers’ rights abuses. There’s a map; a great infographic you can share; and the full 104-page report.
This year, the top ten – which we will be featuring on Stronger Unions over the next ten days – are Belarus, China, Colombia, Egypt, Guatemala, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Swaziland and United Arab Emirates. The Gulf States are among the world’s worst countries for workers’ rights.
Launching the report, ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow said:
“Workers in the Gulf States where the draconian ‘kafala’ system is widespread endure many of the violations which make the Middle East and North Africa the world’s worst region for fundamental rights at work. In Qatar and Saudi Arabia migrants continue to endure forced labour and labour law exclusions which amount to modern slavery.”
But it’s not all rosy nearer to home. Workers facing European austerity measures endured the starkest deterioration of standards, according to the ITUC 2015 Global Rights Index. Countries outside the top ten, but with worsening conditions this year included Burundi, Dominican Republic, Hong Kong, Iran, Georgia, Russia, Spain…. and the United Kingdom!
The index ranks 141 countries against 97 internationally recognised indicators to assess where workers’ rights are best protected, in law and in practice. It 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: 16 countries including Finland & Uruguay
2. Repeated violations of rights: 26 countries including Japan & Ireland
3. Regular violations of rights: 36 countries including Israel & Australia
4. Systematic violations of rights: 27 countries including Poland & USA
5. No guarantee of rights: 27 countries including Belarus, China & Nigeria
5+ No guarantee of rights due to breakdown of the rule of law: nine countries including Syria, Central African Republic & Palestine
Some of the report’s key findings were:
- Out of a total of 141 countries, the number where workers faced arbitrary arrest and detention increased from 35 to 44, and included countries such as Spain and Brazil.
- Unionists were murdered in 11 countries, one up from last year, including 22 deaths in Colombia alone.
- In almost 60 per cent of countries, certain types of workers are excluded from their fundamental labour rights. 70% of countries have workers with no right to strike and two thirds of countries deny some workers their collective bargaining rights.
Sharan Burrow concluded that:
“International labour standards prescribe access to fundamental rights for all workers. Yet as corporate power and inequality grows internationally, these results show governments and employers in almost every country around the world must improve their treatment of workers and arrest the increase in workplace violations.”
Oh alright then. Where should you go on your holidays, to enjoy the best workers’ rights, and the fewest abuses? Top scores in the ITUC survey went to Austria, Finland, the Netherlands, Norway and, furthest afield, Uruguay. But we’re not offering a guarantee.