Monitoring and interventions

Trade unionists are human rights defenders. They hold powerful forces to account, including governments, employers, transnational capital, and landowners.

In many countries trade unionists live under threat of retaliation, and are at risk of dismissal, harassment, and serious attacks on their personal security, and civil liberties. In some countries they face arrest, threats, kidnapping, violence, and even murder. Their organisations may face interference, heavy fines and criminal and civil punishments.

ICTUR exists to promote, defend, and extend trade union rights, and to investigate, respond to, and raise awareness of violations of these rights.

Philippines: March 2018
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A fact-finding investigation in February focussed on the Mindanao region reported widespread accounts of threats and intimidation by the military against workers and trade unionists at foreign-owned banana
plantations. Left-wing trade unions have been 'labelled' as fronts for the Communist Party of the Philippines and as NPA supporters. These groups are at risk of serious harassment and violence.

The Philippines has ratified both of the core ILO Conventions protecting freedom of association and trade union rights. It has a vigorous and growing labour movement, however, political violence is a regular problem, including threats and murders of trade unionists.

ICTUR letter    
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Kenya: March 2018
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On 13 December 2017 eleven named trade unionists were ordered to resign from their positions of trade union office due to holding either nominated or elective political positions. This order was nullified by a court decision, but in January 2018 the Teachers Service Commission de-registered teaching union leaders Wilson Sossion and Omboko Milemba as teachers.

Kenya has ratified both of the core ILO Conventions protecting freedom of association and trade union rights, however the rights of public sector workers, notably teachers and health worker, are frequently restricted and actions such as strikes in these sectors face restrictions and repression.

ICTUR letter    
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Taiwan: February 2018
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Trade unionists have experienced repression during recent protests against labour reforms, including police violence, arrests, and dismissals.

Taiwan occupies a difficult position in international law due to the historic struggle in which both the Taipei and Beijing authorities claimed to represent China. Since 1971, when China's UN seat was transferred to Beijing, Taiwan is not recognised as an independent State by the UN and is therefore unable to join the UN or ILO. However, prior to 1971, the Taipei authorities ratified both the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
(ICCPR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). In March 2009 Taiwan legislated to make the terms of these treaties binding as a matter of domestic law on all government agencies in Taiwan.

ICTUR letter    
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Cambodia: February 2018
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A number of trade unionists have been called upon to answer legal complaints against them, including criminal actions arising from strikes, a threat to 'disolve' 'inactive' unions, and a case claiming damages against a former trade unionist who is alleged to have called on the EU to stop importing Cambodian textiles to protest against the dissolution of a political party in Cambodia. The latter complex and troubling case was reportedly brought with the backing of a number of trade unions. The man facing charges is also the brother of trade union leader Chea Vichea, who was murdered in 2004.

Cambodia has ratified both core ILO Conventions on freedom of association. There is a sharply divided labour movement comprising nine registered trade union confederations, several umbrella groups, and a number of trade union federations that are themselves groupings of smaller unions. Several of the larger trade union groupings are associated with support for the ruling party but there are several smaller centres, some of which are associated with the political opposition. The unions regarded as independent of the ruling party have experienced violent repression in recent years, including a number of political killings, arrests, and incidents of police violence.

ICTUR letter    
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Bangladesh: February 2018
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Workers at Ashiana Garment Ind., Dhaka, have faced harassment and arrest following attempts to establish a union at the factory. The workers formed a trade union in May 2017, but the authorities refused its registration and since then the union organisers have faced sustained attacks and dismissals. On 31 January employers failed to attend a meeting to discuss the situation, and workers were violently attacked outside the offices of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association.

Bangladesh has ratified both core ILO Conventions on freedom of association, and has revised its labour law in recent years. A key problem is that union rights remain excluded from the export zones where most garment factories are located. A new EPZ law offers hesitant steps towards improving worker representation, but falls far short of full trade union rights, and in any case has not yet been adopted.

ICTUR letter    
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USA: February 2018
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The US travel authorities have reportedly denied an application for travel authorisation to the General Secretary of the UN- and ILO- accredited World Federation of Trade Unions, Georges Mavrikos. The WFTU leader is scheduled to attend an event of the United Nations in New York but will be unable to participate without US travel authorisation. WFTU has no major US affiliates, but its representatives must travel through US territory to access the UN building.

The US has not ratified either of the main ILO instruments on freedom of association. It has a powerful and well-established labour movement, most of whom are organised within the AFL-CIO. Another centre, Change to Win, comprises two of the country’s largest unions, Teamsters and SEIU.

ICTUR letter    
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Korea (South): February 2018
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Former general secretary of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), Lee Young-joo was arrested in December 2017, after leaving the headquarters of the ruling Democratic Party, where she had been on a ten-day hunger strike to protest working time regulations. For the two years up until December, Lee had been staying in the refuge of the KCTU office in order to continue her activity as general secretary, after police issued an unlimited arrest warrant for her role in organising a mass demonstration on 14 November 2015.

The Republic of Korea has not ratified either of the fundamental ILO conventions protecting freedom of association, and the country has for decades regularly been the site of serious anti-union violations, including arrests, dismissals, and state violence to break up union protests and to storm union premises. Teaching and civil service unions are banned. As well as the militant KCTU centre the larger KFTU promotes a form of politically moderate trade unionism.

ICTUR letter    
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Algeria: February 2018
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ICTUR has received reports complaining that hundreds of union members, delegates and officers of the independent union of electricity and gas workers (Syndicat National des Travailleurs de l’Électricité et du Gaz, SNATEGS) have been dismissed, harassed and persecuted.

Algeria has ratified both core ILO Conventions on freedom of association, and a central trade union organisation, the UGTA, enjoys an established position. Independent unions have existed for many years but are marginalised, their leaders face incidents of harassment, and the unions face considerable problems securing registration.

ICTUR letter    
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Mexico: February 2018
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On 24 January labour activist Quintin Salgado was killed by a group of armed men. A week earlier Salgado was threatened and beaten while on his way to meet strikers from Torex Gold's Media Luna mine, where approximately 600 workers have been on strike since November 2017 in a dispute over their bid for recognition of the SNTMMSSRM miners’ union. Two striking workers were murdered on 18 November (see below).

Mexico has ratified ILO Convention 87, but has not ratified Convention 98, despite a recent public commitment to do so. The fractured labour landscape is frequently the site of struggles between established unions that maintain bargaining rights and new and independent unions that lack these rights. A controversial labour law reform process is currently underway.

ICTUR letter    
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Philippines: February 2018
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ICTUR is gravely concerned by a deterioration respect for trade union rights, specifically:

- the murder of Reneboy Magayano, the leader of a local plantation workers’ association, on 18 September 2017 - unsubstantiated allegations by the President that the PISTON transport workers union and the Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) centre were guilty of the crime of ‘rebellion’
- threats to the life and safety of George San Mateo, the leader of the PISTON transport workers’ union
- the murder of Edwin Pura, the leader of a local chapter of PISTON, who was shot dead in Gubat, Sorsogon, on 25 October 2017
- threats issued by the President in December 2017 to use the military and ‘rubber bullets’ to end the PISTON strike
- the arrest of PISTON leader George San Mateo in December 2017.
- the dismissal of 532 activists and members of the Associated Labor Unions (ALU) from Amertron Incorporated Philippines after forming a union

The Philippines has ratified both of the core ILO Conventions protecting freedom of association and trade union rights. It has a vigorous and growing labour movement, however, political violence is a regular problem, including threats and murders of trade unionists.

ICTUR letter EILER 'endorsement' of ICTUR letter  
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South Africa: February 2018
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On 18 January 2018, unknown gunmen shot the branch chairman of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) at Eastern Platinum Mine, a unit of Lonmin, at his home in Bapong village, near Brits. He subsequently died in hospital; it is understood that the miner’s wife was also shot and injured in the attack.

South Africa has ratified both core ILO Conventions on freedom of association, however there are regular reports violence against trade unionists, and in recent years an escalation in inter-union rivalry. In 2012 a miners' strike at Marikana ended in a massacre, with 34 killed and more than a hundred injured. The country has three established trade union centers, and a new centre SAFTU, which has demanded that Cyril Ramaphosa – former miners’ leader, ANC insider, and Lonmin mining company executive, and now the President of South Africa – be arrested and charged for his involvement in Marikana.

ICTUR letter    
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Greece: January 2018
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The right to strike was restricted further when a legislative amendment was passed on 15 January raising the quorum for a valid strike ballot from 20 percent to 50 percent, which exceeds levels accepted by the ILO, and which contradicts the recommendations of the Expert Group for the Review of Greek Labour Market Institutions.

Greece has ratified both fundamental ILO conventions on freedom of association. The country has a dynamic labour movement, organized into three national centres, the private sector GSEE, the public sector ADEDY, and the militant leftist PAME centre, organized by former GSEE leader and now General Secretary of the WFTU, George Mavrikos.

ICTUR letter    
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Libya: December 2017
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Nermin Al-Sharif, general secretary of the Dockers’ and Seafarers’ Union of Libya, was recently detained for several days and her passport confiscated subject to 'an investigation', effectively barring her from travelling to an international event of the International Transport Workers’ Federation in Morocco.

The trade union situation in Libya is chaotic following NATO’s intervention in 2012, after which the monopoly trade union centre fragmented. Little reliable international information is avaiable concerning present trade union formations. However, the country has long-standing ratifications of ILO Conventions 87 and 98.

ICTUR letter    
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Mexico: December 2017
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On the night of 18 November, a group of armed men murdered two workers (Víctor and Marcelino Sahuanitla Peña) at the Media Luna gold mine in Guerrero, owned by the Canadian company Torex Gold Resources. The workers had been participating in a strike lasting several weeks, to protest for their right to join the union Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores Mineros, Metalúrgicos, Siderúrgicos y Similares de la República Mexicana (SNTMMSSRM).

Mexico has ratified ILO Convention 87, but has not ratified Convention 98, despite a recent public commitment to do so. The fractured labour landscape is frequently the site of struggles between established unions that maintain bargaining rights and new and independent unions that lack these rights. A controversial labour law reform process is currently underway.

ICTUR letter    
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South Africa: December 2017
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On 17 October, Tholakele Dlunga was murdered at his home in Nkaneng. He is the sixth member of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) to have been killed in the North West Province since July. The others are Mvelisi Biyela, Zingisa Mzendana, Malibongwe Mdazo, Mohahu Daniel Maseko and Mpeke Nonyana. Dlunga was one of the leaders of the 2012 Lonmin strike. After the massacre at Marikana on 16 August 2012, Dlunga was arrested and alleged that police tortured him.

South Africa has ratified both core ILO Conventions on freedom of association, however there are regular reports violence against trade unionists, and in recent years an escalation in inter-union rivalry. In 2012 a miners' strike at Marikana ended in a massacre, with 34 killed and more than a hundred injured. The country has three established trade union centers, and a new centre SAFTU..

ICTUR letter    
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Turkey: December 2017
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Eighty workers were dismissed in November from the Posco Assan steel plant in Kocaeli, Turkey, as a result of their efforts to organise at the plant. The union Birleşik Metal-İş has been attempting to organise the site’s 420 workers after they expressed deep dissatisfaction with wages and working conditions.

Turkey has ratified both core ILO Conventions on freedom of association and has an active and politically diverse trade union movement. However, unions face complex restrictions, routine bans on strikes, frequent incidents of violent policing, and operate under a system that requires vast organising efforts before a union can secure bargaining rights. Following the coup attempt the President introduced a State of Emergency.

ICTUR letter    
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Nigeria: November 2017
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On 1 November, Mallam Abdulmumini Yakubu, Chairman of the Kogi State branch of the Non-Academic Staff Union of Secondary Schools (NASU) at the Science and Technology Education Board (STEB), was murdered by unknown gunmen.

ICTUR's letter concerning this case was reported in the Nigerian media, see links below.

Nigeria has ratified both ILO Conventions on freedom of association, however, in recent years cases of anti-union violence have been reported.

ICTUR letter The Sun media report
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Link to report
Australia: November 2017
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On 24 October the federal police carried out raids on both the Victorian and national headquarters of the Australian Workers’ Union (AWU) to seize documentation relating to organisations funded by the AWU. Unions say the police raids were unnecessary intrusion and concern events more than 10 years ago.

Australia has ratified both ILO Conventions on freedom of association, and has a vibrant trade union movement, however, successive right-wing governments have enacted laws restricting trade union rights, while over the years a variety of regulatory agencies have been established tasked with investigating trade union activities, violating unions' freedom of association rights on many occasions.

ICTUR letter    
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Pakistan: October 2017
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The leader of a railway workers' union has been arrested and held in detention for six days following his part in organising a workers' meeting. Earlier in the year six train drivers and five of their deputies were arrested for participating in a strike called by the union.

Pakistan has ratified both ILO Conventions on freedom of association, however, for decades trade union rights in many sectors, including the railways, were highly restricted, and strikes in the rail sector continune to attract police attention.

ICTUR letter    
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Guatemala: October 2017
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The leader of a recently recognised factory union has been shot and killed. His colleaugue was injured but survived the attack, carried out by unknown assailants who escaped on a motorbike.

Guatemala has ratified both ILO Conventions on freedom of association, but violence against trade unionists is a major problem, and impunity for 87 murders since 2004 remains total, at 100 percent.

ICTUR letter    
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Peru: August 2017
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From July the authorities have responded to trade union protests with a range of repressive measures, including the declaration of a state of emergency, the deployment of the military, and the use of projectile weapons, including rubber bullets, to suppress demonstrations.

Peru has ratified both of the core ILO Conventions protecting freedom of association and collective bargaining. In the 1990s in particular trade unions faced harrasment and repression from both State forces and a terrorist insurgency, including the murder in 1992 of the leader of the main national trade union centre by State forces, which the State attempted to blaim on the insurgency. In recent years, the climate for activists has improved, but incidents of repression continue.

ICTUR letter    
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Belarus: August 2017
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Police raided the offices and homes of three individuals involved with the country's small independent trade union movement. A union leader and a trade union accountant were both arrested. The union leader was subsequently released but the accountant has been held in detention. Both are charged with tax evasion offences, contrary to Article 243(2) of the Criminal Code. The charges relate to funds received from overseas, around which the State has introduced restrictive measures.

Belarus has ratified both of the core ILO Conventions protecting freedom of association and collective bargaining. From the Soviet-era, the country has retained a large trade union movement close to a paternalist authoritarian state. The much smaller independent unions have faced ongoing ongoing problems with the State, including in particular with respect to their receipt of funding from overseas sponsors. Belarus is involved in an ongoing ILO supervisory process around the rights of the country's minority unions.

ICTUR letter    
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UK: August 2017
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On 19 July the High Court issued a permanent injunction banning the Prison Officers Association from taking steps to incite or induce members to engage in strike action. The injunction was issued after the POA called upon members to refrain from participating in voluntary (non-obligatory) tasks. The classification of withdrawal from voluntary tasks as industrial action has potentially far- reaching implications for the law of industrial relations.

The UK has ratified both core ILO Conventions concerning freedom of association and collective bargaining, but legal measures significantly restrict trade union rights, in violation of ILO standards.

ICTUR letter    
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Spain: August 2017
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On 21 June Rubén Ranz and José Manuel Nogales were found guilty under Article 315.3 of the Criminal Code by the Madrid criminal court and fined euro 1825 each for their part in a peaceful informational picket held in Madrid during the general strike on 29 March 2012.

Spain has ratified both core ILO Conventions concerning freedom of association and collective bargaining, but in recent years a series of restrictive measures has significantly affected the state of trade union rights, and have led to criminal measures being pressed against trade unionists following their participation in strikes, rallies, and protests.

ICTUR letter    
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Iran: August 2017
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On 25 July 2017, police and security forces raided the residences of workers at the Haft Tapeh sugar cane plantation and mill complex in the southern city of Shush. Fifteen workers were arrested and detained. These arrests were among a number of incidents of repression, including ongoing prosecutions, convictions, and sentencing to lengthy periods of detention, against those active in the independent trade unions.

Iran has not ratified either of the core ILO Conventions on freedom of association and collective bargaining. The law institutionalises a system of bi-partite and tri-partite bodies as labour relations bodies, but employer and State representatives formally participate in these structures (which are thus clearly not workers' organisations). Independent unions exist, but work largely outside of the formal framework of industrial relations, and are subject to serious repression, including violence and lengthy terms of imprisonment.

ICTUR letter    
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Brazil: August 2017
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Brazil’s Labour Reform Bill (Law No. 13.467) was approved on 14 July and is due to come into effect on 11 November 2017. Brazilian trade unions, legal experts and the ILO's Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations, have indicated that the Bill, which revises the 1943 Consolidation of Labour Laws, violates the Constitution and fails to respect ILO standards.

Brazil has not ratified ILO Convention 87 on protection of freedom of association, but it has ratified ILO Convention 98 on collective bargaining. The new labour law reforms have been strongly opposed by trade unions, and are seen as weakening workers rights and bargaining power.

ICTUR letter    
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Indonesia: July 2017
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Management at the Grasberg copper and gold mine in West Papua have dismissed thousands of workers for participation in strike action.

In 1998 Indonesia ratified both of the core ILO Conventions protecting freedom of association and trade union rights, and initiated a series of legal reforms, ending decades of what had been largely a trade union monopoly situation. Following this the country experienced a boom in trade union organising leading to a degree of fragmentation.

ICTUR letter Industriall report  
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Colombia: July 2017
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There have been a series of murders of trade unionists in the Republic of Colombia, including:

Mario Calle Correa, President of the campesino peasant farmers association ASTRACAVA, an affiliate of FENSUAGRO within the CUT, who was killed on 14 May in Valle del Cauca.

Washington Cedeño Otero, a member of the education workers union of Córdoba, ADEMACOR, an affiliate of FECODE within the CUT, who was killed on 6 June in Cordoba.

Johanna Alarcón, a member of the SUTEV union, an affiliate of FECODE within the CUT, was killed on 7 June in Cali.

Mauricio Velez, Vice-President of the public universities union SINTRAUNAL, within the CUT, who was kidnapped from his family home and executed on 21 June.

Alberto Román Acosta González, President of the Guacarí branch of the agricultural workers’ union SINTRAINAGRO, within the CUT, who was shot dead by gunmen on 1 July 2017.

Colombia has ratified both of the core ILO Conventions protecting freedom of association and trade union rights, but for many years it has had an appalling record of anti-union violence. There have been fewer murders in recent years than in the 2000s, when ICTUR operated a trade union rights monitoring project dedicated to Colombia, but violence is still a serious and widespread problem. There are three trade union centres: the left-wing CUT organises the principal industrial sectors and public sector workers, while its christian democratic rival CGTD claims a mass membership in rural workers organisations. CGTD recently led a breakaway faction of Latin American trade unions away from the international ITUC and its regional affiliate.

ICTUR letter    
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Philippines: July 2017
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There have been reports of violence against striking workers in Compostela Valley, Mindanao.

The Philippines has ratified both of the core ILO Conventions protecting freedom of association and trade union rights. It has a vigorous and growing labour movement, however, political violence is a regular problem, including threats and murders of trade unionists.

ICTUR letter
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South Africa: July 2017
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On 23 June 2017, the Secretary General of the Young Nurses Indaba Trade Union (YNITU), Mduduzi Ndlovu, was arrested following an assault on union delegates by security staff of the South African Nursing Council (SANC).

Also in June the company Sibanye Gold fired over 1500 workers from its Cooke mine for participating in a strike

South Africa has ratified both core ILO Conventions on freedom of association, however there are regular reports of violent repression of strikes, including the use of firearms by police and by private security companies. In 2012 a miners' strike at Marikana ended in a massacre, with 34 killed and more than a hundred injured. The country has three established trade union centers, and a new centre SAFTU, has recently been established.

ICTUR letter    
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Bangladesh: July 2017
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Workers at the Azim Group’s Orchid and Savar factories in Chittagong have been subjected to violence, threats and coercion for attempting to form a union.

Bangladesh has ratified both core ILO Conventions on freedom of association, and has revised its labour law in recent years. A key problem is that union rights remain excluded from the export zones where most garment factories are located. A new EPZ law offers hesitant steps towards improving worker representation, but falls far short of full trade union rights, and in any case has not yet been adopted.

ICTUR letter    
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China: July 2017
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In June 2017, three worker representatives (Fu Tianbo, Ai Zhenyu and Wang Shuai) were arrested by police for organising agency workers at the FAW-Volkswagen company in the city of Changchun. Fu Tianbo is reportedly still held in custody, and his family have since experienced police harassment.

Further, on 7 July 2017, labour activist Liu Shaoming, a labour rights and pro-democracy campaigner who was active in the 1989 protests, was sentenced to four years and a half imprisonment for 'inciting subversion of state power'.

China has not ratified either of the core ILO Conventions on freedom of association. A giant monopoly trade union exists, the All China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU), but it is often criticised for a lack of militancy and closeness to government. There are regular reports of worker unrest and strikes outside of the ACFTU.

ICTUR letter    
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Egypt: May 2017
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Amnesty International has issued a report cataloguing violations of trade union rights and acts of harassment against workers involved with independent unions

Egypt has ratified both core ILO Conventions on freedom of association but for decades has repressed independent union organising and has maintained a single state-run trade union monopoly centre, the ETUF. Independent unions have long existed on the fringes, though are now more widely established, and are organised within two rival national centres. The ETUF remains by far the largest union centre but it tends to have an antagonistic relationship to the independent unions.

ICTUR letter Amnesty report  
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Georgia: May 2017
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Anti-union violence and the violent repression of a trade union protest followed mass dismissals at a fertiser plant organised by the Trade Union of Metallurgy, Mining and Chemical Industry Workers of Georgia (TUMMCIWG).

Georgia has ratified both of the core ILO Conventions protecting freedom of association and trade union rights, but the country has a poor record for trade union rights over recent years.

ICTUR letter    
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Madagascar: April 2017
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Forty-three dockworkers from the Port of Toamasina were dismissed after they joined the Syndicat Général Maritime de Madagascar (SYGMMA).

Madagascar has ratified both of the core ILO Conventions protecting freedom of association and trade union rights, however anti-union dismissals have been reported in mining and ports, and against public sector workers, with further reports of anti-union harassment in these sectors.

ICTUR letter    
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Honduras: April 2017
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In a climiate of violence and anti-union attacks a union leader Moisés Sánchez and his brother Misael, a member of the union, were violently attacked by armed assailants.

Honduras has ratified both of the core ILO Conventions protecting freedom of association and trade union rights, however agricultural workers have faced repeated threats and violence, and there have been reports of anti-union dismissals and intimidation.

ICTUR letter    
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Venezuela: April 2017
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Two trade unionists were reported murdered, Joel Alcalá, former Secretary General of the Sindicato Único de Trabajadores de la Industria de la Alúmina, Bauxita y sus Derivados (Sutralúmina), and Esmin Ramírez of the Movement 21 labour syndicate at the state enterprise Ferrominera.

Venezuela has ratified both of the core ILO Conventions protecting freedom of association and trade union rights, however, as the country's economy has deteriorated, and political unrest has escalated, following the mid-2014 collapse in world oil prices, an increased level of violence and threats against trade unionists has been reported.

ICTUR letter    
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Kenya: April 2017
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The KNUT teaching union has been placed under an injunction prohibiting the union and its general secretary, Wilson Sossion, from making statements regarding a private teaching institution BIA, in the wake of domestic and international criticisms of BIA’s operations in Kenya.

Kenya has ratified both of the core ILO Conventions protecting freedom of association and trade union rights, however the rights of public sector workers, notably teachers and health worker, are frequently restricted and actions such as strikes in these sectors face restrictions and repression.

ICTUR letter    
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Kazakhstan: April 2017
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On 7 April 2017, Nurbek Kushakbayev was sentenced to two and a half years in prison under Article 402 of the Criminal Code, for inciting workers to participate in an unauthorized strike in December at the company Techno Trading Ltd.

Kazakhstan has ratified both of the core ILO Conventions protecting freedom of association and trade union rights. The country has a major trade union centre that is close to the State, but independent unions, notably those allied to the (now-deregistered) Confederation of Independent Trades Unions of Kazakhstan (KNPRK), have faced repressionm, and incidents of serious violations occur, including the extreme case in which 16 people were killed and at least 64 sustained gunshot wounds during an oilworkers' protest in 2011.

ICTUR letter    
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Turkey: April 2017
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Criminal sentences against fourteen officials of Turkish union TÜMTİS’ Ankara branch were upheld in March 2017 by the appeal court. TÜMTİS firmly maintains that the charges, which date back to November 2007, were politically-motivated

Turkey has ratified both core ILO Conventions on freedom of association and has an active and politically diverse trade union movement. However, unions face complex restrictions, routine bans on strikes, frequent incidents of violent policing, and operate under a system that requires vast organising efforts before a union can secure bargaining rights. Following the coup attempt the President introduced a State of Emergency.

ICTUR letter    
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Kenya: February 2017
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On 13 February 2017, seven officials from the Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPDU) were sentenced to one month in jail, On 15th February the Court of Appeal ordered their release.

Kenya has ratified both of the core ILO Conventions protecting freedom of association and trade union rights, however the rights of public sector workers, notably teachers and health worker, are frequently restricted and actions such as strikes in these sectors face restrictions and repression.

ICTUR letter    
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Sri Lanka: February 2017
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The leader of the All-Ceylon Telecommunications Union was abducted and held by armed men during a strike by 'temporary' workers (many of them long-term outsourced employees) at Sri Lanka Telecom (SLT).

Sri Lanka has ratified both of the core ILO Conventions protecting freedom of association and trade union rights.

ICTUR letter    
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Turkey: February 2017
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Following the failed coup of 2016 Turkey has experienced a wave of political repression that has included the mass dismissal of public sector workers, with the European Trade Union Confederation now estimating that 20,000 members from their affiliated confederations have lost their jobs and that tens of thousands from other unions have also been dismissed. In a serious incident of apparently politically-motivated violence, on 11 February 2017, the Chairman of the Türk Büro Sen union, Fahrettin Yokuş, was shot at in Ankara. Some days previously the union's headquarters had been besieged by an angry crowd, and in January, the defence of national security was offered as grounds for banning strikes at several enterprises, including at the Asil Çelik steel mill in Bursa, and at factories owned by ABB, General Electric and Schneider Electric.

The country has ratified both core ILO Conventions on freedom of association and has an active and politically diverse trade union movement (the incidents above affect unions from the left and right of Turkish politics). However, unions face complex restrictions, routine bans on strikes, frequent incidents of violent policing, and operate under a system that requires vast organising efforts before a union can secure bargaining rights. Following the coup attempt the President introduced a State of Emergency.

ICTUR letter  
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Italy: February 2017
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Trade union leader Aldo Milani - the national coordinator of the SI Cobas trade union - was arrested on 26 January 2017 in Modena province, and is facing what the union says are ill-founded charges of extortion, and which appear to be based not on any act by Mr Milani but on the alleged receipt of funds by an independent mediator brought into a negotiation at the request of the employer.

Italy has ratified all of the ILO’s core Conventions and labour rights are generally well-protected, with Europe’s largest trade union movement represented by three politically diverse national centres and by a significant number of independent unions and centres. However, this is the second significant incident involving members of the country’s smaller grassroots ‘base committee’ unions in recent months, the other case being an incident in which a picketer from the USB union was run over and killed during a protest (see ICTUR report below).

ICTUR letter  
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Algeria: February 2017
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Mellel Raouf, the leader of an independent energy sector union been sentenced to a six-month term of imprisonment after reporting corruption at SONELGAZ, the national electricity and gas company.

Algeria has ratified both core ILO Conventions on freedom of association, and a central trade union organisation, the UGTA, enjoys an established position. Independent unions have existed for many years but are marginalised, their leaders face incidents of harassment, and the unions face considerable problems securing registration.

ICTUR letter Industriall campaign
PSI campaign
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Egypt: January 2017
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Leaders of an independent union and up to 30 workers who organised strike action at a food sector factory - belonging to the IFFCO Indian multinational – have been arrested. Many remain in detention and are awaiting another court hearing. The International Union of Foodworkers warned they were at risk of fines or prison terms, but in February it was reported that they had been released.

Egypt has ratified both core ILO Conventions on freedom of association but for decades has repressed independent union organising and has maintained a single state-run trade union monopoly centre, the ETUF. Independent unions have long existed on the fringes, though are now more widely established, and are organised within two rival national centres. The ETUF remains by far the largest union centre but it tends to have an antagonistic relationship to the independent unions.

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Bangladesh: January 2017
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There has been a rapid deterioration in the trade union rights situation in the garment sector of Bangladesh, specifically around the Ashulia export zone, which erupted in December 2016. The situation over a number of years has been serious, with key problems involving a near total ban on unions in the zone; the lack of any effective industrial relations bargaining or resolution system in the zones; hostile and violent policing of strikes; a lack of protection from retaliation for trade union activists, leaders, organisers, and for workers who participate in strikes; and an extremely serious problem with workplace safety, which resulted in several serious workplace fires, and the internationally notorious collapse of the Rana Plaza factory.

|The present concern relates to the serious violations of trade union rights that erupted in the period around 21 December, when numerous arrests were made, and when many workers were dismissed, following strike action in support of a demand for increased wages from 12 December.

Bangladesh has ratified both core ILO Conventions on freedom of association, and has revised its labour law in recent years. A key problem is that union rights remain excluded from the export zones where most garment factories are located. A new EPZ law offers hesitant steps towards improving worker representation, but falls far short of full trade union rights, and in any case has not yet been adopted.

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Nicaragua: January 2017
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A group of 12 trade unionists and union leaders have been sentenced to periods of one year house arrest and two years imprisonment following their arrests during a peaceful protest at a factory in the Tipitapa free trade zone.

Nicaragua has ratified both of the core ILO Conventions on freedom of association and its trade unions have generally had a good relationship with leftist President Daniel Ortega. The country faces serious economic problems, and investment in free trade zones has been promoted as a way to attract jobs, but the priority placed on keeping investment in the zones has led to friction with unions. The conviction and sentencing of trade unionists for participating in a factory protest marks a serious deterioration in the trade union rights situation.

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Industriall campaign
 
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UK: January 2017
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The leader of a small independent union has been arrested during a protest concerning deductions from workers' wages in the form of non-payment of tips. The demonstration itself was forcefully dispersed by police.

The UK has ratified both core ILO Conventions concerning freedom of association and collective bargaining, and while arrests of union leaders are uncommon the country has experienced significant interference with trade union rights in recent years.

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Burundi: January 2017
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Four trade union leaders were arrrested on 28 December 2016, including the Chairman of the Burundi Confederation of Unions (COSYBU), Tharcisse Gahungu, the Chairman of the Burundi Cotton Processing Company Union (COGERCO), the Chairman of the Coffee Processing Company Union (SODECO), and a further COSYBU member.

Burundi has ratified both ILO Conventions protecting freedom of association. Union leaders have previoulsy faced harassment and arrests.

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Lebanon: January 2017
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Two migrant workers' rights activists Rose Limbu and Sujana Rana have been arrested on grounds that are unclear and have been denied access to legal counsel. Sujana Rana was arrested on 30 November and deported on 10 December. Rose Limbu was arrested on 5 December. The women are involved with a small but pioneering and locally and internationally well-respected migrant workers' organisation which has been seeking formal recognition by the State.

Lebanon has ratified ILO Convention 98 though not Convention 87.

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Brazil: January 2017
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The University of Sãu Paulo University has taken steps to evict the long-established Sindicato dos Trabalhadores da USP (SINTUSP) from its offices at the university, and to cease engagement with the union. The University has also launched a number of actions against the union's officers, which it describes as spurious and baseless.

Brazil has not ratified ILO Convention 87 on protection of freedom of association, but it has ratified ILO Convention 98, which explicitly protects trade unionists from harassment and anti-union retaliation by employers, such as the university. Brazil is further obligated to respect freedom of association under the terms of its membership of the ILO, and these principles are further protected under Brazil's own Constitution.

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Sri Lanka: December 2016
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The military has intervened in a port workers' strike following remarks made by a Government Minister who reportedly described the strike as 'piracy' and said that the military could 'shoot' strikers. ICTUR has written to express its concern at this action and to call for the Minister to retract his claim, which has no basis in law.

Sri Lanka has ratified both of the core ILO Conventions protecting freedom of association and trade union rights.

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Kazakhstan: December 2016
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The Government of Kazakhstan has begun a procedure aimed at de-registering one of the country's trade union centres, following changes to the law which make compliance much more demanding. The union concerned was the first independent centre, although it recently suffered a major split which left it very significantly depleted in numbers. Little clear information exists concerning its present membership levels, but the authorities argue it does not meet the new registration criteria. Human rights organisations and international trade unions have argued that the legal reforms are aimed at supressing independent unions.

Kazakhstan has ratified both of the core ILO Conventions protecting freedom of association and trade union rights, but serious violations occur, including the extreme case in which 16 people were killed and at least 64 sustained gunshot wounds during an oilworkers' protest in 2011.

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Pakistan: December 2016
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At least 63 hotel union members have been reported arrested. In a seperate incident 100 striking oil and gas workers were also arrested. Both incidents of mass arrest occured during labout disputes. A number of other reports of anti-union discrimination have been reported.

Pakistan has ratified both of the core ILO Conventions protecting freedom of association and trade union rights, but violations occur.

January 2017 - update - see IUF webpage

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Fiji: December 2016
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A trade union leader has been arrested and detained over a weekend. Firefighters also report having been pressurred to join an in-house union and to leave their existing union. They also report cancellation of 'check-off'.

Fiji has ratified both of the core ILO Conventions protecting freedom of association and trade union rights, but long running problems concerning trade union rights have seen processes activated within the ILO, including an official Article 26 Complaint lodged in 2013, though this closed in 2016.

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Argentina: November 2016
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Teaching unions have reported acts of interference and harassment by the police, including posting officers outside union meetings, and harassing those posting union flyers. The union also reported that those posting its flyers were assaulted shortly after the police intervention.

Argentina has ratified both of the core ILO Conventions protecting freedom of association and trade union rights. The country has a strong trade union movement that emerged from corporatism, and it is relatively free from the violence reported elsewhere on the continent, though anti-union actions are reported, as are arrests and harassment of trade unionists.

ICTUR letter
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Italy: November 2016
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A striking worker has been hit by a vehicle and killed while on a picket line. The local union reports that the vehicle was moving at speed and that managers had instructed the driver to cross the lines.

Italy has ratified both of the core ILO Conventions protecting freedom of association and trade union rights and is characterised by generally good levels of protection for trade union and labour rights. The country has a strong - if politically divided - trade union movement. The union concerned, USB, is one of several that emerged from a tradition of grassroots workplace committees.

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Philippines: November 2016
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An activist with the SENTRO trade union has been shot and killed outside his home.

The Philippines has ratified both of the core ILO Conventions protecting freedom of association and trade union rights. It has a vigorous and growing labour movement, however, political violence is a regular problem, including threats and murders of trade unionists.

ICTUR letter
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Sudan: November 2016
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Several doctors and the leader of their union have been arrested during a strike.

Sudan has ratified ILO Convention 98 on Collective Bargaining but not Convention 87 on Freedom of Association. The main trade union centre is close to the ruling party (one of its senior officiers is also the Foreign Minister). Independent unions have at times faced very serious threats to their security and are regarded as 'at risk' by Amnesty International.

ICTUR letter
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The International Centre for Trade Union Rights

Established in 1987, ICTUR is a non-profit organisation
based in London, promoting international trade
union rights through research and advocacy services.

UCATT House, 177 Abbeville Road, London SW4 9RL
Tel: +44 (0) 20 7498 4700 Fax: +44 (0) 20 7498 0611
Email: ictur@ictur.org / Web: www.ictur.org