[Translation of an article from the Honduran web site Revistazo.com for June 16.]
With 12 trade unionists killed in 2009, out of a total of 101 for the world, Honduras is in third place in the number of killings of union activists and leaders, according to a report by the Confederación Sindical Internacional (CSI – International Trade Union Confederation).
Tegucigalpa – The document shows that in the previous year the murders of union activists increased by 30 percent, a fact attributable to pressure exerted by unions to demand workers’ fundamental rights to job recovery, made more pressing during the global economic crisis.
The report adds that of the 101 victims, Honduras is surpassed only by Colombia, with 48 unionists murdered, and Guatemala with 16. The CSI describes this as “an escalation of violence against union leader that has developed in the past few years.”
Other countries affected by the problem are Mexico and Bangladesh, which share fourth place with six assassinations each, followed by Brazil, which reported four. Three were reported in the Dominican Republic, and an equal number in the Philippines, with one violent death each in India, Iraq and Nigeria.
Guy Ryder, secretary general of CSI, says, “The worsening of the situation in Guatemala, Honduras and several other countries is also a reason for great concern.” This year’s report again includes a long list of violations inflicted on unionists struggling to defend workers’ interests, in this case in 140 countries.”
He added that other violations are not reported because workers lack the means to make themselves heard or because they choose not to denounce violations out of fear of losing their jobs or even of physical violence.
Together with the list of murders, the report provides detailed documentation of assaults, intimidation and other forms of anti-union persecution.
The documents indicates that in each of the regions a number of cases of repression of strikes and attacks on strikers have been documented.
Workers demonstrating to demand their wages, to denounce extreme working conditions or to protest against the pernicious effects of the world fianncial crisis, were subjected to agression, arrest and detention in countries like Algeria, Argentina, Belarus, Burma, The Ivory Coast, Egypt, Honduras, India, Iran, Kenya, Nepal, Pakistan and Turkey.
Likewise, numerous unionists are in prison and in 2009 a hundred more were added to their number. Many others have been arrested, specifically in Iran, Honduras, Pakistan, South Korea, Turkey and Zimbabwe.
Employers apply pressure and take actions meant to destroy the unions. In a number of countries, companies threatened the workers with plant closures if they chose to organize or join unions.
Often they would simply refuse to negotiate with the legal representatives of the workers while authorities did nothing.
Making the laws flexible
Ryder declares that “this year’s CSI report shows that most workers of the world still lack effective protection of their rights to organize unions and to bargain collectively, an important factor in the long-term growth of economic inequality within countries and between them.
Inadequate pay for most of the work force of the world contributed to bringing about the global economic crisis and is making it much more difficult to channel the economy into sustainable growth.
Some labor laws were ammended to permit a greater “flexibility” and to dismantle social security systems, which tends to effect the existing system of industrial relations and results in a reduction of union rights.
The weakening of internationally recognized labor standards, the report says, exposes the fact that more and more workers face job insecurity and vulnerability; 50 percent of the world’s work force have vulnerable jobs.
This affects workers in industrial free-trade zones, especially in Southeast Asia and Central America, domestic workers, expecially in theMiddle East and Southeast Asia; migrants and agricultural workers. It should be mentioned that women represent the majority of the workforce in these sectors.
On the other hand, the growth of informal sector employment has been noted, as well as the development of new kinds of “atypical” employment, in different regions and industrial sectors. The difficulties these workers face when it comes to organizing or to exercizing their union rights are directly related to their vulnerable position in the labor market.
The report also stresses that in many cases even where union rights are officialy protected by legislation, restrictions on legal coverage and weak or nonexistent enforcement adds to the vulnerability of workers struggling during the crisis.
In a large number of countries strikes are severely restricted or prohibited altogether.
On the other hand, some complex procedures, the imposition of obligatorty arbitration and the resort to excessively broad definitions of “essential services” often make the excercise of union rights impossible in practice, thus denying workers their rights to depend on union representation and to take part in industrial activities…