The International Trade Union Confederation has reported that more than 200 trade unionists worldwide were killed, assaulted or threatened in 2008 for trying to defend workers’ rights.
The ITUC said that of the 76 killed, 66 came from Latin America – 49 in Colombia, nine in Guatemala, four in Venezuela, three in Honduras and one in Panama.
The annual death toll has declined from 91 in 2007 and 144 in 2006 – but the report said that many governments still violate workers’ rights and in several cases ‘were themselves responsible for heavy repression of these rights.’
It reported 7,500 cases of dismissal of workers involved in trade union activity in 68 countries, 20 of which were African. ‘These cases are, however, only the tip of the iceberg,’ the confederation said.
The country with the worst record of dismissals was Turkey, where more than 2,000 cases had been documented.Next came Indonesia, Malawi, Pakistan, Tanzania and Argentina.
The ITUC said that Colombia was again the deadliest country for rights activists, with 49 killed in the south American nation last year, up from 39 in 2007 but down from 78 in 2006.
The ITUC comprises 312 national labour unions from 157 countries.
Its annual report said that several dozen nations used death threats or assaults against trade unionists.
The report said that the recession had led some governments to crack down on workers demanding higher wages to cope with the recession and high food prices.
ITUC general secretary Guy Ryder said that repressing workers and denying them basic rights ‘wreaks havoc on their lives.
‘They work extremely long hours in hazardous or unhealthy situations with incomes so low that they are unable to support themselves and their households properly.’
The ITUC survey reported abuses in 143 countries but added that said workers’ rights had improved in several countries.
Newly elected leaders in Australia and the US have promised to increase worker protection, it noted.