Forced Labour: New ILO Protocol to Ramp Up Action


PhaRELL_ENDSLAVERYBrussels, 12 June 2014 :  A new global protocol to fight forced labour, adopted this week by the International Labour Organisation, will accelerate action against modern slavery.  The private sector is responsible for 90% of the estimated 21 million victims of forced labour, reaping some US$150 billion from some of the most severe forms of exploitation in existence today.  92% of the government, employer and worker delegates at the ILO Conference voted in favour of the protocol, which the ILO describes as bringing one of its longest-standing instruments, Convention 29, “into the modern era”.  Qatar, which is under the spotlight for using forced labour to build the 2022 World Cup infrastructure, abstained from the vote.

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New Legal Report: Right to Strike Backed by International Law

by ITUC OnLine

NY garment workers on strike 1913--(wikimedia)

NY garment workers on strike 1913–(wikimedia)

(Brussels, 3 June 2014 ): A new 122-page ITUC legal report, confirming that the right to strike is protected under international law, has been released today as employers try to overturn decades of jurisprudence at the International Labour Organisation.  Employer representatives at the ILO are continuing their efforts to strip back ILO Convention 87 on Freedom of Association, which guarantees workers the right to take strike action, as the UN agency holds its 103rd International Labour Conference in Geneva this month. Continue reading

Welcoming China’s labor federation back into the global union family?

TU vs. workers

by Eric Lee

[Ed. Note: This image shows strikebreakers sent by the local union federation attacking young striking workers at a Honda parts plant in 2010  The local union  was forced to apologize and a higher level federation officer helped negotiate higher wages at the plant.  A wave of strikes at auto parts plants in China followed.  -Paul Garver]

At the end of March, the International Labour Organisation’s Bureau for Workers Activities (known as ILO-ACTRAV) and the All-China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU) signed a Memorandum of Understanding “to promote Trade unions South-South Cooperation in the Asia- Pacific region”.

The Director-General of the ILO, Guy Ryder, said “we need to find a way which so that the ACFTU can work more closely with other parts of the international trade union movement, sharing common objectives.”

Ryder is a former General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation, which has decided to invite the ACFTU to attend its upcoming World Congress in Berlin in May.

These two events illustrate the fact that the trade union leadership in much of the developed world now seems keen on putting the past behind us and welcoming China’s trade unions back into our “global family”.

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No more words – it’s time for action: ITUC International Women’s Day Statement

International Trade Union Confederation

stopGBVOn the occasion of International Women’s Day 2014, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) is calling time on gender-based violence in the world of work. Violence against women at work, whether at their actual place of work or on the way to and from work, can take on multiple forms, including:

  •  Physical assault
  • Verbal abuse and threats of violence
  • Bullying
  • Psychological abuse
  • Sexual harassment
  • Economic violence Continue reading

Qatar: UN Human Rights Rapporteur exposes truth on migrant workers and calls for ILO standards to be met


International Trade Union Confederation

International Trade Union Confederation

International unions are calling on the Qatar authorities to give an immediate response to the request for urgent reforms for migrant workers following a ten-day UN investigation in the country.

Sharan Burrow, General Secretary, International Trade Union Confederation, welcomed the recommendations by Francois Crepeau, UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants, including the right to form and join trade unions, proper grievance procedures, a minimum wage and the abolishment of the kafala system.

“Despite claims by the Qatar authorities that they are cleaning up labour camps and clearing overcrowded deportation centres holding women and their babies, the UN Special Rapporteur has witnessed the horrific conditions facing migrant workers in Qatar and put forward strong recommendations that if implemented will make a real difference to the lives of migrant workers in Qatar,” said Sharan Burrow.

The UN recommendations were announced as FIFA President Sepp Blatter made his ‘courtesy’ visit to the Emir following the deaths of construction workers building World Cup infrastructure. Continue reading

World Day Against Child Labour


child-labour(June 12) The ITUC is calling on governments to step up commitment to the global fight against child labour, with new evidence from the ILO that progress is slowing.  215 million children are still at work instead of in school.

“The two ILO Conventions on child labour have been ratified by the vast majority of governments, but tens of millions of children are experiencing the exploitation and misery of child labour when they should be getting a decent education.  The economic crisis, and the obsession with austerity, are severely hampering efforts to get the children out of work and into school,” said ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow.

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Bangladesh Labour Law Changes Inadequate


Hundreds of Bangladesh workers in several garment factores were killed in a building collapse  Photo: Bangladesh Federation of Workers Solidarity (BFWS).

Hundreds of Bangladesh workers in several garment factores were killed in a building collapse Photo: Bangladesh Federation of Workers Solidarity (BFWS).

Changes to Bangladesh’s notoriously weak labour laws being discussed in parliament are inadequate and will leave workers still without protection guaranteed under global labour standards, according to the international trade union movement.
Sharan Burrow, General Secretary of the ITUC, said, “After years of inaction, the government is trying to hose down criticism of a system which has cost thousands of lives and kept the country’s garment workers on dollar-a-day wages to feed the corporate bottom line.  The changes being debated in parliament won’t change that, so major trading partners including the US and the EU will now need to step up pressure for real reform.”

The 360,000 workers in the country’s eight export processing zones will remain excluded from labour law coverage and instead relegated to a separate law that prohibits workers from even forming a union.  Remaining union-free appears to be one of the promises made to investors who set up in the zones.

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ILO: 52 Million in Domestic Work Worldwide

by Tula Connell

ILO-52-Million-in-Domestic-Work-Worldwide_mediumSome 52 million people older than 15—primarily women—labor as domestic workers around the world, according to a report released today by the International Labor Organization (ILO). Of those, 83 percent are women. The vast number of domestic workers, 21.4 million, are in Asia and the Pacific region, with 19.6 million in Latin America, 5.2 million in Africa and 2.1 million in the Middle East.

These figures exclude child domestic workers younger than 15. The ILO, in 2008, estimated 7.4 million children work in domestic labor.

This first-of-its-kind ILO report is meant to further spotlight the plight of domestic workers, many of whom are vulnerable to abuses—from low wages and long hours to physical abuse and human trafficking.

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ITUC outraged at Employers attack on ILO system

ITUC On-line

International Trade Union Confederation

( June 4) The employers’ group today blocked discussion of some of the worst cases of worker rights violations at the annual ILO conference in Geneva. Since 1926, the conference has discussed the most serious cases included in the annual report of the ILO’s Committee of Experts, a 17-member committee of eminent and independent international jurists. This, year the International Organisation of Employers (IOE) has refused to discuss any cases.

Sharan Burrow, ITUC General Secretary, said “Employers at the ILO are trying to keep the worst abuses under wraps and avoid the international scrutiny which could help save lives and tackle some of the most appalling attacks on the rights of working people. Last year, 29 trade unionists were murdered in Colombia, but employers don’t think the ILO should even discuss that, nor the terrible campaign of violence against trade unionists in Guatemala or Swaziland. Egyptians are in the midst of a battle for their most basic rights to decent work, but employers seem to be siding with the military and fundamentalist forces both of which want to deprive workers of a voice. The IOE has also refused to allow discussion of the withdrawal of collective bargaining rights in Greece and Spain, where plummeting incomes are worsening the country’s economic plight and other serious cases where decent labour laws are under attack. Employer organisations are playing a dangerous political game at the ILO, even as some individual companies are themselves increasingly prepared to discuss workers’ rights openly and frankly.

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ILO Report Shows Job Market Still in Crisis


(Brussels, 25 January 2011)Today’s Global Employment Trends report from the International Labour Organization (ILO) confirms that, despite improvements in many economic indicators, global unemployment remains at crisis levels.

“The job market is by far the most important part of the economy and the ILO’s report underlines the severity of world unemployment,” said ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow. “The fact that more than 205 million workers remain unemployed is of major concern, and tackling this crisis must be the primary focus of economic policy.”

The global unemployment rate barely edged down from 6.3% in 2009 to 6.2% in 2010. Today’s report projects 6.1% in 2011, which is still significantly above the pre-crisis rate of 5.6%. The youth unemployment rate is more than twice as high, with employment not keeping up to population growth. The report indicates that the worldwide ratio of employment to population fell between 2009 and 2010. Continue reading