In a climate where fires and building collapses have brought greater focus on social compliance and worker rights, the International Trade Union Federation (ITUC) has released a new report which looks at worker rights across a number of variables
Countries such as Denmark and Uruguay led the way through their strong labour laws, but perhaps surprisingly, the likes of Greece, the United States and Hong Kong, lagged behind,” said ITUC general secretary Sharan Burrow. “A country’s level of development proved to be a poor indicator of whether it respected basic rights to bargain collectively, strike for decent conditions, or simply join a union at all.”
The ITUC Global Rights Index ranks 139 countries against 97 internationally recognized indicators to assess where workers’ rights are best protected, in law and in practice.
The index covers violations between April 2013 and March 2014, and countries were rated from one to five according to 97 indicators. Ratings of 1 were issued for countries with only irregular violations of rights, 2 for repeated violation, 3 for regular violations, 4 for systematic and 5 for no guarantee of rights. Countries with a 5+ rating had no guarantee of rights due to the breakdown of the rule of law.
According to the report, “Cambodia’s labour law fails to cover many civil servants, there are undue restrictions on the right to elect union representatives, and in 2013 the government responded with lethal force to demonstrators seeking a decent wage and working conditions. This resulted in Cambodia receiving a score of 5 in the Rights Index – the worst possible rating other than for those countries where the rule of law has completely broken down.”
Other countries with a 5 rating include: Bangladesh, China, Colombia, Egypt, India, Malaysia, Philippines and Turkey. Most of the 18 countries in the ITUC Index with a ranking of one, meaning they’ve only been cited for irregular violations were European nations but South Africa, Togo, Uruguay and Barbados also topped the list. The United States was rated 4 for systematic violations of rights.
Only Denmark received a perfect score of zero for respecting all 97 indicators of workers’ fundamental rights.
In the past year, governments of at least 35 countries have arrested or imprisoned workers as a tactic to resist demands for democratic rights, decent wages, safer working conditions and secure jobs.
In at least 9 countries murder and disappearance of workers were commonly used to intimidate workers.
Workers in at least 53 countries have been dismissed or suspended for attempting to negotiate better working conditions.
Laws and practices in at least 87 countries exclude certain type of workers from the right to strike.