Workers of the World Are at Risk
Workers unload sacks from a truck in Noida, Uttar Pradesh, India. (Photographer: Prashanth Vishwanathan/Bloomberg)

Workers of the World Are at Risk

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(Bloomberg Opinion) -- Workers of the world are increasingly at risk as governments and employers continue to violate globally recognized labor rights.

According to the latest International Trade Union Confederation’s Global Rights Index which ranks 144 countries on their respect for workers’ rights, “the breakdown of the social contract” is at its worst point since the index’s creation in 2014.

Between April 2019 and March 2020, 123 countries violated the right to strike, and 115 violated the right to collective bargaining; 106 countries excluded workers from establishing or joining a union; in 103 countries, workers had no or restricted access to justice; workers were arrested and detained in 61 countries; workers experienced violence in 51 countries; and workers were murdered, including at trade union protests, in nine countries.

The most dangerous locations were Bangladesh, Brazil, Colombia, Egypt, Honduras, India, Kazakhstan, the Philippines, Turkey and Zimbabwe. Workers and union leaders in these countries face regressive legislation, government surveillance, mass dismissal, union-busting and strike repression, as well as arbitrary arrest, prosecution and imprisonment, death threats and assassination.

This report was compiled before the full scale of Covid-19 was known. That’s all the more reason to hope that its sobering findings will shape the rights of workers and trades union in any post-pandemic reconstruction, providing what Sharan Burrow, the ITUC’s general secretary, called “a benchmark against which we will hold governments and employers to account.”

Workers of the World Are at Risk

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

Ben Schott is a Bloomberg Opinion visual columnist. He created the Schott’s Original Miscellany and Schott’s Almanac series, and writes for newspapers and magazines around the world.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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