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Belarus once again ranked among the ten worst countries for workers

The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) has published an update of the Global Rights Index for 2023. The top ten worst countries for working people in 2023 include: Bangladesh, Belarus, Ecuador, Egypt, Esquatini, Guatemala, Myanmar, Tunisia, the Philippines and Turkey.

Global Rights Index for 2023
Global Rights Index for 2023

The 2023 Index shows that key indicators of workers' rights violations have reached an all-time high. Workers' demands for their labor rights were increasingly ignored, and their dissent was met with increasingly harsh reprisals from the authorities.

9 out of 10 countries violated the right to strike. Working people in Canada, Togo, Iran, Cambodia and Spain faced criminal prosecution or dismissal following their decision to strike.

77% of countries excluded working people from the right to establish or join a trade union. Migrant, domestic and temporary workers, those in the informal economy, platform workers and workers in Special Economic Zones were denied the right to freedom of association. Burundi, Haiti, India, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates were among the countries that excluded working people from union representation.

In Belarus any trade union activity is prohibited outside the pro-government Federation of Trade Unions of Belarus, which increasingly looks like a body to control workers rather than protect them.

On June 30 a webinar on the published Global Rights Index was held, where representatives of trade unions under pressure spoke. Lizaveta Merliak, chair of the Salidarnast e.V., spoke on behalf of Belarus, who told about dozens of trade union activists in prison. The use of forced labor of political prisoners in the wood industry and the application of Article 33 of the ILO Constitution to Belarus.

“We need to make this unique tool of the International Labour Organization work. Only this way Belarusian workers will have a chance for democracy at work and in our country, – believes the leader of the Salidarnast e.V. – And Belarus will leave the list of the 10 worst countries for workers. This is our hope and our goal“.

Over the past year, the right to free speech and assembly has been restricted in 42% of countries, often resulting in protesting workers facing police brutality. In France, legitimate protests were met with brutal police beatings, indiscriminate arrests, and the use of tear gas. In Iran, teachers were arrested and beaten by police for participating in May Day demonstrations.

 Violations of workers’ rights
10-year trends: Violations of workers’ rights // ITUC

In Ecuador, mass protests calling for democracy and collective rights, organized by indigenous organizations and labor unions, were brutally repressed.

Country rankings improved in Australia, Chile, and Cote d'Ivoire, but worsened in the Republic of Congo, El Salvador, Haiti, Liberia, Montenegro, Namibia, Northern Macedonia, Togo, and the United Kingdom.

Workers were exposed to violence in 44 countries, including Bangladesh, the Philippines, and Lebanon. In the Asia-Pacific region, violence against workers rose from 43% of countries in 2022 to 48% in 2023, and in the MENA region from 42% to 53%.

Trade unionists were killed in eight countries, 42% of countries denied or restricted freedom of speech and assembly, 46% of countries arbitrarily arrested and detained workers, and 65% of countries denied or restricted workers access to justice.

Acting ITUC Secretary General Luc Triangle pointed out that the line between autocracies and democracies is blurring. When dialogue between the state and citizens is broken, when countries flirt with autocracies to pass unpopular laws, when governments use state forces to suppress legitimate resistance – democracy is threatened and workers suffer the consequences.

“To reinforce the fabric of our societies, to renew and establish democracy and to support working people we need a new social contract: decent jobs, just wages, social protection, fundamental rights, including safe and secure work and the assurance of equality and inclusion“ – says the acting general secretary of the ITUC.

Trade unions believe that trust in governments has been undermined, and the far-right is filling in the gap to sow division and more. Only a new social contract can restore trust and ensure that our democracies are fit for purpose to meet the needs of working people today and the demands of an uncertain future. A future in which the climate crisis, technological change, health problems, and geopolitical instability will continue to cause upheaval.

“Working people must be listened to and they must be at the centre of government decisions, – Luke Triangle believes. – To demand and support this, workers’ unions have never been more essential“.

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