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Bangladesh heads the list, followed by Brazil and Colombia. Once a year, the international trade union federation ITUC, who represents 200 million workers in 163 countries, publishes an overview of those countries with the poorest records on workers’ rights. The index covers 144 countries. In the seven years of the index’s existence, the situation has never been as bad as this year. People are losing their jobs, the rights to striking and collective bargaining are being violated, and all around the world violence against workers is on the increase. The coronavirus epidemic is one of the main reasons for these grim findings.

Union leaders murdered in Colombia
The countries where CNV Internationaal operates are also doing badly. In Colombia, for example, 14 union leaders were assassinated in just one year, with a further four attempted murders and 198 trade union leaders who had to face death threats. Meanwhile, the perpetrators often go unpunished. In neighbouring Venezuela, trade union activists
are subjected to political persecution and threats, according to a report by the International Labour Organisation (ILO). In fact, because of the political, economic and health crisis, the situation in the South American country is so precarious that millions of workers have fled to neighbouring countries. Venezuela is the country with the second most severe deterioration within a year, after Pakistan. CNV Internationaal partner country Guatemala ranks fifth in this year’s ITUC global rights index. In some sectors, trade union work is too dangerous, precisely in industries that are important for trade with the Netherlands, such as sugar cane and palm oil.

Workers’ rights violated in Cambodia
On the other side of the globe, workers’ rights are also violated in countries CNV Internationaal cooperates with. In Cambodia, labour rights can hardly be guaranteed. For example, the president of our partner organisation CLC (Confederation of Cambodian Trade Unions), Thorn Ath, had to defend himself in court for protests that got out of hand in 2013. Despite the fact that the other party had long since withdrawn its complaint, Mr Ath was accused of instigating a crime. The rights of Cambodian trade unions have also been violated in other ways. For example, two major employers (the
NagaWorld casino and the Sorya Transportation transport company) simply refused to participate in negotiations for a collective bargaining agreement that the respective company unions wanted to start. NagaWorld even brought a case to the Disputes Committee as a tactic to delay negotiations.

CNV Internationaal’s commitment
The ITUC global index once again clarifies that the work of CNV Internationaal is desperately needed. Working with our partners, we are committed to promoting social dialogue between employers, employees and governments. We also strive for international corporate social responsibility (ICSR) in the trade chain and strive for fair, socially responsible work for all. 

Publication date 11 08 2020