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Global ratings show UK continues to be a ’regular violator’ of workers rights

Published date
The latest annual Global Rights Index published by the International Trade Union Congress (ITUC) continues to show the UK lags significantly behind neighbouring countries when it comes to the rights of workers to organise through trade unions.

The UK has been rated '3 out of 5' by the ITUC, highlighting regular violations of workers’ rights. The organisation used several examples to support their rating, including:

  • Denying workers, the right to strike through an ongoing ban on prison officers striking.

  • The appalling breach of rights workers have faced due to ongoing court decisions (such as the one reached in 2018) which ruled that Deliveroo employees were self-employed and could not have their union recognised.

Little improvement in Turkey, Colombia, Brazil and Palestine 

Amongst TUC priority countries there has very little improvement made over the last year with Turkey, Brazil, and Colombia all achieving the worst rating of five, demonstrating no guarantee of workers' rights.

Those three the countries are listed in the top ten worst places in the world to be a worker, while workers in Palestine continue to be in the category where workers face ‘no guarantee of rights due to a breakdown in the rule of law.’

In Brazil, the ongoing Presidency of Jair Bolsonaro has seen workers face unprecedented hostility, with the ITUC documenting the killing of two trade unionists, and the collapse of the collective bargaining system.

In Colombia, since the signing of the historic peace agreement in 2016, over 1000 civil society leaders have been murdered. In the last year alone 22 trade union leaders have been killed. It is because of this that the ITUC rates Colombia as the worse country to be a trade unionist. A recent series of protests and national strikes were met with a heavy police response with multiple instances of brutality and state violence being documented.

In Turkey, the government of President Erdogan has continued its attack upon workers. The ITUC documents ‘severe restriction of civil liberties.’ This crackdown has seen many trade union leaders arbitrarily arrested.

Trade Deals with Rights Violators 

The Report goes on to name ten countries as the worst violators of trade union rights. Amongst them are five countries the UK government have finalised trade deals with - Colombia, Egypt, Honduras, Turkey and Zimbabwe.

The UK has also expressed an intention to sign trade deals with other countries the ITUC rates as providing ‘no guarantee of rights’ such as Brazil (which ranks in the ten worst countries for rights) and India.

The Government must take action 

Abuses of the right to strike, the right to establish and join a trade union, the right to trade union activities and the right to free speech and assembly are at an eight-year high, according to the ITUC’s annual Global Rights Index.

The UK government should be using its leverage in trade negotiations to ensure governments around the world respect labour and human rights and promote sustainable development.

UK trade deals have sadly not protected workers’ rights because unions have not been consulted on the text of these agreements.

As TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady has said, the government needs to “stop the clandestine approach to trade deals and bring working people to the negotiating table”. And it should address its continued denial of workers’ rights at home too.

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