ITUC survey reveals 90 trade unionists murdered around the world in 2010

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date: 6 June 2011

embargo: 00.01hrs Wednesday 8 June 2011

The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) has today (Wednesday) revealed that last year was another difficult and dangerous year for trade unionists around the world, with 90 murdered for their efforts defending workers' rights.

The ITUC Annual Survey of Violations Against Trade Union Rights in the World covers 2010 and details abuses of workers' rights in 143 countries. It reveals that Colombia - where 49 trade unionists were murdered - and the Americas still hold the grim record for murder and oppression of workers involved in union activities.

The survey - published at the 100th International Labour Organization (ILO) conference in Geneva this week - says that in addition to those killed, many more trade unionists were arrested, attacked, or subjected to harassment and intimidation.

The report reveals 75 recorded death threats against trade unionists, at least 2,500 arrests, and around 5,000 sackings of union members for promoting decent working rights and conditions. In Turkey alone, an estimated 350 unionists were dismissed solely for their union activities.

The global trends highlighted in the survey include governments not enforcing labour laws, a lack of support for the funding of health and safety at work, the lack of rights and abuse of migrant labour across the world, but particularly in the Gulf States, and the exploitation of mainly female workforces in the world's export processing zones.

The survey that the shake-up in the Arab world has led to governments trying to repress their people engaged in trying to improve their lives economically through union representation, better wages and collective bargaining:

  • Sackings and reprisals by employers in Egypt, police violence and numerous arrests as more workers joined independent trade unions and took strike action.
  • The Tunisian government responded to the rising tide of social protest linked to the fight for economic rights, by attacking the trade union movement.
  • The recurrent problem of unemployment and inequality has been evident in Bahrain. This year the ITUC is monitoring the disappearances, arrests and violence directed at the independent trade unionists over the past months.

Commenting on the survey TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said: 'Around the globe, unscrupulous employers often work hand in hand with corrupt governments to deny people the right to join unions and to campaign for better wages and safer, fairer work.

'In a time of global economic difficulty, when employers are shedding jobs and putting pressure on workers to accept less pay, employees need a union more than ever to stand up for them. Yet in some parts of the world, simply becoming a union member and fighting for a better deal for colleagues can be enough to see individuals thrown into prison, beaten up and even murdered.'

ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow said: 'Workers, communities and populations are trying to claim basic rights to decent work and a decent life, and in many countries these people are being met with sackings, violence and in extreme cases murder by governments and by businesses.

'Independent trade unions are essential to improving the living standards of ordinary workers across the globe. The ITUC annual survey shows that in fighting for basic rights to a decent job and decent life, many unionists put their lives on the line for the good of their communities.

'The world's unemployment queue is growing. Without proper jobs or hope for the future, governments risk increasing political instability. Union rights are fundamental to democracy, to economic growth and to a civilised future.'


- The full report is at (login: media password: ituc2011)

- For further information or to request an interview with ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow, please contact Mathieu Debroux on +32 2 476 621 018 or +32 2 224 0204 or email [email protected]

- The ITUC represents 175 million workers in 305 affiliated national organisations from 151 countries. For more details visit or

- For more information on the ITUC please contact the ITUC press department on +32 2 224 0204 or +32 476 621 018.

- All TUC press releases can be found at

- Register for the TUC's press extranet: a service exclusive to journalists wanting to access pre-embargo releases and reports from the TUC. Visit


Media enquiries:
Liz Chinchen T: 020 7467 1248 M: 07778 158175 E: [email protected]
Rob Holdsworth T: 020 7467 1372 M: 07717 531150 E: [email protected]

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