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Seven-year low for rights of world's workforce

Global report finds British firms guilty of ‘regular violations’

THE world needs strong unions to protect its workers, the Trades Union Congress (TUC) urged today, after a global report listed the UK among “regular violators” of trade-union rights.

Violations of workers’ rights are at a seven-year high, according to the 2020 International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) Global Rights Index.

It warns that a clampdown by governments and employers — in limiting collective bargaining, disrupting the right to strike and excluding workers from existing trade unions — has been exacerbated by a rise in the number of countries impeding the registration of new unions.

The report slams Britain’s gig economy for failing to classify workers as employees and preventing them from seeking trade union recognition. It cites the High Court decision, in December 2018, which confirmed that Deliveroo workers were not “in an employment relationship” with the firm — leaving them without the right to collective bargaining.

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Workers’ rights are under attack all over the world. That’s why we need strong unions to defend them.

“We will continue to speak up and organise against injustices wherever we see them. And we’ll work with our sister unions across the world to win for workers.”

The report says that workers’ access to justice was absent or restricted in 72 per cent of countries, while workers experienced arbitrary arrests and detention in 61 nations.

Workers in 85 per cent of countries had their right to strike violated, and in 80 per cent of countries had the right to collectively bargain stymied.

National Education Union joint general secretary Kevin Courtney said it was alarming to see the UK flagged for regular violations. 

“To be ranked alongside Russia, a country hardly renowned for its free speech and human rights record, should concern us all and bring shame to the UK government,” he said.
 
“As society recovers from the Covid-19 pandemic, workers’ rights and respect for democracy must be front and centre of the economic recovery – both in the UK and globally.”

Labour’s former leader Jeremy Corbyn said the report showed the need for a different kind of society.

“This is a further indictment of the failure of free-market economics,” he told the Morning Star. “We need a different kind of society – that puts people before profit and respects rights at work and the right to health.”

GMB acting general secretary John Phillips branded the classification “a source of national shame.”

“The UK is meant to be a bastion of freedom in the world, but that mirage crumbles when you see the reality of the attacks on workers’ freedom every day,” he said.

“As with everything in Tory Britain, it’s one rule for big business, another for everybody else.”

“After the intense national effort to fight coronavirus, where we have seen huge sacrifices from our essential workers, the people of Britain deserve no less,” he said.

Unison assistant general secretary Roger McKenzie said: “The pandemic has changed much of what we used to take for granted at work. 

“Being in a union has never been more important — that’s why public-service workers have been joining Unison in their droves.

“Wherever and whenever employers try to short-change their staff, treat them unfairly or discriminate against them, unions like Unison will be there to hold them to account.”

The Middle East and North Africa has been marked as having the worst record on workers’ rights for seven years running, amid ongoing insecurity and conflict in Palestine, Syria, Yemen and Libya and due to its regressive approach to workers’ representation and union rights.

The 10 worst countries for working people in 2020 were identified as Bangladesh, Brazil, Colombia, Egypt, Honduras, India, Kazakhstan, the Philippines, Turkey and Zimbabwe.

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