New global index elevates workers’ rights over “Doing Business”


As delegates at the 3rd International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) World Congress prepare to find out who was voted the world’s worst boss, the worst places to work in the world have been revealed in a comprehensive new report.

The ITUC Global Rights Index ranks 139 countries against 97 internationally recognised indicators to assess where the worst violation of workers’ rights take place.

Over 30,000 pages of data were examined by the ITUC to create the index – an extension of the ITUC Annual Survey of Violation of Trade Union Rights which has been published since 1983.

The Index, which brings together information from the last 12 months, was created in response to the World Bank Doing Business report which ranks countries in terms of their ease of doing business.

Countries with the best protection for workers are amongst the lowest ranking, while countries such as Guatemala – which is the most dangerous country in the world to be a trade unionist – are ranked favourably.

The ITUC Global Rights Index places countries into one of six ratings: a ’1’ refers to countries where there is “irregular violation of rights”; a ’3’ is given in countries where there is a “systematic violation of workers’ rights”; while a ’5+’ refers to “no guarantee of rights due to the break down of the rule of law.”

According to the findings of the Index, the most common violations of workers’ rights involve participating in a strike and joining a union.

In the last 12 months, workers in at least 35 countries have been arrested or imprisoned for demanding decent wages, better working conditions and secure jobs.

In nine countries, workers have been murdered as a means of intimidation, and eight countries – including Central African Republic, Syria and Ukraine – are listed as 5+.

Eighteen countries such as Uruguay, Barbados and Denmark scored a ’1’, which means they are considered examples of best practice when it comes to respecting the 97 indicators of workers’ fundamental rights.

Steve Benedict, head of the human and trade union rights at the ITUC called the Index “the most comprehensive list of global rights in the world,” stressing that “it highlights that unacceptable fact that in too many countries the right to strike, to bargain collectively or to be a union member still hasn’t been achieved.”

Haldis Holst, deputy general secretary of Education International said of the Global Rights Index: “It’s good that it highlights both good examples and bad ones, because all too often we only do one of the two.”

But she also noted that fact that countries with a high ranking still have work to do.

“Take Denmark for example. Not so long ago there was a major labour dispute there based on work time for teachers. The government actually went to a lock-out," she said.

“A total lock-out of a group of professionals in a country that is highly regulated is very unusual. And although you can say that lock-outs are legal in some sense, we have to ask ‘how did we get here?’”

Holst called for continued vigilance: “The story of workers right violations is very seldom black and white and we need to keep an eye on the grey areas.”

Freda S. Frimpong, a youth officer at the Ghana Trade Union Congress, agreed: “It is a good thing that Ghana is not at the bottom [Ghana scored a 3 - editor’s note]. That does not mean there are no violations. There are – but sometimes in a subtle way.

“Union busting is common, especially with new graduates working in multinationals.

“Hardly any of them join unions because their managers or employers don’t want them to. Some of them even need to sign papers to say that they will not join a union, especially in the banking sector, which is growing very fast in Ghana.”

“But the index gives us a clear picture of who is really violating rights and it lets us know where to direct our resources in terms of campaigns and support.”


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