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ITUC Survey: Colombia Still the Most Dangerous Place for Union Members

Colombia is still the deadliest country in the world for trade union members, according to the latest global Annual Survey of violation of trade union rights released yesterday by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC).

The survey, conducted across 143 countries, paints a picture of people fighting for greater economic rights and freedom to join a union, with many governments and corporations responding with repression, firings, violence, death threats and murder.

Last year, 90 trade union members were murdered, 49 in Colombia alone, according to the survey. Another 75 trade unionists received death threats. At least 2,500 were arrested and at least 5,000 were fired because of union activities.

The AFL-CIO vigorously opposes the proposed free trade agreement with Colombia so long as the “horrifying levels of labor and human rights violations in the country” continue.


In the United States, the survey describes a labor environment in the United States in which “employers are very hostile towards unions, and union-busting is a multi-billion dollar business.”  The report cites a key example in Deutsche Telekom’s U.S. operations where the company has carried out an” aggressive anti-union campaign” at  its T-Mobile USA subsidiary.

In spite of an on-going global labor movement campaign to encourage Deutsche Telekom to end its attacks on the rights of  T-Mobile workers, the company has taken on its most aggressive union avoidance campaign ever through legal measures to obstruct workers’ efforts to hold union elections and fear tactics to dampen workers’ interest in learning about their rights and about the union.

Here’s Sharan Burrow, general secretary of the ITUC:

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 global trends the survey highlights include little labor law enforcement by governments, lack of support for the funding of inspection or protection, abuse of migrant labor across the world, especially in the Gulf States and the exploitation of the mainly female workforces in the world’s export processing zones.

In its section on the United States, the survey also cites several major examples of violations of workers’ rights, including the effort by congressional conservatives to prevent the National Labor Relations Board from doing its job to protect workers by cutting budgets and refusing to approve qualified appointments to the Board. Conservative governors are attacking public sector workers’ right to bargain collectively.

Saying global unemployment is growing, Burrow issued a warning to the global governing bodies and to the world’s most developed nations:

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 civilized future.

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