International Human Rights Day: Trade Union Rights are Human Rights


[Taken from ICFTU]

Trade unions around the world are today commemorating International Human Rights Day by focusing international attention on the violations of fundamental human rights for working people. Freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining are two rights, enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 23) and in Conventions 87 and 98 of the International Labour Organisation which all 177 ILO members governments are obliged to respect. But too many governments do not respect these rights, and some, such as the case of Colombia, are responsible for massive and systematic violations of these rights. In 2002 alone, more than 184 trade unionists in Colombia were murdered due to their union activities.

ICFTU General Secretary Guy Ryder said, "Across the world workers are joining together to show solidarity and support for their human right to exercise their trade union rights".

To highlight the Colombian situation, a series of events are taking place across the world. A Global Unions public forum "Trade Union Rights are Human Rights- stop the killing and impunity in Colombia" is taking place at the ILO headquarters in Geneva*. Following the meeting, a Global Union Federation delegation will present a protest letter addressed to Colombian President Uribe, signed by Guy Ryder, ICFTU General Secretary, at the Colombian embassy in Geneva.

Public service trade unionists from Barbados to Brazil, South Africa to Sweden and Spain to the USA will be working with their counterpart unions to call for an end to violations of trade union rights.

In Sweden, for example, the public sector trade unions together with the LO/TCO will organise a 'trade union Nobel Prize' for Colombian trade unionists and will meet parliamentarians. Chair of the ILO Workers Group, Sir Leroy Trotman will receive a Colombian delegation in Barbados while in South Africa, a delegation of Colombian trade unionists will meet with government officials to thank them for openly supporting the proposal to establish the ILO Commission of Inquiry into Colombia.

Another global union federation, Education International (EI) and its affiliates are sending representatives to Colombia to participate in Colombian teachers' trade union FECODE's events and its press conference. In a further show of solidarity, affiliates are also contributing money for a member of the EI's Latin American Regional Committee to go to Bogota on 10th December.

On a national level, the Colombian public sector trade unions and all three national trade union centres, together with the main human rights organisations, are holding a series of events to mark International Human Rights Day, including a petition to Congress.

Around the world, the ICFTU has called on its affiliates to send protest letters to President Uribe and to organise activities in their own country on International Human Rights Day, drawing attention to the violation of trade union rights.

In the United States of America, the AFL-CIO is marking International Human Rights Day with a launch of its 'Voice at Work' campaign which aims to help U.S. workers claim their basic human right to bargain collectively. U.S. employers routinely violate workers' freedom to form union, effectively stripping workers of their right to collective bargaining; a fact documented by Human Rights Watch. Tens of thousands of workers and community activists will gather at 90 events in 38 states; rallies, marches, public hearings and candlelight vigils. In addition, the New York City Labor Chorus will perform at the opening of a human rights exhibition at the UN's headquarters. 10th December will mark the beginning of a campaign to educate the public about employer abuses and mobilize union members and allies to change weak labour laws. Representatives of Amnesty International will join workers at some events.

The ICFTU represents 158 million workers in 231 affiliated organisations in 150 countries and territories. ICFTU is also a member of Global Unions:

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