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Apparel Worker Violations, Murders Increased Last Year

Study of 140 nations conducted by the International Trade Union Confederation.

GENEVA — A large number of textile and apparel workers and union leaders were victims of serious human rights violations in 2009, which included a dramatic increase in the number of trade unionists murdered — with 101 killings, 30 percent more than the previous year — a survey said.

Numerous cases of strike-breaking, repression of workers and widespread abuses were documented against apparel workers in countries that included Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Egypt, Jordan, Peru and Pakistan, according to the annual survey of trade union rights that documented breaches in 140 nations.

Union busting and pressure also continued to be widely used by employers, noted the study by the International Trade Union Confederation, including in export processing zones, where migrant workers are often employed. The study noted that in some countries, companies threatened workers with factory closures or transfer of production sites if they organized or joined a trade union.

“Colombia was yet again the country where standing up for fundamental rights of workers is more likely than anywhere else to mean a death sentence, despite the Colombian government’s public relations campaign to the contrary,” said Guy Ryder, ITUC secretary-general.

The murders included 48 in Colombia, 16 in Guatemala, 12 in Honduras, six each in Mexico and Bangladesh, four in Brazil, three each in the Dominican Republic and the Philippines, and one each in India, Iraq and Nigeria.

The apparel sector was the primary source of unrest and exploitation in Bangladesh, the survey said, adding that 21 workers were shot and one killed last June during a strike to reinstate workers dismissed from a sweater factory at the S Suhl Industrial Park. In October, two people were shot and killed, and 100 injured during a demonstration by 10,000 striking workers from Nippon Garment in Tongi, north of Dhaka, over unpaid wages, the study said.