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Report Shows Widespread Labor Abuses

According to an annual survey of trade union rights by the International Trade Union Confederation 90 labor union activists were killed in 2010.

GENEVA — Textile and apparel labor union leaders and workers in Bangladesh, Pakistan, Cambodia, Jordan and Swaziland last year were murdered, received death threats, and were beaten and arrested while seeking to defend core rights, a global survey said.

This story first appeared in the June 8, 2011 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

In 2010, a total of 90 labor union activists were killed, including 49 in Colombia, 10 in Guatemala and six each in Panama and Bangladesh, according to an annual survey of trade union rights by the International Trade Union Confederation. In 2009, 101 labor unionists were murdered, which was a 30 percent increase over 2008.

“In fighting for basic rights to a decent job and a decent life, many unionists put their lives on the line for the good of their communities,” said Sharan Burrow, ITUC general secretary. “The world’s unemployment queue is growing. Without proper jobs or hope for the future, governments risk increasing political instability. Union rights are fundamental to democracy.”

The ITUC survey, which tracked violations in 143 countries, also documented cases of widespread abuse in many apparel factories, and denial of basic labor rights in export processing zones, in Africa, the Middle East, Asia and the Americas.

In Bangladesh, protests “throughout the year” in the apparel sector and were often met with violent repression.

“Six workers’ rights activists were killed at the hands of the police and of company thugs, and scores were injured when the police broke the strikes,” the report stated.

The study by the ITUC, an umbrella group that represents 175 million workers in 151 countries, includes the AFL-CIO, also highlights that in Pakistan the founder of the Labor Quami Movement for loom workers, Mustansar Randhawa, was shot dead last August while in the union office. Earlier, he had been receiving deaths threats from textile and mill owners since he had announced a strike in the textile sector in July, the report notes.

In Jordan, the report said 200 textile migrant workers from Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and India, 75 percent of whom are women, were found to have been trafficked to the International British Garments factory, stripped of their passports and held under conditions of servitude.