GENEVA — Textile and apparel workers in many poor countries in Asia, Latin America, Africa and the Middle East were subjected in 2004 to serious human rights violations, including physical assaults, death threats and assassinations, a global report published Tuesday said.
The “Annual Survey of Trade Union Rights Violations” was prepared by the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions. The Belgium-based ICFTU represents 145 million workers in 234 affiliated organizations, including the AFL-CIO, in 154 countries and territories.
In Bangladesh, some of the mostly female employees at International Knitwear and Apparel, north of the capital, Dhaka, who took part in actions for better working conditions lost their jobs, were threatened with death if they joined a union, and were beat up by hired thugs, the report said.
The report documented that last year, 145 trade unionists were killed, including some apparel leaders, and there were more than 700 violent attacks and nearly 500 death threats against workers. This included the assassination last January in Cambodia of Chea Vichea, president of the Free Trade Union of the Kingdom of Cambodia. The report said that, in August 2004, police armed with guns and electric batons dispersed some 400 workers from Yen Yu Ing Garment in Kandal province.
In China, police detained workers at a cotton factory in Shaanxi province demonstrating in September 2004 against changes in employment contracts. Workers also were detained by police for striking in the city of Yancheng in October 2004. The workers struck over adequate compensation and redundancy terms.
The report also outlines violations in the export processing zones of the Dominican Republic. In the Santiago EPZ, noted the report, there was “regular use of storm troops to dissuade workers wishing to join a union. The troops are paid and protected by some employers.”
The report adds employers “rarely comply” with the decisions of industrial tribunals when they rule against the firms. In Jordan, a major exporter to the U.S. market, many of the workers in the export processing zones are migrants and do not have the right to join trade unions.
“Foreign employers in the industrial zones, mainly textile groups from South Africa, Hong Kong and Taiwan, pay wages below the statutory minimum, refuse to pay sickness benefits and make unilateral deductions from their employees’ pay packets,” the study said. “The authorities turn a blind eye to these infringements.”