Freedom of Association: ILO Committee reports on the most serious and urgent cases

Five “serious and urgent” violations of Freedom of association emerged from the last meeting of the ILO Committee on Freedom of Association, which analysed over 30 cases last week, in Geneva. The worst situations refer to Cambodia, Panama, Fiji, Argentina and the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. The Committee’s 358th full report has just been published by the ILS Department.
Also read: “ILO Governing body concludes discussions on Freedom of Association”

In detail, the complaint against the Government of Cambodia was presented by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) following the murder of three trade union leaders and claiming the continuing repression of trade unionists in the country.

Complaints against the Government of Panama were presented by trade unions in the construction sector allegedly fot the murders and acts of violence against trade union officials and members, for the detention of union members, for the violation of the right to collective bargaining, the establishment of a trade union by an enterprise and the dismissal of some union members.

In the case of Fiji, the public sector education trade unions and associations issued complaints against the Government for the Dismissal of a trade union leader in the education sector and for the ongoing anti-union harassment and interference with internal trade union affairs.

As for the Government of Argentina, the complaint was presented by the Building Workers’ Union alleging the violent occupation and theft of materials from its headquarters in the city of Comodoro Rivadavia, in the Province of Chubut, a firearms attack on the home of a union leader and on a union headquarters building, plus temporary detention of leaders and workers who took part in a protest, and temporary kidnapping of a union leader.

While, the Venezuelan Workers’ Confederation presented a complaint against the Government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela following a number of alleged violations. The union says that the Office of the Attorney-General has brought charges of boycotting against six workers at the enterprise Petróleos de Venezuela SA for staging protests to demand their labour rights; that protests have been criminalized, legal proceedings at various enterprises have been initiated and union officials have been dismissed in connection with these protests; that three officials of the Bolivarian Union of Workers in the Construction Industry in El Tigre and two union delegates in the Los Anaucos area were murdered in June 2009; also, according to the union more than 200 workers and union officials in the construction sector were murdered by contract killers and the public authorities have persistently refused to bargain collectively in the oil, electricity and national university sectors, among others.

Currently, there are 140 cases before the Committee, in which complaints have been submitted to the governments concerned for their observations. At the last meeting the Committee examined 33 cases on the merits, reaching definitive conclusions in 15 cases and interim conclusions in 18 cases . The remaining cases were adjourned. However, the Committee draws the main cases to the special attention of the ILO Governing Body.

International labour standard journalists should have a look at the report and search for their own country’s cases. It’s worth a good story on freedom of association and democracy at the workplace.

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