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Reports Show Latin American Trade Unionists Suffer Most.
Columbia, Deadly Nation for Unions

Reports Show Latin American Trade Unionists Suffer Most. Columbia, Deadly.
June 18, 2002

1) Latin American trade unionists suffer most-survey (Reuters)
2) Colombia: Deadly Nation for Unions (Assoicated Press)
1) Latin American trade unionists suffer most-survey
By Katie Nguyen

BRUSSELS, June 18 (Reuters) - Latin American trade unionists are the most
likely to face harassment, dismissal and murder, according to an annual
survey by an international workers' body.

The Brussels-based Interntional Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU)
said in a survey published on Tuesday that the number of trade unionists
around the world who disappeared or were murdered rose to 223 last year from
209 in 2000.

"Throughout the world, workers have been hit hard by the negative impact of
the downturn in the global economy coupled with structural adjustment
measures, but where they have expressed their discontent governments have
been quick to respond with repression," the ICFTU said in the survey.

It catalogues a range of repressive measures, from banning unions in
countries including Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates to killing trade

Colombia was singled out as the worse culprit, accounting for 201 killings or
disappearances — a record number for the country and an increase of 25
percent from 2000.

The ICFTU blamed the impunity enjoyed by those carrying out the murders for
the fact that Colombia was the most dangerous country in the world for trade
union activity.

Unionists from the public services were hardest hit, suffering about 65
percent of the violations.

The ICFTU said that although the Bogota government claimed the deaths were
due to the armed conflict within its borders, most of the killings were
carried out by paramilitary groups "which enjoy the tacit complicity of the
security forces."

Among Asian countries, China was attacked for its repressive measures against
trade unions.

"In China, any attempt to create a free trade union can be rewarded with huge
prison sentences and even life imprisonment, interspersed with unbearable
conditions of detention."

The ICFTU cited the example of trade unionist Yao Guisheng, who was sentenced
to 15 years forced labour. Repeatedly shackled and beaten, he went insane.

In Africa, the survey criticised Zimbabwe for its "severe violations of trade
union rights" — among them the deaths of three steel workers shot dead by
police for striking.

However, South Africa and Kenya were praised for reviving dialogue with
unions and trade union activity.

European countries were also upbraided for anti-union activity, though to a
lesser degree.

Germany, Europe's biggest economy, was criticised for outlawing the right to
strike for large groups of civil servants including teachers, railway and
postal employees.

(Additional reporting by David Evans)

06/17/02 07:34 ET
2) Colombia: Deadly Nation for Unions
.c The Associated Press

BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) - Colombia was the most dangerous nation for union
members again last year, with 201 killings or disappearances reported, or 90
percent of the worldwide total, according to an annual survey released

The total in Colombia, plagued by drug traffickers and a decades-old
guerilla war, was more than 30 percent higher than the 153 reported in 2000,
the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions said. That pushed the
global figure up to 223, 14 more than in 2000.

Public sector union members in Colombia were targeted the most, accounting
for about 65 percent of those killed or missing. The ICFTU attributed that to
their opposition to privatization of state-owned industries.

“Trade union activists are being systematically eliminated,” the report
said, adding at another point, “The entire country has been swept by this
anti-union violence.”

While the Colombian government denies responsibility, the report charged most
of the killings were “carried out by paramilitary groups which enjoy the
tacit complicity of the security forces.”

Alvaro Delgado, an analyst with the Center of Investigation and Popular
Education in Bogota, Colombia, said rebels and their paramilitary foes target
labor leaders because they represent groups which permit debate and

“These armed groups do not want debate or discussion. They want to impose
their own rule,” Delgado said.

The survey also found more than 4,000 trade unionists were arrested
worldwide, 1,000 injured and 10,000 fired.

It said “anti-union repression ” was especially bad in the developing world,
citing such countries as China, Indonesia, South Korea and Burma (Myanmar) among
Asian nations and Zimbabwe and Swaziland in Africa.

In Central America, it cited firings and harassment of unionized workers at
banana plantations in Costa Rica and Guatemala. Strikes and demonstrations
multiplied in Argentina because of the economic collapse, it said, resulting
in numerous clashes with police.

“The United States and Canada are not above reproach when it comes to the
respect of trade union rights,” the report added.

President Bush was criticized for rescinding a Clinton administration
executive order protecting the rights of contract workers on construction

The report also criticized new legislation in the Canadian province of
British Columbia that make it “virtually impossible ” for nurses and
education workers to strike legally.

Civil servants in western Europe also face restrictions on their collective
bargaining rights, the report said.

Some legislative improvements have been seen in central and eastern Europe,
it said, but anti-union activities persist in countries ranging from Czech
Republic to Belarus, it said.

The ICFTU has affiliates in 148 countries and territories, which represent
157 million workers.

On the Net:

International Confederation of Free Trade Unions survey -

06/17/02 20:09 EDT
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