International

On July 4th, 2016, Brother Han Sang-gyun, president of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), was given a five-year sentence in jail for charges related to the “obstruction of public duty”, “destruction of public goods”, “obstruction of traffic”, and “hosting an assembly at a banned location”. However, the severe sentence handed down to Brother Han is by no means a fair reflection of his actions. In reality, all he did was to stand for workers and organize them for collective actions against employers’ unfair treatments.  The Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (HKCTU) deem that the sentencing of the president of a major independent trade unions is a violation of basic labour rights and human rights.  This is a blatant political prosecution which is aimed at undermining the labour movement in South Korea.

 

Besides Han, about 600 leaders and members of KCTU have been arrested for their participation in Sewol Ferry Tragedy Commemoration Rally on April, a May Day demonstration, and demonstrations against labour law reforms and Peope’s Mass Rally on November. As of now, 20 of them including Sister Lee Young-Joo, the General Secretary of KCTU, are still remained in detention under government’s control.

 

As a member of the International Labour Organization (ILO), Korea is obliged to respect workers' rights to freedom of association. However, as seen from the arrest of Brother Han Sang-gyun, the Korean government has been suppressing labour unionists for “disturbing social order”, which is clearly violating the fundamental civil rights suggested by the ILO.

 

  

 

The vice-Chairman of HKCTU, Brother Alex Kwok, has already flown into Seoul to observe the trial and join in the solidarity action in support of Brother Han Sang-gyun.  Meanwhile, 15 representatives from the HKCTU staged a protest against the Consulate General of Korea in Hong Kong in the morning of July 4th.  The demonstrators demanded the immediately release of all detained KCTU unionists and stop all political suppressions on trade unions.

 

Since the Consulate General refused to receive the petition, the demonstrators left their demands and petition at the entrance before they dispersed.  Whether the letter was sent to the government or not remains unknown, but what is more important is that HKCTU managed to display solidarity with KCTU and condemned the Korean government in union busting.  The HKCTU will continue to fight for injustice that is inflicted upon trade unions elsewhere in the world and stand by our sisters and brothers in Korea until the final victory.

 

HKCTU general secretary called for more campaign plans in the ITUC AP action programme 2016-2019

05

Aug 2015

Intervention on Action Plan

 

Thank you for your support to the workers in Hong Kong in our struggle for democracy during the umbrella movement last year.  We have voted down in the Legislative Council the fake democracy proposal imposed on Hong Kong by the National People Congress.  We have not yet achieved universal suffrage but we will continue our struggle for democracy.

 

The Chinese workers are deprived of their rights to independent unions but they are struggling for their rights even under political suppression.  There are waves of strike by workers for better wages or compensations for unfair dismissal, and they tried to press for negotiation.  But many of the strikers had to face the public security and in some cases beaten up and in other case arrested for public disorder.  The Chinese Government is also considering a law to control NGOs and is already putting pressure on Chinese Labour NGOs for their work among workers.  But the workers still continue to struggle and to go on strike.

 

It is imperative for the ITUC-AP to support basic labour rights and especially in our region the rights index is 4.14 very close to 5.  I am sure ITUC-AP action program will address this issue and other labour issues raised by affiliates but the question is implementation.

 

We do not want to see seminars after seminars without campaign plan or clear targets to be achieved.  This is why we need to change.  I call upon all of us here to support change including creation of the post of Assistant General Secretary to strengthen our organization.

Intervention on the election of General Secretary

 

State clearly the HKCTU supported Carol for the post of General Secretary because Carol represented Change.  We have been asking for changes of the way AP was run for many years withourt result.  AP is just repeating the same work every years.  We hope that there can be evaluation of the work.  There should be priorities and focus and there should be short term achievable goals.  We want result s for our programs and evaluation of our programs to see why we can not avieve the results.

 

Intervention of the Constitutional amendments

 

Register my opposition on the way they changed the votes to based on membership and this is unfair to small affiliates.

 

Support a working group to look into Constitutional reforms.

 

Support having an AGS to support the GS in his work.  AP should not put all responsibility on one person.  He or she should be supported by an assistant.  Most Unions had this structure and ITUC other regions have this structure.

Hong Kong Falls Back In The Global Rights Index Ranks As The Worst

11

Jun 2015

In 2015,Hong Kong is ranked as the second most competitive economy in the world, rose from fourth to fell just behind the U.S. However, according to the International Trade Union Confederation's (ITUC) Global Rights Index published on June 10th, Hong Kong's Labour Protection Rating is one of the worst in the world.  The ITUC Global Rights Index rates countries from 1 to 5+ according to 97 indicators, with an overall score placing countries in one to five rankings.  Hong Kong drops down in the pecking in this year's Rights Index to the 5 ranking which represents “No guarantee of rights”, along with some other 26 countries, such as China, Bangladesh, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Iran.  While the Hong Kong government and Financial Secretary John Tsang credited Hong Kong's Economic Competitiveness to her prominent administrative and business efficiency, and welcome the Global  Economic Competitiveness Ranking; we wonder how the government would respond to the decline in the Rights Index?

The General Secretary of the HKCTU, Mr. Lee Cheuk-Yan, pointed out Hong Kong workers have long been deprived of the rights to collective bargaining and to join trade union without discrimination.  Moreover, labour rights failed to progress and fulfilled during the political reform.  The ITUC report specifically takes note of the arrest of HKCTU members during the “Umbrella Movement” as a suppression of democratic unionism.  The HKCTU strongly urged the government to pass legislation on collective bargaining and overturn policies that favour consortium.

NO GUARANTEE OF RIGHTS

Hong Kong is ranked in the 5 ranking which represents “No guarantee of rights”. In these countries at 5 ranking, although laws are in placed to protect labour rights, they are largely disregarded and workers are often suppressed by authoritarian regimes.  As for countries such as Iraq, Libya, and Somalia etc., their legal systems are deemed as malfunctioned and destroyed, therefore are ranked in the 5+ ranking, which is the worst among the five-tier ranking system.

The HKCTU believes the non-existence of collective bargaining—workers voices are often suppressed whenever dispute arises between employees and employers—can be credited to such “No guarantee of rights”.  On the other hand, workers are deprived of their rights to establish and join trade unions.  Despite the relative low threshold in relevant legislation, employers are able to employ all kinds of means to threaten or deter workers from organizing themselves.  Thus, there isn't much to cheer for as the prosperity of our city is built upon the exploitation of labour rights.  This is a real shame for a government that often boast to establish Hong Kong as a world class city.

Sources

ITUC Global Rights Index names world’s ten worst countries for workers

http://www.ituc-csi.org/ituc-global-rights-index-names?lang=en

Hong Kong is ranked world's 2nd most competitive economy

http://www.ituc-csi.org/ituc-global-rights-index-names?lang=en Hong Kong is ranked world's 2nd most competitive economy http://www.info.gov.hk/gia/general/201505/28/P201505280166.htm">http://www.info.gov.hk/gia/general/201505/28/P201505280166.htm

 

ITUC Global Rights Index names world’s ten worst countries for workers

10

Jun 2015

The Gulf States are among the world’s worst countries for workers’ rights, while workers under European austerity measures endured the starkest deterioration of standards, according to the 2015 Global Rights Index.

 

The ITUC rights index ranks 141 countries against 97 internationally recognised indicators to assess where workers’ rights are best protected, in law and in practice.

“Workers in the Gulf States where the draconian ‘kafala’ system is widespread endure many of the violations which make the Middle East and North Africa the world’s worst region for fundamental rights at work,” said ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow.

“But in a worrying trend, European workers have witnessed the starkest deterioration of their rights in the last 12 months due to widespread government-imposed austerity measures taking effect.”

The International Trade Union Confederation has been collecting data on the abuse of trade union rights around the world for more than 30 years. This is the second year the ITUC has presented its findings through the Global Rights Index, offering a snapshot for government and business to see how their laws and supply chains have deteriorated or improved in the last 12 months.

The ten worst countries for working people are Belarus, China, Colombia, Egypt, Guatemala, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Swaziland and United Arab Emirates.

Other countries ranked lower but had worsening conditions this year in a clear negative trend for workers. These nations were Burundi, Dominican Republic, Hong Kong, Iran, Georgia, Russia, United Kingdom and Spain.

“Workers in Colombia and Guatemala have been murdered for trying to negotiate better working conditions, while in Qatar and Saudi Arabia migrants continue to endure forced labour and labour law exclusions which amount to modern slavery.

“In 73 of 141 countries, workers faced dismissals, suspensions, pay cuts and demotions for attempting to negotiate better working conditions, while in 84 countries employers adopted illegal strategies to deny or delay bargaining with representative trade unions.

“While a handful of countries have attained perfect scores compared to last year, there’s been an increase across the board in the number of countries where conditions have worsened, including nations such as Cameroon, Hungary, Spain and South Africa,” Ms Burrow said.


The reports key findings include:

* Out of a total of 141 countries, the number where workers faced arbitrary arrest and detention increased from 35 to 44, and included countries such as Spain and Brazil.

* In almost 60 per cent of countries, certain types of workers are excluded from their fundamental labour rights.

* Unionists were murdered in 11 countries, one up from last year, including 22 deaths in Colombia alone.

* Seventy per cent of countries have workers with no right to strike.

* Two thirds of countries deny workers collective bargaining rights.

* More than half of countries in the survey deny workers access to the rule of law.

In the past year, unions have reported violent crackdowns on peaceful protests in Cambodia, Costa Rica, Paraguay and Ukraine; in Qatar around 100 migrant workers striking against poverty wages were arrested last November, while in March this year a Filipino union organiser became the 18th case of extra-judicial killing since 2010.

“International labour standards prescribe access to fundamental rights for all workers,” Ms Burrow said. “Yet as corporate power and inequality grows internationally, these results show governments and employers in almost every country around the world must improve their treatment of workers and arrest the increase in workplace violations.”

The 2015 ITUC Global Rights Index rates countries from one to five according to 97 indicators, with an overall score placing countries in one to five rankings.

1. Irregular violations of rights: 16 countries including Finland & Uruguay
2. Repeated violations of rights: 26 countries including Japan & Ireland
3. Regular violations of rights: 36 countries including Israel & Australia
4. Systematic violations of rights: 27 countries including Poland & USA
5. No guarantee of rights: 27 countries including Belarus, China & Nigeria
5+ No guarantee of rights due to breakdown of the rule of law: nine countries including Syria, Central African Republic & Palestine

 

Source: http://www.ituc-csi.org/ituc-global-rights-index-names?lang=en

 

WOMEN FOR PEACE - International Women’s Day 2015

08

Mar 2015

WOMEN FOR PEACE - International Women's Day 2015

To celebrate International Women's Day on March 8, 2015 the IUF Asia/Pacific Regional Secretariat will coordinate activities with affiliates in several countries with the theme Women for Peace.

The theme Women for Peace was chosen primarily in response to the resurgent militarism in the region and a militarization of politics that threatens democracy. Governments are using the threat of violent clashes, civil war, terrorism, border disputes and territorial claims to suspend, impose or amend laws in ways that undermine democratic rights.

The tragedy of the clash in Mamasapano in the Philippines in January 2015 cost lives on both sides including civilians. This should have been a reminder of the importance of peace. Instead it quickly became a matter of determining who is human enough to be counted among the number of fallen. This now threatens to derail the passing of the constitution of Bangsamoro - with its commitment to internationally recognized worker and trade union rights - and violence will return affecting hundreds of thousands of working people.

With resurgent militarism - including remilitarization in East Asia - direct political censorship and indirect corporate media censorship threatens freedom of expression in several countries. Increasingly "emergency" or security measures are used to justify restrictions on freedom of speech and freedom of assembly.

Under Thailand's military government democratic rights remain suspended and freedom of expression and freedom of assembly severely restricted. Gathering in groups of more than four people in public is illegal and censorship is aggressive to the point of absurdity. The banning of the The Hunger Games books and films and the criminalization of reading George Orwell's 1984 in public suggests the military government is well aware of what people think of the regime.

While the Thai ruling elite negotiate the transition back to civilian government, working people face continued fear and uncertainty about the restoration of rights and their ability to secure human rights such as genuine freedom of association. These rights were not fully recognized even before the military coup.

In Hong Kong the leaders of the only independent trade union in China face criminal prosecution for their role in the Umbrella Movement. The struggle for universal suffrage - including the right to directly elect the chief executive of the Hong Kong SAR - has now become a struggle to retain even the most basic rights of the Hong Kong people, including freedom of association.  The symbolism of the Umbrella Movement itself is an indictment of state violence. When pro-democracy protesters were attacked by the police with pepper spray and tear gas they used umbrellas to protect themselves. This reminds us that our struggle for democracy in society and for worker and trade union rights in the workplace is also a struggle to protect ourselves from everyday violence and oppression.

In Indonesia the prospects of a return to the New Order military dictatorship remains a significant threat to democracy.  Military and business interests backed by a significant part of the trade union movement failed to elect a military dictator in 2014 but continue to undermine the democratic government by promoting regionalism and orchestrating "communal violence" based on religion and ethnicity. Strikes and demonstrations - the tools of our labour movement in fighting for rights, justice and democracy - are being used to undermine democracy. Industrial militancy is becoming a form of extortion, holding democracy hostage while promoting a militaristic industrial militancy with international support.

In Myanmar too politically driven "communal violence" threatens a return to civil war with loss of life on a massive scale while justifying the reintroduction of martial law. The opportunity to promote human rights including genuine freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining in Myanmar may be lost very soon.

Despite the risk of a return to military rule there is only talk of patience and tolerance for a slowly reforming government as fear of upsetting generals in business suits overrides the concern for universal human rights. So while the international community practices tolerance for a military government in business suits, powerful political and business interests actively promote intolerance and hatred, unleashing terrible violence on working people and their communities.

In India the Prime Minister whose political career is built on creating "communal violence" and the glorification of Italian fascism and Nazism is now creating a new climate of religious hatred and intolerance while pushing a corporate agenda that threatens to undermine democratic rights.

Any fascist agenda needs thugs. Street thugs have become political and religious leaders under the Modi regime. These thugs are not religious but are the same ignorant street thugs with a new justification for their violence and oppression of others, especially violence against women.

In Pakistan too the same thugs inflict horrific violence on women and children. The horrific attack on a school in Peshawar in December last year resulted in the death of 145 people including 132 children. While this brutality is meant to instill fear it in fact compels us to mobilize and demand peace.

The reality in Pakistan is that the same murderous thugs are used by ruling political elites, powerful military interests and feudal landlords finance and encourage political conflicts and communal/tribal violence disguised as religious conflict. This abuse and misuse of religion feeds on ignorance of the meaning of peace, social justice and the rights of women and children in religious faith. And at the same time this conflict undermines a fragile democracy, paving the way for a return to military rule.

The attempted murder in 2012 of 15 year-old Malala Yousafzai for advocating women and girls’ education was intended by conservative forces to instill fear. Yet it had the opposite effect. With tens of thousands of other outraged people our members in Pakistan took to the streets to protest the attack on Malala. Today our members celebrate her continued activism and recognition as a Nobel Peace laureate in 2014 along with child rights activist Kailash Satyarthi from India.

As one of India's leading activists campaigning against child labour Kailash Satyarthi, said recently: “…creating an environment of fear is also violence."

This environment of fear is precisely why we must stop the violence and struggle to rebuild peace. While peace is not a sufficient condition for securing women's rights and dignity, it is an essential condition. 

The environment of fear that militarism and communal violence creates permeates every aspect of women's lives.  The rise in violent attacks on women and gang rape in India is tied to the same sense of impunity that the government promotes to divide and oppress working people. It is fuelled by the very same ignorance, hatred, intolerance and brutality.

For women workers throughout the Asia/Pacific this environment of fear pervades their communities and workplaces. At a recent international conference on ethical tourism we explained that hotel housekeepers (room attendants) struggling to "Make My Workplace Safe" must overcome all kinds of fear:

  • Fear to speak out or complain
  • Fear to fail (where excessive targets or quotas are imposed and failure results in penalties or lost income)
  • Fear to stop work (even when work is hazardous or dangerous)
  • Fear to report (intimidation and harassment, sexual harassment, child labour)
  • Fear to ask (for paid breaks, for personal protective equipment, for help to complete as task)
  • Fear to say ‘enough’ (to stop excessive working hours and workloads)
  • Fear to say ‘more’ (the demand for higher wages)

The list goes on. And it all adds up to an environment of fear which is also violence.

That is why on March 8 we will also coordinate hotel workers' demands across the Asia/Pacific to "Make My Workplace Safe - for Women!”

Faced with similar challenges in an environment of fear, women food workers in Indonesia and women tea workers in India will highlight the violence to women's health inflicted by brutal working conditions.

Excessive working hours, heavy workloads, severe restrictions on rest breaks and toilet breaks, denial of maternity rights, lack of access to paid leave and paid sick leave, and exposure to hazardous chemicals all harm women's health, often causing lasting damage. Poverty wages reinforce all of this - compelling women to do "voluntary" overtime and sacrifice rest days even when they are physically and mentally exhausted and near collapse.

On a tea plantation in Assam, India, 55 year-old Sister Raimati Majhi did collapse from exhaustion. But the doctor at the company-owned hospital on the tea plantation sent her back to work without treatment. When she was hospitalized again after collapsing she died while the doctor chatted on his mobile phone. When workers gathered in front of the hospital to protest the police were called in to arrest them. Eighteen workers (12 men and six women) were unfairly terminated and after four years 15 workers have not yet been reinstated.

Sister Maya Chatriya was among those arrested. In order to pay her bail money her husband - a tea worker on the same plantation - resigned from his job to get severance pay. The severance pay was used to pay her bail. Sister Maya Chatriya still faces charges while she works on the plantation, her husband is without work and they are in debt. And there is still no justice for Sister Raimati Majhi. This is violence.

Six months before the death of Sister Raimati Majhi a pregnant woman worker on the same tea estate, Sister Manju Versa, died after she was denied paid sick leave and did not receive proper medical care.

On March 8th we will hold a mass meeting on the plantation to remember the killing of Sister Raimati Majhi and Sister Manju Versa, and support Sister Maya Chatriya and 15 others in their fight against victimization. We will also bring women doctors – real doctors who see women tea workers as human - to give free medical check-ups while we run workshops on health and safety rights.

We started by saying we plan to celebrate International Women's Day. So instead of focusing on fear and violence we will highlight the tremendous courage of our women union members throughout the region.

We will celebrate the struggle for democracy and democratic rights, recognizing our sisters who continue speaking out to reaffirm freedom of expression, speaking out in the workplace, gathering and organizing in the community, in the streets and in the workplace. All of this takes courage and we will proudly recognize this courage and celebrate our sisters being fearless in fearful times.

 

Hidayat Greenfield

Acting Regional Secretary

 

February 17th 2015

 

ITUC Asia Pacific Letter to the Chief Executive of HKSAR

17

Nov 2014

14 November 2014

The Honorable Chun-ying Leung
The Chief Executive
Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR)
Hong Kong

Email: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Dear Chief Executive Leung,

Re: Umbrella Movement for Democracy in Hong Kong

Enclosed please find a resolution on Hong Kong adopted by the ITUC-AP Regional General Council in its 10th Meeting in Manila, 27-28 October 2014.

As stated in the resolution, the Hong Kong Government should take all the necessary measure to implement universal suffrage in conformity with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and we urge you to call on, as a matter of urgency, all parties to engage in peaceful dialogue.

For your information, the ITUC Asia Pacific is the Regional Organisation of the International Trade Union Confederation for Asia and the Pacific representing effectively 60 million members of 56 affiliates in 32 countries, and the ITUC represents 168 million members globally.

Sincerely yours,


Noriyuki Suzuki
General Secretary

Enclosure: 10th ITUC-AP RGC Resolution on Hong Kong Umbrella Movement for Democracy

c.c. 1. Ms. Sharan Burrow, General Secretary, ITUC
       2. Mr. Lee Cheuk Yan, General Secretary, HKCTU