The International Trade Union Confederation released its annual survey on Trade Union and Human rights this week. The record’s not pretty. 101 unionists were murdered – 48 in Colombia, 16 in Guatemala, 12 in Honduras, 6 in Mexico, 6 in Bangladesh, 4 in Brazil, 3 in the Dominican Republic, 3 in the Philippines. Many unionists were imprisoned and many arrested in Iran, Honduras, Pakistan, South Korea, Turkey and Zimbabwe.
I know some people think it could never happen here – but actually it has. New Zealand has some brutal history when it comes to workers’ fighting for their rights and while we don’t see this kind of violence these days, we still see open hostility and harsh economic action against workers who try to form unions and collectively bargain.
I’m concerned about the widespread repression, intimidation, imprisonment and even murder of trade unionists in our region, including China, the Philippines, Thailand, Burma and India. During, 2009 ten workers were murdered, some 300 were injured, and over 2000 workers lost their jobs in the course of defending their rights.
This is our region. This is where New Zealand workers compete for jobs, pay and conditions. It’s up to New Zealand to use its influence to try to bring an end to this brutality.