The International Trade Union Confederation’s (ITUC) global ranking of countries in their protection of workers’ rights, which was released at the recently concluded ITUC World Congress in Berlin, shows GCC countries to have low rankings with regard to providing labor rights and protection. The ITUC Global Rights Index ranks 139 countries against 97 internationally recognised indicators to assess where workers’ rights are best protected, in law and in practice.
“Countries such as Denmark and Uruguay led the way through their strong labor laws, but perhaps surprisingly, the likes of Greece, the United States and Hong Kong, lagged behind,” said ITUC general secretary Sharan Burrow. “A country’s level of development proved to be a poor indicator of whether it respected basic rights to bargain collectively, strike for decent conditions, or simply join a union at all.”
The International Trade Union Confederation has been collecting data on the abuse of trade union rights around the world for the past 30 years. Now for the first time the ITUC Global Rights Index presents carefully verified information from the last 12 months in an easy-to-use format so that every government and business can see how their laws and supply chains stack up.
At a time when corporate power has never been greater, these results show that almost every country can improve its treatment of workers. Only Denmark received a perfect score of zero for respecting all 97 indicators of workers’ fundamental rights.
The ITUC Global Poll 2014 found almost two-thirds of people want governments to do more to tame corporate power. The 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: 18 countries including Denmark and Uruguay
2 – Repeated violations of rights: 26 countries including Japan and Switzerland
3 – Regular violations of rights: 33 countries including Chile and Ghana
4 – Systematic violations of rights: 30 countries including Kenya and the USA
5 – No guarantee of rights: 24 countries including Belarus, Bangladesh and Qatar
5+ - No guarantee of rights due to breakdown of the rule of law: 8 countries including Central African Republic and Somalia.
In the Middle East, Bahrain, Kuwait and Oman fared better with ranking in the fourth category, against Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UAE which were placed in category five.
The index was created based on 97 indicators such as whether employees were exposed to systematic physical violence, threats and intimidation, had the right to strike and were guaranteed protection under the law.
"Workers in countries with the rating of four have reported systematic violations," the report said. "The government and/or companies are engaged in serious efforts to crush the collective voice of workers putting fundamental rights under continuous threat."
To be placed in category four, a country must fare poorly in 27 to 35 indicators used to draw up the index. Rights groups in Bahrain have long campaigned for a better working environment, especially for Asian expats who face the harshest conditions with low payment, delayed salaries and other forms of abuse.
Migrant Workers Protection Society chairwoman Marietta Dias said that labor unions should be doing more to recruit expat members to better protect their rights. "Workers are cautious about joining a trade union," she said. "Trade unions don't have many expats on their books and they should make more effort to have these people join them."