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ITUC Global Rights Index

As we celebrate the season of the Barbados Workers’ Union’s 77th Anniversary, we, the citizens of Barbados, must, first, give God thanks for raising up those bold and visionary men and women who struggled to build and sustain democracy in this country. Secondly, we must honour the founding fathers of our democratic institutions as well as the men and women who succeeded the pioneers and have battled valiantly over the past seven decades to keep the flag of democracy flying in Barbados.

The trade union movement in Barbados, beginning with the establishment of the Barbados Workers’ Union, in 1941, has been at the centre of the bold stance of the struggle for, and the maintenance of the democratic rights of all Barbadians. But across the globe, millions of workers have been denied their fundamental human rights by oppressive regimes and have been suffering harsh treatment in their places of work. When we, therefore, reflect on the following information, we will clearly appreciate why we must all work in solidarity to continue our fight with regard to the strengthening and the maintenance of our democratic institutions in Barbados.

The Fifth Edition of the just released International Trade Union Congress’ Global Rights Index states that:

• 65% of countries across the Globe exclude workers from the Right to establish or join trade unions;
• 87% of countries have violated the Right to strike; and 81% of countries have violated the right to collective bargaining;
• The ITUC Global Rights Index label the Middle East and North Africa as the Worst Region for Working People;
• It states that Algeria, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Egypt, Guatemala, Kazakhstan, the Philippines, and Saudi Arabia have been identified as The Worst Countries for working People;
• It also states that Countries where workers are arrested and detained increased from 44 in 2017 to 59 in 2018;
• It adds that the number of countries where workers experienced violence increased from 59 in 2017 to 65 in 2018;
• The Global Rights Index state that trade unionists were murdered in nine countries; and;
• The number of countries that deny or constrain freedom of speech increased from 50 in 2017 to 54 in 2018.

The ITUC Global Rights Index rates the World’s Worst Countries for Workers by rating 142 countries on a scale from 1 to 5 based on the degree of respect for workers’ rights. Violations are recorded each year from April to March. This year marks the fifth anniversary of the ITUC Global Rights Index. Detailed information exposing violations of workers’ rights in each county is published in the ITUC Survey found at survey.ituc-csi.org.

In Europe, workers still suffered from the long-lasting negative effects of austerity-related measures which all but dismantled existing collective bargaining frameworks, especially in countries affected by policies of the Troika – European Commission, European Central Bank and the Monetary Fund, such as Portugal, Spain and Greece.

Let’s turn the page to the treatment of domestic workers that marginalised group of workers on whose behalf the B.W.U. has been lobbying. The ITUC Global Rights Index states that there are 11.5 million migrant domestic workers world-wide, 70% of whom are women. In the Middle East, 2.1 million migrant workers are employed in domestic work. Migrant domestic workers are often excluded from labour protection. And that is why the B.W.U. has been pleading with the Barbados Government to ratify Convention 189, a move which would allow for social protection for this vulnerable group of workers.

In Lebanon, for example, 250 000 migrant workers are not covered by the national labour law, while in practice, they regularly face non-payment of wages, forced confinement, employers’ refusal to provide time off, and verbal, physical and sexual abuse.

According to several reports, migrant domestic workers in Lebanon are dying at a rate of two per week. Many of the deaths are suicides or escape attempts in which migrant women choose to jump off buildings rather than continue working in abusive and exploitative situations. Migrant domestic workers also face deportation when they have children. Since the year 2016, Lebanese authorities have deported at least 21 domestic workers with children.