Issued by the Workers International Struggle Initiatives (WORKINS)
and ILPS Commission 5 on Workers Concerns
We, workers organizations from the Philippines, Australia, Venezuela, Argentina, Senegal, Canada, and the United States of America, call on trade unions and workers everywhere to mark November 16 as a day to protest vehemently against the continuing widespread attacks on trade unions across the world, which are attacks on our basic human rights.
On November 16, 2004, a 6,000-strong picketline of sugar mill and sugar farm workers at hacienda Luisita, Tarlac Province, the Philippines, was fired upon by the armed forces. Seven strikers were shot dead and at least 121 injured. Of the 121 injured, 32 suffered gunshot wounds, 11 were children or in their teens, and four were over sixty years old.
In the weeks and months after this, six more leaders were assassinated and two picketers shot and gravely wounded. No one has been held accountable for any of these killings. A farm union leader was killed in Hacienda Luisita in November 2013, as the workers’ struggle for the land continues.
Hacienda Luisita is owned by the family of the current President of the Philippines, and he was the manager of the Hacienda on November 16, 2004. Thus, the Hacienda Luisita is emblematic of the conditions of the workers and peasants of the Philippines.
On the 10th anniversary of the Hacienda Luisita Massacre, let us all stand in solidarity with all workers facing trade union repression everywhere.
Global picture today
According to the International Trade Union Confederation:
- 1,951 trade unionists faced violence and 629 were unlawfully detained for collective action in 2013.
- The highest number of murders in a single country took place in Colombia where 26 trade unionists were killed in 2013, an increase of eight worker deaths from the previous year.
- Union leaders were murdered in ten countries including Cambodia, Bangladesh, the Philippines, Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala, Colombia, Mauritania, Egypt and Benin.
While the right to strike is recognized in most of the world’s 194 countries, laws and practices in at least 87 countries exclude certain types of workers from the right to strike. Eight countries in Central Africa and Somalia deny all workers’ rights.
Governments are acting in favor of big business – not their people who overwhelmingly support labor rights. The ITUC Global Poll 2014 measuring the opinion of the general public in fourteen countries found 75 percent of people supported the right to strike, but 37 countries in the last 12 months imposed fines or even imprisonment for legitimate and peaceful strikes.
Public opinion, by a massive majority of 77 per cent to 94 percent, supports laws that protect workers’ health and safety, a decent minimum wage, the right to collective bargaining, and the right to join a union.
Capitalists on anti-union offensive
The murder, arrest, jailing and sacking of union leaders, and the busting of strikes and unions, around the world demonstrates the intensity of the clash of interests between capital and labor, against the backdrop of the Great Recession now raging for its seventh year.
With the exception of many countries in Central and Latin America, capitalists dominate national politics and national governments, as well as the global institutions like the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. They operate by neo-liberal ideas which Reagan and Thatcher used in the 1980s to roll back the social democratic gains of working people following the Great Depression and World War II.
Workers and their unions must unite in education to challenge these ideas of aggressive exploitation and repression, and unite to take political action to defeat them. We have a world to win, to make safe and prosperous for the 99 per cent and future generations.
WORKINS is a network of trade unions, proposed at Commission 5 of the 4th International Assembly of the International League of Peoples’ Struggle in Manila in 2011, and launched at the People’s Global Camp against the WTO Ministerial, Bali, December 2013.