Countries violating the right to collective bargaining increased from 63% of countries in 2014 to 79% of countries in 2021.
The lack of good faith bargaining by employers illustrates the broken social contract. Instead, collective bargaining agreements are being torn up with mass layoffs in Brazil, Cambodia, Hong Kong and the sacking of workers’ representatives in Mauritius and Nambia. Delay tactics by employers denied workers their rights in Israel, Malaysia, Oman and South Korea.
95% of countries violated the right to collective bargaining.
In Kenya, the Teachers Service Commission (TSC), the national authority in the education sector, has engaged in an anti-union campaign against the Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT), discriminating against KNUT members and denying them the application of the collective agreement. TSC has also refused to collect union fees. This systematic attack against the KNUT has decimated union membership in the education sector and hindered the trade unions’ capacity to represent its members. In addition, the TSC attempted to revoke KNUT’s trade union recognition agreement signed in 1968.
In Namibia, nine union leaders at Rössing Uranium mine were unfairly dismissed in January 2021 after they refused the proposals of the mine owner, China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) Rössing Uranium, to amend the existing collective bargaining agreement. CNNC wanted changes in the agreement, including on leave, medical aid, wages and retrenchment provisions. After facing resistance from the union and being notified of an impending strike action, the company instead targeted the union leadership and fired the nine workers, arguing “gross negligence”, “bringing the company into disrepute” and “breaching confidentiality”.
On 25 July 2020, Shavindra Dinoo Sundassee was dismissed by the Airports of Mauritius Ltd following his opposition to the management’s unilateral modification of the terms of the collective agreement.
In Mauritius, workers’ representatives were summarily dismissed by companies during the renegotiation of collective agreements. On 18 June 2020, Luximun Badal was dismissed by Mauritius Post Ltd for alleged refusal of a unilateral transfer following disputes over the negotiation of a new collective bargaining agreement for postal workers, the previous agreement having lapsed on 31 December 2017. Mr Badal had an agreement brokered by the Ministry of Labour on 18 February 2016 that protected him from being transferred as long as he was the president of the union. This did not prevent Mauritius Post Ltd from firing the union leader and later defying a court ruling from 18 October 2020 ordering the company to disclose information relevant to collective bargaining.
94% of countries violated the right to collective bargaining.
In November 2020, the National Union of Tunisian Journalists (SNJT) organised various protests in newsrooms across the country, calling on journalists from public and private media to wear red armbands. On 26 November, Tunisian journalists demonstrated massively to denounce the undue delays in gazetting the collective agreement for journalists, officially signed on 9 January 2019.
This agreement was the result of long years of negotiations between the SNJT and the employers of the sector and it included essential advances for the profession: strengthened journalists' rights, a guaranteed minimum salary (1,400 dinars/US$508) and formalised bonuses, regulated weekly working hours (40 hours per week), regulated paid holidays (between 30 and 40 days) and generalised social security coverage for all journalists. Until the government officially publishes the collective agreement, journalists are deprived of their collective rights.
In 2021, employers in Oman regularly used delaying tactics to circumvent collective bargaining, including by postponing meetings, requesting additional time to study workers' demands or even sending to a meeting a representative who does not have negotiation and decision powers on the employer’s behalf.
In December 2020, a hundred mineworkers spent ten days 700 metres underground in the Jebel Aouam mine near M’rirt in Khénifra province in Morocco, while another 200 workers protested above ground. The strike began after the management of the Compagnie Minière de Touissit failed to implement a collective agreement signed with the Union Marocaine du Travail (UMT) in 2019. This agreement aimed at guaranteeing improved living conditions, better working conditions in the mine, and the provision of occupational health and safety measures.
91% of countries violated the right to collective bargaining.
Malaysia Airlines has long refused to extend collective bargaining to crew supervisors, arguing that as management, they are ineligible for union representation. The National Union of Flight Attendants of Malaysia (NUFAM), which represents cabin crew at Malaysia Airlines, filed a case with the Federal court, which decided in July 2020, after a lengthy process, that crew supervisors had the right to union membership and collective bargaining. The Malaysian Trades Union Congress called on the airline to immediately recognise NUFAM as the legitimate representative of supervisors for collective bargaining purposes, which the company still refused to do.
Samsung failed to engage in collective bargaining in good faith, and it would not provide relevant data for negotiations. While there is a union, management has unilaterally determined wage rates. This is part of a pattern of violations by the company.
The Cambodian Airport Management Service (CAMS), of which Vinci holds major shares, stubbornly refused to engage in collective bargaining negotiations with the company-level unions, affiliated to the Cambodian Transport Workers’ Federation (CTWF), despite their certification as most representative unions in 2019. Negotiations had been first postponed by management and then came to a halt due to the COVID-19 pandemic, allowing the company to impose work suspensions unilaterally in all three airports without consulting the union.
On 4 November 2020, CAMS informed the staff informally of the retrenchment of 161 employees, 121 being union members, and only agreed to disclose the list of workers retrenched to the unions on 24 November in a meeting with the ministry of labour. CAMS approached the workers individually to force them to accept the compensation package. By January 2021, CAMS had terminated 130 workers from the three airports in Siem Reap, Sihanoukville and Phnom Penh. The ministry of labour ignored the unions’ calls denouncing these blatant violations of the labour laws.
On 15 July 2020, Cathay Pacific informed the Hong Kong Aircrew Officers’ Association (AOA) and the Flight Attendants’ Union that the company would unilaterally terminate the trade union recognition agreement in October and would desist from engaging in collective bargaining, calling it “an old-fashioned practice”. On 22 October 2020, Cathay Pacific announced the closing down of its subsidiary Cathay Dragon and the immediate retrenchment 7,346 cabin crew and 2,613 pilots. Staff were forced to enter into cheaper employment contracts, slashing 40 to 60 per cent of their salary and benefits. In June 2020, Cathay Pacific had benefited from a HK$360 million (US$46 million) government bailout.
72% of countries violated the right to collective bargaining.
On 21 November 2020, Luis Samán, general secretary of the Sindicato Nacional de Obreros de la Unión de Cervecerías Peruanas Backus y Johnston, received a dismissal letter from the company (Unión de Cervecerías Peruanas Backus and Johnston S.A.A). The Peruvian subsidiary ofAB InBev accused him of damaging the image of the company by pointing out the lack of health and safety measures provided for AB InBev Backus employees during the COVID-19 national emergency. On 23 November, the union’s press secretary, Jhon Gutarra, received a five-day suspension for no objective reason.
During the pandemic, the union worked to negotiate measures to mitigate the economic impact to avoid the lay-off of workers, but when negotiations failed, Backus and Johnson attempted to force workers to sign individual agreements. As a result of the union’s campaign, no worker signed.
In November 2020, the Sindicato de Trabajadores de la Industria de la Bebida y Similares de Hondura (STIBYS) called on the Honduran Ministry of Labour to intervene to stop AB InBev-owned Cervecería Hondureña from violating the collective agreement. In the course of 2020, the company replaced 800 permanent employees with casual workers, in breach of the collective agreement, and failed to pay regular wages between March and November, leaving workers in extremely dire situations. The management further engaged in union-busting practices by summoning the STIBYS board of directors on 8 October 2020 to communicate the sanctions they intended to impose on some of its members for organising protest actions in front of the company's premises.
The São Paulo state government ignored the proposals of the Union of Subway Workers in four consecutive negotiation rounds and even dismissed the Regional Labour Court that tried to mediate an agreement to unilaterally apply wage cuts in the June 2020 payroll, thus violating the sectoral collective agreement.
Nestlé in Espírito Santos and Bahia refused to distribute profit sharing to workers, as had been agreed in the company-level collective agreement. The management also proposed to reduce the food allowance by 48.6 %, from 680 reals to 350 reals (US$124 – US$63). Nestlé withdrew these proposals after workers started to protest.
In Brazil, many companies used economic difficulties due to the COVID-19 pandemic as a pretext to violate collective agreements and union consultation, massively laying off workers. On 3 September 2020, Embraer, a Brazilian aerospace products company, announced the dismissal of 2,500 workers. The dismissals were carried out without negotiation with the metalworkers’ union of São José dos Campos, in violation of a job preservation agreement signed on 9 April 2020.
54% of countries violated the right to collective bargaining.
On 4 February 2021, the Slovak Parliament adopted amendments to the Labour Code which severely undermined collective bargaining in the country. Under the new provisions, which were not discussed with unions prior to their adoption, the extension of higher-level collective agreements was prohibited. Only agreements concluded before 1 March 2021 stayed in place until their expiry. These amendments will have a disastrous impact on collective bargaining coverage in Slovakia, which currently lags at 26 per cent.
In the Netherlands, IKEA, a major furniture manufacturing brand, established a yellow union in its headquarters (the WIM - Employees’ Association of IKEA Workers), granting it privileges and facilities which were not afforded to other company-level unions. The company’s favouritism was blatant during the negotiations of the collective agreement in October 2020.
In 2020, the management of Aroma, a winemaking company in Moldova, unilaterally suspended the application of the collective bargaining agreement and refused to carry out negotiations with the representative trade union within the unit, affiliated with the National Trade Union Federation of Agriculture and Food of Moldova, Agroindsind. Instead, the company targeted the union leadership by successively transferring, demoting and finally dismissing Ms Nina Negru, the union president.
The Hungarian government recently enacted damaging decrees for healthcare workers. The provisions, which came into force on 18 November 2020, placed tighter restrictions on health sector unions, prohibiting free organisation and repressing the right to strike. Under the decrees, healthcare workers were stripped of their status as public servants and were obliged to sign a new work contract by 1 March 2021. Furthermore, the collective rights of healthcare workers were curtailed with the banning of any future collective agreements from January 2021 onwards, while all collective agreements concluded so far expired on the same date. The right to strike was also severely restricted, as specific rules must be laid down in an agreement to be concluded between the government and the “unions concerned”. In the absence of an agreement, the right to strike cannot be exercised.
The management of Naftan, an oil refinery in Belarus, illegally suspended for a six-month period the clause of the collective agreement providing that workers and trade union representatives cannot be dismissed on the initiative of the employer without the prior consent of the trade union. Soon after, union members were summarily dismissed. The Naftan deputy director said that "the measure was aimed at strengthening labour discipline".
In Israel, the government regularly delayed negotiations in public services and refused to discuss a variety of issues that clearly constitute issues for negotiation in accordance with Israeli law.