Countries which denied workers access to justice increased from 52% of countries in 2015 to 66% of countries in 2022.
Access to justice and due process of law are basic principles of the rule of law. In their absence, people are unable to have their voice heard and to assert their rights. In 97 countries out of 148, workers had no or reduced access to justice, and the due process of law and justice was denied. Trade union leaders were often detained and prosecuted on trumped-up charges, and their trials were frequently fraught with disregard for due process and lack of impartiality.
90% of countries in Africa denied workers access to justice.Compared with 76% in 2021
Two years after their unfair dismissals, Luximun Badal and Shavindra Dinoo Sunassee, respectively president of the Union of Post Office Workers Branch No. 2 and ex-president of the Airports of Mauritius Limited Employees Union, still seek their reinstatement.
Badal had been dismissed by Mauritius Post Ltd on 18 June 2020 for alleged refusal of a unilateral transfer following disputes over the negotiation of a new collective bargaining agreement for the postal workers, the previous agreement having lapsed on 31 December 2017. Sunassee was dismissed a few days later by the Airports of Mauritius Ltd after several attempts by management to unilaterally vary the terms of a collective bargaining agreement to which Sundassee was opposed.
79% of countries in the Middle East and North Africa denied workers access to justice.Compared with 83% in 2021
The Tunis Court of First Instance annulled the decision of the UGTT National Council (which took place in Hammamet from 24 to 26 August 2020) to convene an extraordinary non-elective congress, claiming that the statutes of this trade union organisation do not provide for the organisation of this type of congress by its executive bureau. This is a serious judicial interference in UGTT’s right to freely organise its activities.
Concerns grew for the well-being of Esmail Abdi, former secretary general of the Iranian Teachers’ Trade Association (ITTA), who has been imprisoned on numerous occasions since 2006 on trumped up charges of “propaganda against the state” and “espionage”. He was sentenced to five years in 2016 on fictitious charges of “spreading propaganda against the system” and “gathering and colluding to commit crimes against national security”. To prevent his release, on 11 January 2021, at the end of his previous sentence, the Iranian authorities executed a suspended ten-year sentence related to a 2011 case , thereby imprisoning him until 2031. Long imprisonment and ill treatment in the prison have severely affected his health. In the meantime, Esmail’s family (wife, two daughters and a son) were being harassed and victimised by the security forces and considered to be at serious risk.
Mourad Ghedia, president of Algerian union SNAPAP/CGATA Justice Sector Workers, was arrested on 5 April 2021 and placed under a detention order in El-Harrach prison. On the date of his arrest, Mr Ghedia went to the Bab Ezzouar police station in Algiers following police summonses. He was immediately arrested and brought before a judge; he had no access to legal representation. The judge placed him under a detention order without providing reasons for his incarceration. He was sentenced by the court to a six-month suspended sentence. Following a large international campaign, he was eventually released after two months and ten days of detention.
Mr Ghedia, a clerk by profession, had previously been suspended from his employment in 2012 for almost three years, along with 57 other people, for taking strike action. Following complaints to the ILO, Mr Ghedia and the suspended members were reinstated, and he resumed his duties as registrar between 2015 and 2018, when he was again dismissed without cause.
77% of countries workers in the Americas denied workers access to justice.Compared with 76% in 2021
In a travesty of justice, on 11 June 2011 Venezuelan trade unionist Rodney Álvarez was sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment for homicide. To this day, he is still seeking a fair trial while facing dire circumstances in prison.
In 2011, Álvarez was prosecuted for the alleged murder of worker Renny Rojas during a workers’ assembly on the premises of the state-owned company Ferrominera Orinoco of Corporación Venezolana de Guayana (CVG). The assembly was taking place to choose the commission tasked with holding elections for the executive committee of the Sintraferrominera trade union.
The proceedings brought against Rodney Álvarez reflect the lack of separation of powers in the country and imply a clear denial of justice, with eight interruptions and up to 25 preliminary hearings, and with Álvarez having been the victim of three serious knife and gun attacks perpetrated with total impunity during the more than ten years in which he was held in pretrial custody.
Nothing in the judicial file confirmed that Álvarez was armed, let alone that he fired the shots. The judge also dismissed all the defence witnesses who were present at the scene and who saw that another person perpetrated the killing. The statement by the National Guard officer on security duty at the enterprise at the time, who declared that he had detained the other person for firing shots, was disregarded.
In Honduras, the pervasive climate of repression, physical violence and intimidation against workers and trade unionists was compounded by the government’s failure to pursue the many historic cases of murders and other violent crimes. The labour justice system remained broken, and only a handful of the hundreds of murder cases were solved, usually many years later.
In Colombia, the pervasive climate of repression, physical violence and intimidation against workers and trade unionists was compounded by the government’s failure to pursue the many historic cases of murders and other violent crimes. The labour justice system remained broken, and only a handful of the hundreds of murder cases were solved, usually many years later.
In Guatemala, the pervasive climate of repression, physical violence and intimidation against workers and trade unionists was compounded by the government’s failure to pursue the many historic cases of murders and other violent crimes. The labour justice system remained broken, and only a handful of the hundreds of murder cases were solved, usually many years later.
70% of countries in Asia-Pacific denied workers access to justice.Compared with 74% in 2021
In the Philippines, Rosanilla Consad, union secretary of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) for Region XIII and assistant vice principal of San Vicente National High School, was arrested on a fabricated charge of attempted homicide in April 2021. Subjected to interrogation without her legal counsel, she was presented in a press conference as a “high ranking” official of the New People's Army, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines.
Dodo Bheel, a worker at Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company (SECMC) in Pakistan, was detained by security guards of the company for 14 days for interrogation over the theft of scrap from a company store. Bheel died of his injuries. According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), Bheel had been tortured by the guards. The workers and their relatives held sit-ins and demonstrations after his death, demanding an immediate and impartial inquiry. Their protest was violently suppressed by the police, who moved into action with their batons and tear gas and tried to arrest some of the 150 protesters.
In Malaysia, five local leaders of the National Union of Transport Equipment and Allied Industries Workers (NUTEAIW) were still out of work six years after HICOM Automotive manufacturer dismissed 32 NUTEAIW members for attending a union briefing after working hours, outside of company premises, in February 2016. The briefing was about a deadlock in the collective bargaining, and the company accused the workers of “tarnishing the image” of the company.
After mediation meetings at the industrial relations department, 27 union members were reinstated. However, the company refused to reinstate the remaining five local union leaders. The five workers won termination compensation in court but failed to gain reinstatement. NUTEAIW exhausted all domestic legal avenues and decided in July 2021 to file a complaint with the ILO.
HICOM has a notorious record of union-busting in Malaysia. In 2013, HICOM and its sister company Isuzu HICOM dismissed 18 NUTEAIW members for exercising their trade union rights.
32% of countries in Europe denied workers access to justice.Compared with 34% in 2021
16 December 2021 marked the ten-year anniversary of the tragedy in Zhanaozen, Kazakhstan, where police opened fire on protestors, killing 17 and injuring more than 100 workers. The violence put a stop to a seven-month-long strike, involving more than 3,000 workers demanding a wage increase. This case was subject to extensive review by international bodies, which all expressed concern about the lack of independent, impartial and effective investigation into the human rights violations committed in connection with the protests in Zhanaozen. They called on the government to immediately carry out such an investigation. However, to this date the government of Kazakhstan has not responded to the recommendations, and no prosecution or conviction has been made in the ten years since the events.
Four years after the events, there is no progress in investigation of the violent attack on Dimitri Sinyavsky, the Chairman of the Karaganda Regional Branch of the Sectorial Union of Fuel and Energy Workers, which took place on 10 November 2018. Absence of effective investigations and judgements against parties guilty of violent attacks on trade unionists reinforce the climate of insecurity for victims and impunity for perpetrators which are extremely damaging to the exercise of freedom of association rights in Kazakhstan.
In Kazakhstan, the restrictions imposed by the court sentence on the freedom of Larisa Nilolayvna Kharkova, former leader of the Confederation of Independent Trade Unions of Kazakhstan (CNTUK), expired on 9 November 2021. However, she was still banned from holding leadership positions in non-governmental and other non-commercial organisations. The term of this sanction imposed by the court on 25 July 2017 expires on 5 October 2022. Kharkova was unable to open a settlement account in any of the Kazakhstan banks, and her personal bank account is still blocked under the conditions imposed in the course of the examination of the criminal case against her.
In a similar way, the former activist of the Sectoral Fuel and Energy Workers’ Union, Amin Eleusinov, who was convicted in 2017 and in May 2018 released early from serving an imprisonment sentence, was still banned from holding leadership positions in non-governmental organisations until 2022.
The former leader of the Sectoral Fuel and Energy Workers’ Union, Nurbek Kushakbayev, who was convicted in 2017 for calling on others to join the alleged illegal strike, has completed his prison sentence. However, he was unable to resume his trade union work.
On 15 June 2021, officers of the Minsk City Department of Interior made a search of the private house of the SPB vice president, Gennadiy Bykov. On 14 July 2021, officers of the Polotsk District Department of Interior searched the apartment of the president of the Free Trade Union of Belarus, Nikolai Sharakh. On 21 July 2021, the authorities searched the house of the chair of the SPB Internal Auditing Committee, Victor Stukov.
On 26 June 2021, officers of the State Security Committee searched the regional office of the Belorussian Radio Electronics Workers’ Union (REPU) in Brest. On 16 July 2021, law enforcement officers appeared at REPU’s headquarters in Minsk and broke down the door and sealed the other. Later on, the law enforcement officers claimed that they were investigating another organisation and that the search had nothing to do with the activities of the REPU. This was the second time in six months that the Minsk headquarters of REPU were raided. On 16 February 2021, State Security had already searched the premises and seized communications and other equipment and documents. The homes of several REPU activists were searched at the same time. Law enforcement officers claimed the searches were a part of the investigation into the funding of the union.
On 8 July 2021, four prominent members of the Belarusian Independent Trade Union at JSC Naftan in Navapolatsk had their homes searched and two were detained. The leaders whose homes were searched were trade union lawyer Aliaksandr Kapshul, deputy chairperson of the primary organisation Jury Hashau; deputy chairperson Dzianis Hurski; and secretary-treasurer Dzmitry Koyra. Hursky and Koyra were detained for 72 hours and then released. The authorities alleged that the searches and detentions were in relation to a criminal case about the damage of the paintwork on Siarhei Brykun's car, which occurred in October 2020.