The number of countries which impeded the registration of unions increased from 59% of countries in 2014 to 74% of countries in 2022.
The right to official recognition through legal registration is an essential facet of the right to organise, since that is the first step that workers’ organisations must take in order to be able to function efficiently and represent their members adequately.
Between April 2021 and March 2022, authorities impeded the registration of, de-registered or arbitrarily dissolved unions in 110 countries out of 148.
All 19 countries impeded the registration of unions.No change from 2021
On 11 May 2021, the Alexandria Spinning and Weaving Company refused to allow Ashraf Nassef, head of the workers’ trade union committee, and Faraj Al-Najjar, the union’s treasurer, to enter the company to speak to their members. This followed an incident on 4 March 2021 when management transferred seven members of the company’s union committee from their technical jobs to administrative security because of their union activities. The seven trade union members were Faraj Saeed, vice chairman of the trade union committee; Mahmoud Ibrahim El-Gohari, treasurer of the trade union committee; Mohamed Al-Masry, board member; Mohamed Mohamed Ibrahim, assistant treasurer; Mohamed Youssef, board member; Magdy Marei, board member; and Tariq Bakr, board member.
On 31 December 2020, the Jordanian authorities had proceeded to the arbitrary dissolution of the Jordanian Teachers’ Association (JTA). While the administrative decision was finally reversed on 31 October 2021 by the Amman Court of Appeal, JTA was still impeded from operating and representing teachers in the country, as none of the JTA board members were able to resume their trade union activities.
Since 2020, all independent unions in Iraq are unable to operate. On 12 October 2020, the Iraqi Ministry of Labour published letter No. 11367 imposing a trade union monopoly in Iraq and instructing government administrative bodies not to deal with any union other than the officially recognised General Federation of Iraqi Workers.
In Egypt, all independent unions were dissolved in March 2018. Since then, many have faced countless administrative hurdles and in 2022 were still seeking official registration with the authorities. Where a yellow union already existed in the workplace, unions encountered further difficulties, with employers claiming that under the 2017 law, only one trade union committee can be established, thus preventing the formation of a new union.
91% of countries impeded the registration of unions.No change from 2021
On 2 November 2021, persons claiming to be members of the Quezon City Police Department went to the national office of Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa (SENTRO) in Manila to supposedly investigate a labour dispute involving its affiliate, the Federation and Cooperation of Cola, Beverage, and Allied Industry Unions (FCCU). The FCCU is engaged in a labour dispute at Coca-Cola Philippines over deadlocked wage bargaining and a national campaign for the reinstatement of unfairly terminated union leaders.
The individuals had no legal documents officially identifying and authorising them or stating the purpose of their visit. They repeatedly asked for information regarding SENTRO’s office, the other unions present there, and their activities. The so-called police officers also went to the premises of the Trade Union Confederation of the Philippines (TUCP) compound in Quezon City. They inquired about the NAGKAISA Labour Coalition, of which SENTRO is a part.
Since 2021, the Hong Kong authorities have increased pressure on independent unions to either fall in line or disband, while the Registrar of Trade Unions has methodically summoned independent trade unions on frivolous motives and has opened de-registration proceedings.
The Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (HKCTU) announced in September 2021 that it was preparing to disband after 31 years of leading the democratic trade union movement in the region. In the month’s leading up to the decision, the HKCTU and its member organisations had faced unprecedented attacks, intimidation and allegations of offences under the 2020 National Security Law. The personal safety of union leaders had also been threatened. On 3 October 2021, members backed a resolution to cease operations by a vote of 57 to eight, with two abstentions, at an extraordinary general meeting.
In 2022, the Hong Kong independent trade union movement and pro-democracy movement were all but silenced as many unions were forced to disband or arbitrarily deregistered, including the General Union of Hong Kong Speech Therapists (GUHKST); the Hospital Authority Employees’ Alliance (HAEA); the Hong Kong Professional Teachers’ Union (HKPTU); the Union of New Civil Servants (UNCS); Medicine Inspires; the Hong Kong Pharmaceutical and Medical Device Union; Hong Kong Educators’ Alliance; the Frontline Doctors’ Union; the Hong Kong Pharmaceutical and Medical Device Union; the Financial Technology Professional Services Personnel Union; and the Hong Kong Teaching and Research Support Staff Union and Next Media Trade Union (NMTU).
After the 1 February coup in Myanmar, the Tatmadaw, the Burmese military, declared sixteen labour organisations illegal on 2 March 2021. All industrial zones in Yangon were placed under martial law, making it very difficult for workers to organise. Union leaders then reported a mass exodus of factory workers from the industrial zones to their hometown rural villages. The military asked factory owners to disclose the names and addresses of trade union leaders to arrest them, and soldiers were sent door to door in the worker dormitories and hostels in a bid to find them. The houses of union leaders were raided and money and other private property were confiscated.
In 2022, the Cambodian authorities continued to prevent union registration for arbitrary reasons or for extremely minor technical errors. In one case, a union submitted its application to the Ministry of Labour on 25 December 2020 and included all ten types of documents required by law. In February 2021, local union leaders were called by the ministry for the first time to correct spelling mistakes on the cover letter and in the profile of union leaders. Over two months later, on 7 May 2021, local union leaders were called a second time to correct the size of the photos of the union leaders from (3x4) to (4x6) and resubmit them once again. As of 2022, the union was still not registered, after having expended considerable time and resources to submit the application.
The Taliban took over Afghanistan in August 2021, and the country plunged immediately into instability and poverty. It is estimated that 90 per cent of the working population lost their jobs. One of the first measures taken by the Taliban regime was to curtail women’s rights, including access to employment and education.
As the Taliban started cracking down on democratic voices and organisations, killing activists and raiding their houses, the leadership of the National Union of Afghanistan Workers and Employees (NUAWE) were forced to go into exile and found refuge in France with the support of the ITUC, the Confédération française démocratique du travail (CFDT) and the French government. Carrying out trade union activities has become extremely dangerous for trade unionists remaining in the country, as they are under constant surveillance and face threats to their lives.
79% of countries impeded the registration of unions.No change from 2021
On 14 December 2019, all trade unions and professional associations in Sudan were dissolved by a decree of the Sovereignty Council, which also seized all unions’ properties and assets. Since then and especially after the military coup in October 2021, independent unions have been unable to operate in the country.
38% of countries impeded the registration of unions.Compared with 37% in 2021
Kazakh authorities have long been impeding the operation of independent trade unions in the country by simply de-registering and refusing to reregister unions. In January 2021, the authorities de-registered the branch of the Sectoral Fuel and Energy Workers’ Union (SFEWU) in the Kyzylordy region, founding the decision on an alleged de-registration request made by an ex-chairman.
This unlawful de-registration decision had repercussions for the SFEWU itself, as according to the law, a sectoral trade union must have at least nine registered branch unions. In February 2021, the Specialised Inter-District Economic Court of Shymkent suspended the SFEWU’s activities for six months. The decision was upheld by the appellate court and entered into force on 29 April 2021. All activities of the SFEWU had to stop immediately because of the threat of criminal prosecution of the leaders under Article 430 of the Criminal Code.
In North Macedonia, discrimination against the Konfederacija Slobodnik Sindikata (KSS) by state officials and public institutions continued as KSS's request for representativeness, submitted in July 2019, was still pending before the authorities without any official motive. De facto, KSS’s request was rejected, and therefore the union was denied full involvement in national social dialogue, prevented from participating in the process of economic and social policy building, and denied the possibility of representing the interests and promoting the rights of its members.
On 22 July 2021, the Belarusian Ministry of Justice filed a lawsuit with the Supreme Court to liquidate the Belarusian Association of Journalists (BAJ). BAJ has been accused by the government of violating the legislation on national workers’ associations. The application for dissolution of the BAJ was approved by the Supreme Court on 27 August 2021. BAJ was the only independent representative organisation of journalists and media workers in Belarus and one of the country’s most prominent champions of freedom of expression.