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It’s time to end oppression and respect workers’ civil liberties

news 30 Apr 2021

May Day is when workers of the world stop and reflect. We’re seeing so many human rights abuses — workers being denied their right to free association, free speech being suppressed. It is the responsibility of us all to defend our fundamental human rights.

The right to strike. The right protest. The right to freedom of association. These civil liberties, that run through the veins of trade unionist globally are under attack. And collectively we need to stand shoulder to shoulder and say, “no more oppression”.

Today, on May Day, the ITF and its 20 million transport workers call on governments, employers and civil society to respect our rights, end the persecution of trade unionists, and protect our freedoms.

Solidarity is our most powerful weapon in the fight to uphold human rights – and defend the persecution of our sisters, brothers and friends around the globe.

This is also very real for 13 activists at the Thai state railway. The “SRUT 13” were handed three-year jail sentences  last October, after legal action brought by the railway company. Their crime? Campaigning for better safety.

They were scapegoated for an accident in 2009 that both the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand and an internal investigation concluded was primarily caused by poor maintenance. The Thai authorities used false charges to deflect attention from their own incompetence.

Leonardo Escala no longer has any human rights. In February, he was shot over and over and killed outside his home in Tondo, Manila. Escala, president of the dockers’ union at an ICTSI port in Manila, continued to exercising his right to freedom of association, despite receiving threats on his life. Clearly, the authorities are not doing enough to protect people’s human right to life.

In Myanmar, the military coup is seeing workers imprisoned and protesters shot dead on the streets. Brazil has a new president who endorses political killings. In Belarus, worker rights are routinely trampled.

The list of human rights abuses and oppression that ITF sees goes on and on. Some can be dealt with at a local level. But increasingly we need a global response.

Workers who escape oppression must stand steadfast with those who cannot. It is the responsibility of each and every trade unionists to act – solidarity is our most powerful weapon in the fight for justice, equality, freedom and dignity.

Demands must be put on shareholders to stop doing business with oppressive regimes. CEOs of global businesses must be held to account for human rights violations in their global supply chains.

And our politicians must stiffen their resolve on human rights. It should be absolutely clear to them and the rest of the world that we will not stand for oppression.

If we all stand firm on human rights, there will be no more oppression. By defending the human rights of others, we are defending our own way of life. The madness can stop, if we human beings decide to collectively stop it.

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