Swedish report highlights worldwide union killings

More than 2,000 people were arrested worldwide last year in connection with trade union work and 145 union members were killed, according to a report published by Sweden's international trade union association FFI on Friday.

“In 2004, 145 people in all died because of their union work, and that is 16 more than in 2003. The number of death threats and physical injuries also increased,” FFI stated in the 251-page report.

Of the 137 countries covered in the report, Colombia stood, once again, for by far the worst abuses, accounting for 99 of all activist murders.

According to the study, titled “Abuses of Union Rights 2005”, the true figures could be even higher since it only covered reported attacks, pointing out that “those affected are (often) too frightened to report (attacks) or simply are not aware of their rights”.

“Numerous lives are ruined when union rights are not respected. Our thoughts go especially to the murdered people’s families and to those who have been thrown in jail and their families, but we should not forget those who ‘only’ lose their jobs because they fought for their right to decent salaries and working hours,” FFI stated in the report.

After Colombia, the countries topping the report’s list of abuses were Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Venezuela, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Myanmar, China, the Philippines and Iran.