Trade unions

ITUC Global Rights Index shows workers’ rights are frequently violated in Central and Eastern Europe

The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) released in June its yearly Global Rights Index. For 2019, it shows that Central and Eastern Europe still has a long way to go before workers can access the rights laid down in international labour standards. Yet, there are also positive developments.

News | 09 July 2019
The Governments of Central and Eastern Europe have made international obligations to implement workers’ rights as enshrined in international labour standards supervised by the ILO. In many countries, the Global Rights Index shows, workers can still not enjoy the freedoms set down in these rights, including the right to collective bargaining and freedom of association. Workers in Central and Eastern Europe have experienced intimidation, harassment or sanctions as a result of their trade union activities. 

The Global Rights Index ranks countries in the world on a scale from 1 (best) to 5+ (worst). The countries are ranked based on analysis with 97 indicators, derived from ILO conventions and looks at violations of rights both in law and practice.

In Europe, no country received the lowest score, 5+. Ukraine had the worst score in Central and Eastern Europe. It was among the 34 countries worldwide to receive the second worst rating (5), indicating that workers had “no guarantee of rights”.

Positive developments were also recorded, most notably in Moldova, which jumped up one rating to the second best (2). Although violations of rights were recorded, the trend in Moldova appears to be positive. The relatively good score for Moldova was shared by Croatia, the Czech Republic, Montenegro and the three Baltic countries.

In between Ukraine (rating 5) and Moldova (rating 2), Bosnia and Herzegovina, North Macedonia, Serbia and Romania received ranking 4, suggesting a “systemic violation of rights”. Rating 3 indicating a “regular violation of rights”, included Albania, Bulgaria, Hungary and Poland.

Among the attacks on workers’ rights, ITUC’s Index shows that the attacks on the right to strike was a major challenge for trade unions which undermines the role trade unions can play to fight for social justice.

The Nordic countries as well as Germany, Netherlands, Slovakia, Italy and Ireland received the highest score. Overall, countries in the European Union have a better score than the countries seeking membership, indicating a correlation between EU membership and workers’ rights. 

ILO works with both ITUC, as well as with trade unions, governments and employers in Central and Eastern Europe with a right-based approach to promote decent work for all. With ILO support, trade unionists are strengthening their international networks and solidarity structures. In addition, trade unions in the region have received training on how to use ILO’s supervisory system when their rights are threatened.