319th Governing Body

ILO Governing Body adopts report of the Committee on Freedom of Association

The Committee on Freedom of Association (CFA) draws special attention to three serious and urgent country cases.

Press release | 31 October 2013
GENEVA - The Committee on Freedom of Association (CFA) drew the special attention of the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) Governing Body to the serious and urgent cases of Cambodia, Fiji and the Philippines.

The Committee’s procedures define serious and urgent cases as those involving human life or personal freedom, or new or changing conditions affecting the freedom of action of a trade union movement as a whole. The CFA is a Governing Body committee, composed of an independent chairperson and six representatives each of governments, employers and workers.

The case of Cambodia concerns the murders of three trade union leaders over the last decade and the continuing absence of concrete steps to institute independent investigations into these murders.

In this context, the Committee welcomed the definitive acquittal of two individuals who had been serving sentences for the murder of the trade union leader, Chea Vichea, despite serious irregularities in the judicial proceedings.

Nevertheless, the Committee stressed that it remained the responsibility of the State to promptly institute independent judicial inquiries in order to fully uncover the underlying facts and circumstances surrounding these murders and more recent acts of violence.

The Committee asked the Government to reopen the investigation into the murder of Chea Vichea and to ensure that thorough and independent investigations into the murders of Ros Sovannareth and Hy Vuthy are carried out expeditiously in order to bring an end to the prevailing situation of impunity regarding violence against trade union leaders.

In the case of Fiji, the Committee dealt with allegations of acts of assault, harassment, intimidation, arrest and detention of trade union leaders and members, ongoing interference in internal trade union affairs, undue restrictions on trade union meetings and the issuance of several decrees curtailing trade union rights.

The Committee noted with deep concern the new allegations concerning the Political Parties Decree which bans persons holding office in any workers’ or employers’ organization from membership of a political party or the expression of support for a political party, as well as the allegations of threats and intimidation by the military against trade union members and the arrest of trade unionists for demonstrating against the new Constitution. It urged the Government to provide its observations on this matter without delay.

Taking note of the October 2013 letter from the Prime Minister of Fiji in reply to the ILO Director-General, the Committee strongly regretted that the ILO direct contacts mission has not yet been allowed to return to the country and urged the Government to accept its return without further delay.

The case of the Philippines concerns a number of serious allegations made in 2009 relating to restrictions on freedom of association and anti-union policies in the Philippines economic zones, including assaults, threats, intimidation, harassment, blacklisting, criminalization and militarization at a number of enterprises in the zones going back many years.

The Committee observed that some of the specific cases had been resolved in the meantime and requested the Government of the Philippines to continue to keep it informed of the developments and their final resolution.

Finally, the Committee was pleased to note a number of cases in which its recommendations were followed. These include the conclusion of a collective bargaining agreement in Colombia (case no. 2955), the inclusion of discussions on email use as a subject of collective bargaining in Peru (case no. 2910) and the dropping of all criminal charges against the officers of the TMPCWA union in the Philippines (case no. 2652).

These developments were welcomed by the Chairperson of the Committee who encouraged other Governments to continue their efforts to find rapid and effective mechanisms for ensuring greater protection of trade union rights.