Trade unions

Workers’ rights in Europe in decline, says ITUC Global Rights Index 2023

In July 2023, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) released its 10th Global Rights Index. The report paints a grim picture of workers’ rights around the globe. According to ITUC, Europe is no longer a bastion of workers’ rights.

News | 10 July 2023
© AFP/Hristo Vladev

Central and Eastern Europe follows a global trend, with signs of a downward trajectory. The most common violations in the region pertain to the right to freedom of association and collective bargaining. The index shows that 72 per cent of countries in Europe violated the right to strike, while 54 per cent violated the right to collective bargaining.

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

North Macedonia and Montenegro showing worsening conditions

Among the countries in Central and Eastern Europe, the score for North Macedonia fell in the index from 3, indicating “regular violation of rights” to 4, indicating “systematic violations of rights”.

Through the recently signed Decent Work Country Programme (DWCP) for North Macedonia, ILO will support the Government and workers’ and employers’ organizations in the country to address the situation. One of the six agreed outcomes in the DWCP aims to ensure that labour legislation is harmonized with international labour standards and related EU acquis.

According to the index, access to workers’ rights in Montenegro also deteriorated over the last 12 months. The country’s score dropped from 2, indicating “repeated violations of rights” to 3 (regular violations of rights).

The index highlights that collective bargaining rights were severely trampled in North Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia, while workers in Poland had to face employers’ union-busting practices. Poland’s score was 3 (regular violation of rights), while Serbia scored 4 (systematic violations of rights). That is the same score as they received in 2022.

For Hungary and Romania, the index indicates that there are systematic violations of workers’ rights (score 4). Both countries received the same score last year.

In Georgia, the situation was unchanged since last year. The index shows that regular violations do occur (score 3). 

The worst country in Europe according to the report, was Belarus, with the score 5, indicating “no guarantee of rights”.

Due to the on-going war, Ukraine was not assessed in this year’s report. This was also the case in 2022.

ILO support on workers’ rights In Europe

In Central and Eastern Europe, ILO has supported unions’ efforts to enhance workers’ access to rights. In North Macedonia, the mobile application that trade unions developed for workers report violations of rights and unsafe working condition, is widely used. Since its launch, more than 30,000 cases have been reported. Workers have received legal advice and their cases solved after using the application. ILO has supported other trade unions to develop similar services with their own online applications. These applications are now in use in Serbia and Moldova. An adapted version is currently being developed for Ukrainian trade unions.

Details about the methodology used to develop the index can be found on the web page for the global rights index.