Boris Johnson’s government has been accused of rushing into post-Brexit trade deals with countries where workers’ rights are systematically violated or denied, including five of the world’s 10 worst offenders.
Union and Labor leaders said the UK government is turning its back on workers around the world and neglecting its commitment to basic human and labor rights in the race to demonstrate the benefits of Brexit by reaching free deals -exchange outside the EU.
According to a study by the TUC, the trade union federation, and its international partner, the ITUC, more than a third of non-EU countries with which the UK has trade agreements violate workers’ rights.
Five of the 10 “worst countries in the world for workers,” according to the ITUC’s annual global rights index, have reached post-Brexit deals in the past two years. No less than 14 of the 24 countries where UK officials are currently negotiating trade deals also have bad track records, including Brazil, Malaysia and India.
It emerged earlier this year that UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told staff Britain intended to trade with countries with poor human rights records.
The TUC said the government must suspend some trade deals and use its influence to ensure countries respect labor and human rights.
Frances O’Grady, General Secretary of the TUC, said: “A government that readily accepts agreements with countries that abuse rights abroad is a government that will not stand up for rights at home either. It is time for ministers to end the clandestine approach to trade agreements and bring workers to the negotiating table.
Emily Thornberry, the shadow trade secretary, said ministers have a moral obligation to make other countries understand that if they want preferential trade deals, they must stand up for workers’ rights. Instead, she said:
“Liz Truss and her colleagues have done the opposite, awarding trade deals to dozens of governments with the world’s worst records for abusing and exploiting their workers, and actively initiating negotiations with several others. “
The five countries identified among the 10 worst in the world for workers’ rights by the ITUC are Colombia, where 22 trade unionists were murdered last year, and Zimbabwe, where 13 nurses were arrested for asking for adequate allowances for PPE in response to Covid. -19. The others are Honduras, where a crackdown on demonstrations has been imposed; Egypt, where 26 steelworkers were prosecuted for strike action for non-payment of wages, and Turkey, where 109 workers were subjected to violent treatment and mass detention for protesting unfair dismissals.
According to ITUC report, abuses of the right to strike, the right to form and join a trade union, the right to engage in trade union activities and the right to freedom of expression and assembly are at their most high level for eight years. Sharan Burrow, ITUC General Secretary, said: “When Covid-19 struck, we learned who the heroes are. Workers everywhere cared for the sick, put food on our tables and kept the economy going. But despite all this, workers are under attack like never before. “
A spokesperson for the Department of International Trade said: “None of the continuity trade agreements we have signed – and which have been considered by Parliament – have eroded national standards for workers’ rights.