There used to be a time when totalitarian regimes or even pseudo-democracies did not hesitate to get rid of troublesome trade unionists by sending in their death squads. Some still do it. A few days ago, the International TUC blasted the Guinean government for repeated armed attacks and intimidation against the leaders of the Confédération nationale des travailleurs de la Guinée (CNTG). The ITUC reiterated how these acts of intimidation against trade unionists are clear violations of ILO Conventions 87 and 98 on freedom of association and collective bargaining.
In some instances it is even worse – the ITUC continues to catalogue the grim toll of trade unionists killed which continues to increase and is now over 100, each year, with Colombia and Guatemala still the worst predators.
Some governments fearing public opprobrium and international obloquy have found another way to eliminate trade union leaderships by directly interfering with trade unions, fomenting oppositions or even, thanks to new technologies, rallying around take over and identity thefts.
Currently in Turkey, according to our affiliate the Türkiye Gazeteciler Sendikasi (TGS), the management of Anadolu Ajansi, the state news agency Anatolian Press Agency, set out to force journalists to resign from the TGS and join a rival union soon to be launched. The TGS has been the leading force in a campaign to free over 100 journalists in jail and its president Ercan Ipekci, was recently singled out by Turkish PM for criticism for his involvement in the campaign.
Almost at the same time, our union NUSOJ in Somalia has seen its name and identity taken over by a formal employee, now claiming to be the General Secretary of the union, under the patronage of members of the Somali Transitional Federal Government. The ITUC protested to the Somali PM the interference, harassment, travel bans, threats and violence against NUSOJ officials and threatened to take a complaint to the ILO against his government for violations of trade union rights. In this case, members of the TFG showed how a government can get rid of an overtly critical union by simply recognising somebody who allegedly stole its name and identity using the Internet and claiming to be the representative of journalists.
The same identity theft took place in recent days in Gaza where the Hamas government helped its journalists’ supporters take over the IFJ affiliate, the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate’s office in Gaza. They have been using its premises, facilities, telephone, and official papers for a while now. But last Sunday, they went even further and took over its name.
This is a truly worrying trend and as well as creating tremendous confusion it allows governments to force out our leaders without a shot being fired.