Wednesday 30 June 2021 / 12:52 PM Emily Thornberry

New report exposes abuse of workers by Truss’s trade partners

New report exposes abuse of workers by Truss’s trade partners


Responding to the International Trade Union Confederation annual Global Rights Index, showing that more than a third of the non-EU countries with whom the UK has negotiated post-Brexit trade deals are systematically abusing or denying workers’ rights, including five of the ten countries rated ‘worst in the world for workers’, Labour’s Shadow International Trade Secretary, Emily Thornberry MP, said:


“When these trade negotiations began in the run up to Brexit, the government had a golden opportunity – and a moral obligation – to make clear to other countries around the world that if they wanted preferential trade deals with the UK, they had to uphold the rights of their workers.


“Instead of taking that stand, Liz Truss and her colleagues have done the opposite, handing out trade deals to dozens of governments with the worst track records in the world for abusing and exploiting their workers, and making not one single attempt to strengthen the provisions in these agreements relating to workers’ rights. They have shown they literally could not care less.”




Notes to Editors


  1. The annual Global Rights Index, published by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), records the abuse of workers rights across the world in 2020-21, ranging from restrictions on strike action up to the murder of union organisers. The report for 2021 can be accessed here:


  1. The ITUC defines workers rights using the same core International Labour Organisation principles recognised by the UK government, including freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining, the elimination of forced labour, and the abolition of child labour.


  1. The ITUC report reveals that, of the 67 non-EU countries with whom the government has agreed ‘rollover deals’ since 2019 to maintain preferential trade arrangements after Brexit: five are listed among the ten worst countries in the world for workers (Colombia, Egypt, Honduras, Turkey and Zimbabwe); 11 are placed among the 44 countries where there is “no guarantee of workers’ rights” whatsoever (Colombia, Ecuador, Egypt, Eswatini, Guatemala, Honduras, Jordan, Palestine, Turkey, Ukraine and Zimbabwe); and 14 are placed among the 38 countries where there is “systematic violation of workers’ rights” (Botswana, Cameroon, Chile, Côte d’Ivoire, El Salvador, Fiji, Kenya, Lebanon, Panama, Peru, Serbia, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia and Vietnam).


  1. The government is currently in negotiations with an additional 24 countries over outstanding rollover trade deals, entirely new trade deals, or accession to existing trade deals. Of these, Brazil is rated as among the ITUC’s 10 worst countries in the world for workers, and an additional 13 are listed in Categories 4, 5 and 5+ for denial or systematic violation of workers’ rights (Algeria, Bahrain, Burundi, India, Kuwait, Malaysia, Oman, Qatar, South Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, UAE and the USA). A further 2 of the 24 countries are ‘unrated’ by the ITUC: Saudi Arabia because they are awaiting assessment of the impact of current reforms; and Brunei, due to the lack of civil society organisations and available information in the country on which to make a rating.


  1. The ITUC report catalogues a wide range of specific abuses committed against workers by the UK’s trade partners in the past year, including the murder of 22 trade unionists in Colombia; the arrest of 13 nurses in Zimbabwe for requesting adequate allowances and PPE for their work tackling Covid-19; the prosecution of 26 Egyptian steel workers for striking over non-payment of wages; and the violent treatment and mass detention of 109 Turkish workers marching to protest against unfair dismissals.