An open letter from Maurice Ostroff
To Mr. Guy Ryder
General Secretary, The International Trade Union
Copy to the President, Ms. Sharan Burrow
June 25, 2007
Dear Mr. Ryder,
From your report on the 2006 Annual Survey of the International Confederation
of Free trade unions, it is alarming to learn of violations of workers' rights in as many as 137 countries and that trade
unionists are met in many places with harassment, imprisonment, torture and even assassination.
One can read
only with distress, the intolerable story of the 115 activists murdered because of legitimate trade union activities,
in Africa, the Americas, Asia and the Pacific, Europe and the Middle East and about the 80 labour leaders assassinated in
Colombia as well as restrictions on freedom of association in Burma, Belarus, Iran and Zimbabwe.
background, the phenomenon of British trade unions narrowly focusing a boycott campaign only against Israel, while deliberately
ignoring the awful conditions in other countries is blatantly unjust and lopsided. Their lack of even a semblance of balance
sullies the reputation of the entire trade union movement, reflecting unfairly on your confederation, its 309 affiliated organisations
and the 166 million workers it represents.The blatant prejudice exhibited by the minority casts serious doubt on their, and
by association, your objectivity.
It is paradoxical that while Israel is singled out, the boycotters seem unconcerned,
for example, about the two rockets recently fired by Palestinians into the house of the Deputy Secretary General of the Palestine
General Federation of Trade Unions, Rasem Al Bayari, who directly blames the Palestinian authorities. He reports that
Palestinian trade unionists are regularly shot at by the police when holding demonstrations in support of workers' rights,
quoting the example of 13 workers killed by police in October-November 2006 at a demonstration calling for payment of
By contrast, in Israel, the Histadrut and other workers� organizations whose members are drawn
from all sections regardless of religion, race or gender are completely unfettered by the Israel government, even when mounting
general strikes that threaten to disrupt the economy. Surely this calls for encouragement, rather than boycotts by fellow
The boycotters cannot be unaware of the atrocious conditions in many countries as enumerated in
your report and journalists who support the NUJ boycott exhibit obvious prejudice, failing as they do, to report events in
their context. Concerned citizens find it scary that these journalists who exert a powerful influence on our lives impose
their prejudices on the public.
Similarly, it is scary to realize how students are exposed to teachers who, by subscribing
to the UCU boycott, dismally fail the test of intellectual honesty, a test that requires that all available facts be taken
into account, including those that may contradict preconceived opinions.
May one hope that in the interests
of preserving the good reputation of ITUC, your organization will publicly dissociate itself from the ill-considered, inequitable
calls by individual trade unions to boycott Israel.
Your considered response will be appreciated,
The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC)
Extracts from the ITUC's web site
The ITUC’s primary mission is the promotion and defence of workers’ rights and interests, through international
cooperation between trade unions, global campaigning and advocacy within the major global institutions.
Its main areas of activity include: + trade union and human rights + economy, society and the workplace + equality and
non-discrimination + international solidarity.
Currently existing ICFTU and WCL regional organizations for Africa, the Americas and Asia-Pacific are expected
to be unified by November 2007. The ITUC also cooperates closely with the European Trade Union Confederation, including through
the ITUC Pan-European Regional Council, to be created in the near future under decisions taken by the ITUC Founding Congress.
The ITUC has close relations with the Global Union Federations and the Trade Union Advisory Committee to the
OECD (TUAC), working together through the Global Unions Council.
The ITUC works closely with the International Labour Organisation. It maintains contacts with several other
UN Specialised Agencies.
Along with its Regional Organisations and their sub-offices, the ITUC has offices in Amman, Geneva, Moscow,
New York, Sarajevo, Vilnius and Washington DC.