Prize winners

2018:  Independent Trade Unions of Kazakhstan

Larisa Kharkova, president of the independent trade union movement, KNPRK, of Kazakhstan.

The Arthur Svensson International Prize for Trade Union Rights this 2018 was awarded to the Independent Trade Unions of Kazakhstan, represented by Larisa Kharkova, Nurbek Kushakbaev and Amin Eleusinov.

Trade Union leaders and activists of Kazakhstan face severe repression in due to their involvement with trade unions rights, and the rights of the working people in their country.

Kushakbaev and Eleusinov have been imprisoned, but were released just before the award ceremony. Now there share faith with Kharkova who is living with great restrictions of civil liberties. A national court ruling has banned the confederation of independent trade unions (KNPRK), and unfair fines are a heavy burden for the three union activists.

Union rights has been under immense pressure for years, and the authorities show little respect for the right to organize. The ruthless approach was above all illustrated in 2011 during a strike in the oil city Zhanaozen, where at least 14 workers were shot and killed by their law enforcement.

The right to organize is a human right. That right is under attack in countries like Kazakhstan, where independent trade union leaders are prosecuted and harassed by their government. There can be no human rights without trade union rights. The Independent Trade Unions of Kazakhstan was awarded the prize for their relentless efforts on behalf of workers in Kasakhstan and the world.

2017: CSAAWU

General secretary of CSAAWU, Trevor Christians, receives the prize from chairman Leif Sande. Photo: Håvard Sæbø, LO media

The South African trade union CSAAWU (Commercial, Stevedoring, Agricultural and Allied Workers Union) was awarded The Arthur Svensson International Prize for Trade Union Rights 2017 due to their constant struggle for the underpaid, overworked and discriminated workers of South African vineyards.

CSAAWU received the prize for their constant fight for decent working conditions for severely exploited workers, and their ability to organize a grassroots movement with very limited resources.

CSAAWU is a young union, yet it has already launched two important strikes. However several important battles remain in the struggle for fair and just working conditions in the South-African vineyards.

 

2016: LabourStart

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The Arthur Svensson prize for 2016 was awarded to LabourStart for their successful promotion of labour rights throughout the world.

Labour start has run about 240 e-mail campaigns in 18 years directed at governments and companies that have failed to respect labour rights. During these years the organization has built up a global network of 140.000 individuals who receives information and can be mobilized to participate in campaigns within hours.

LabourStart campaign for previous winners of the Arthur Svensson prize 

It is probable that these campaigns have been crucial to several objects such as to free imprisoned union leaders and to make sure that companies puts an end to harassment of union leaders and engage in collective agreements. This has been the case for Jalila al-Salman who won the Arthur Svensson prize last year together with her colleague Mahdi Abu Deeb. As a result of a successful Labour start campaign in 2012 she was released from prison and Abu Deebs sentence was reduced. In 2016 on april the 4th  Dheeb was finally released from his unjust imprisonment.

Quick response is crucial 

Labour start maintains a close relationship with international  labour movement. The campaigns are often initialized from requests from a global union and Labour start maintain close contact and collaboration with the unions throughout the campaigns. Regardless Labour start is still an independent network of activists and takes its own decisions. The ability to act within short time frames are crucial to be able to counteract severe violations of labour rights such as when union leaders are faced with imprisonment or death.

2015: Mahdi Abu Dheeb and Jalila al-Salman

prisvinnere 2015

The 2015 Arthur Svensson Prize was awarded to the Bahrain Teachers Association (BTA) by leader Mahdi Abu Dheeb and deputy leader Jalila al-Salman. They were imprisoned in 2011, tortured and humiliated because they encouraged strikes among teachers.

Mahdi Abu Dheeb was  sentenced to five years in prison in 2011. His health conditions are worsening continously. He does not receive essential and critical medical aid.

Jalila al-Salman was released after nearly six months in prison, but still suffers from a job ban and restrictions on her rights to speech.

Outside the spotlight

Freedom of expression and freedom of association are suppressed in The Kingdom of Bahrain. The people is denied basic rights. Opposition against the Government is cracked down. Public employees, especially within health, education and municipalities have the last years been suspended or fired on suspicion of political acitivity. Several have been arrested, and there have been torture-related deaths in prison.

This has especially affected teachers and their union. The teachers union was “dissolved” by the government. Government keeps an iron hand to control teachers and students, damaging democracy, which also leads to weaken educational institutions and undermine people’s right to learn. This is ongoing outside media attention and in the dark of the world spotlight.

Mahdi Abu Dheeb and deputy Jalila al-Salman are also listed on Amnesty International list of convictions prisoners.

Recognition of their struggle for trade union rights

The Arthur Svensson committee and the Norwegian labour movement believe it is important to reinforce the spotlight on the conditions that teachers and students in Bahrain are suffering under.

The committee also underline the importance of their struggle for basic trade union rights in a very suppressing regime.

 

2014: NAPOLÉON GÓMEZ URRUTIA

urrutia3The 2014 Arthur Svensson Prize is awarded to Napoléon Gómez Urrutia, General Secretary of Los Mineros, the National Miners’ and Metalworkers’ Union of Mexico (SNTMMSRM).

Napoleón Gómez Urrutia and Los Mineros play an important role in the struggle to be able to engage in free and democratic trade union work in Mexico, and for decent wages and safe working conditions. The fight has demanded high sacrifices. Gómez Urrutia has been the victim of huge and brutal anti-union campaigns from both the authorities and the mining companies.

One important reason for this, is the strong condemnation Gómez Urrutia and Los Mineros expressed in the aftermath of a mining tragedy in 2006 in which 65 workers lost their lives.

Los Mineros and Gómez Urrutia were horrified when they arrived at the scene of the tragedy: the company Grupo Mexico and the labour department inspectors had ignored the hazardous working conditions at the mine, and failed fatally in the rescue operation.

It was Gómez Urrutia and Los Mineros’ clear opinion that Grupo Mexico was more concerned with saving its own reputation, than workers’ lives. Gómez Urrutia also publicly accused Grupo Mexico and the government of “industrial homicide”.

Consequently four trade unionists were murdered, and after he himself had been exposed to death threats and extensive repression, Gomez Urrutia left the Mexico in 2006. He now lives in exile in Canada, but still leads the Los Mineros.

The Government Pension Fund of Norway has investments of over one billion NOKs in Grupo Mexico.  As the Mexican company is deeply involved in the campaign against Los Mineros and Gómes Urrutia, the Norwegian and international labour movement joined in 2010 and demanded that the Norwegian Fund withdraws their investments.

Napoleón Gómez Urrutia has also written the book Collapse of Dignity, about the mining tragedy and the fight against greed and corruption in Mexico. Collapse of Dignity was published in 2013 and reached number four on The New York Times Monthly Business Bestseller List.

 

2013: VALENTIN URUSOV

valentin_urusov_2The Arthur Svensson International Prize for Trade Union Rights for 2013 is awarded to Russian trade union leader Valentin Urusov.

The committee`s citation:
Urusov spent several years in jail after leading a strike against dangerous working conditions and low pay in the diamond industry. Urusov was jailed on what were obviously fabricated accusations, and both the UN’s International Labour Organisation (ILO) and Russian and international trade union organisations have been involved in

trying to get him released. Urusov has become an important symbol of the struggle
for workers’ rights and freedom of association in Russia.

Valentin Urusov led the trade union Profsvoboda at Alrosa, the world’s second largest diamond mining company, based in the northern Sakha province of Russia. In August 2008 a thousand workers, led by Urusov, held a hunger strike in protest of inhumane
working conditions and low pay. A week later, Urusov was arrested, driven out
to the taiga and beaten up. The police threatened to kill him and forced him to
sign a confession admitting possession of drugs. The police had brought one of
Alrosa’s managers along as a witness, an example of how the company controls
the courts and the police in the republic.

Urusov was entenced to five years in jail based on the clearly false accusations of drug
possession. Russian and international trade union organisations and a number of
human rights organisations have been involved in trying to get him released,
and a formal complaint to ILO led to ILO’s Committee on Freedom of Association
demanding Urusov’s immediate acquittal in November 2012.

Urusov was released in March this year after it became known he had been nominated for the Svensson prize. The rest of his sentence has been converted into a fine
demanding 15% of his income throughout the remainder of his sentence, and he is
not permitted to leave the country.

The imprisonment and harassment of Urusov has become symbolic of the struggle of trade unions in Russia. The committee alludes to the fact that he has full support from all the Russian trade unions, and that he was nominated for the prize by a number of
trade union organisations throughout Europe. The international trade union
movement, led by the International Trade Union Confederation, has been highly
involved in his case.

The committee is concerned about the situation for workers’ rights in Russia. Freedom of association and the right to strike have long been under pressure, and it may appear that conditions are deteriorating further under Putin’s current regime. Thus, the prize is also being awarded in order to bring these conditions into focus, and in support of Russian workers.

2012: C.CAWDU

athit_kongThe Cambodian apparel worker’s union fights a brave struggle for safe working conditions and a living wage.

The committee`s citation:
The 2012 Arthur Svensson International Prize for Trade Union Rights is awarded to Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers Democratic Union (C.CAWDU).

C.CAWDU is awarded the prize for their persistent grass root struggle and mass mobilization for better pay and working conditions in the Cambodian clothing industry.

Clothing is one of Cambodia’s major export sectors. Informal supply-chain workers included, the industry counts 450.000 employees – most of them women. Among the clothing companies operating in Cambodia, we find international giants like H&M and GAP.

In Cambodia, union work is dangerous. The Cambodian law grants organizing and collective bargaining rights. However, there are numerous cases of harassment and violent attacks on union members; violations carried out by both employers and the state authorities. Several trade union leaders have been killed, and several times more sacked for union activity and joining strikes for decent working conditions.

Founded in 2000, C.CAWDU is already well established as a highly respected, independent trade union. C.CAWDU puts heavy emphasis on schooling its members and on mass mobilization. 95% of the almost 50.000 members are women. By means of protests and strikes joined by up to 200.000 workers, C.CAWDU has succeeded in pressuring the authorities to negotiate and increase the 61 USD minimum wage. As employers are resisting this claim, the struggle continues.

C.CAWDU’s chosen strategy is collective bargaining, sector-wise. From the perspective of the Asian clothing industry, and also the Cambodian working life in general, this strategy is a unique feature. Thanks to the strategy of collective bargaining, the clothing industry has managed to secure a minimum wage. Even though it’s low, the clothing industry is the only sector in Cambodia with a minimum wage. Relating to its collective efforts, the committee also notes that C.CAWDU took part in the establishment of the Cambodian main association CLC.

In 2012 the committee has chosen a grass- root organization to be awarded the Arthur Svensson Prize. By awarding C.CAWDU, we believe we can contribute to change, to making a difference for workers suffering under low wages and poor working conditions.

 2011: SHAHER SAE´D

2011 Arthur Svensson International Award - Shaher Sae´d Shaer Sae’d and the PGFTU fights for trade union rights in Palestine and that the Palestinian Self-Government administration shall understand their importance. They also work for Israel to stop the occupation of the Palestinian territories and the illegal settlements.

The committee`s citation:
Highlighting the political battle the candidate represents was an important factor in the choice of winner this year. Shaher Sae’d has shown outstanding leadership of the Palestinian trade union movement, while the political and financial framework has made this work especially difficult.

Continued focus on the Palestinians’ struggle is important for the Norwegian trade union movement. For this reason, the Committee is of the opinion that an award for Shaher Sae’d and his work contributes to making this work visible at a time when the Palestinian struggle is easily forgotten.

The Palestinian people have fought against occupation, as well as an independent state for more than 60 years. Under the leadership of Shaher Sae’d, PGFTU has shown a will for dialogue and has refused to isolate any Palestinian groups, including Hamas. He has also been open to a dialogue and cooperation with Histadrut, the organisation of trade unions in Israel.

Sae’d has carried out his work at the risk of his own and his family’s safety and has been imprisoned a number of times. Nevertheless, he has continued his work directed towards the Palestinian Self-Government administration to improve the rights of Palestinian workers. He is awarded the 2011 Arthur Svensson International Award for Union Rights for his work for the Palestinian trade union movement and the rights of Palestinian workers, his courage and not least for his ability to stand firm in this battle under extremely difficult political circumstances.

2010: WELLINGTON CHIBEBE

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As head of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade
Unions, 
Chibebe has been repeatedly arrested,
tortured and imprisoned because he has fought for trade union rights in Zimbabwe.

The committee`s citation:
The award is an expression of deep respect for Chibebe’s fearless commitment to labour rights and democracy in ZimbabweHis untiring efforts have gotten him arrested, torturedand imprisoned several timesThe jury considers Wellington Chibebe a symbol for theemployee’s global struggle for union rightssays Liv Undheim, chairman of the committee in 2010.

An ILO report presented in March 2010 confirmed that union representatives in Zimbabweare still suffering persecution, harassment, arrest and torture.

The award is a recognition to the ZCTU as an organization to constantly be standing uprightin the struggle for union rights in ZimbabweThe price of half a million Norwegian kroner isimportant for ZCTUs further work for labour rightssays Liv Undheim.

The award is a recognition to the ZCTU as an organization to constantly be standing uprightin the struggle for union rights in ZimbabweThe price of half a million Norwegian kroner isimportant for ZCTUs further work for labour rightssays Liv Undheim.