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Recognize Human Rights Day by Promoting Labor Rights at Your Workplace.

7 December 2009 No Comment

Level: Community — Pillar: Justice and Good Governance

This week’s featured story came in from Lamma Island, Hong Kong:

I was handing out leaflets as part of the Human Rights Carnival on the streets of Hong Kong on Sunday when I met a young fellow activist who complained to me that she is given inadequate and irregular pay as well as expected to work long hours at her workplace, an organization that fights for the rights of the indigenous peoples. When she gently confronted her manager and director on these issues, she was simply told that these practices were expected “in this line of work.” Conversations I have had with others working in the NGO sector in Hong Kong reveal a similar pattern: low pay, long hours and no benefits. This is especially ironic since we are all activists who encourage others to fight for their rights.
I know we care about what we do and often feel genuinely willing to make various sacrifices for our work. However, in doing so we might unthinkingly contribute to a work environment that pressures our colleagues to conform to these same practices. Article 23 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights recognizes that “everyone who works has the right to just and favorable remuneration” and Article 24 recognizes that “everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitations of working hours and periodic holidays with pay.”

On Human Rights Day this Thursday start a conversation with your colleagues about workers rights in your office. Do you and your colleagues feel you are overworked? Is your organization or business trying to do too much with too few resources? What about the workers cleaning your office, are their rights to adequate pay, rest and leisure respected? And your interns, are they remunerated justly and favorably? Think creatively about ways to address these issues. If you start by thinking about the treatment of workers at your office as rights that need to be protected, then you are heading towards the right direction.

YatMan Cheng
Lamma Island, Hong Kong

Use the comments section below to tell other readers what rights you want to see protected on Human Rights Day.

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