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Human Rights/Labour Rights. Labour Rights in the International Human Rights System. Labour was first international human rights subject. Anti-slavery movement Child Labour campaign with industrial revolution Pre-WWI adoption of labour standards led by Switzerland.

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Human Rights/Labour Rights

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Human Rights/Labour Rights

Labour Rights in the

International Human Rights


Labour was first internationalhuman rights subject

  • Anti-slavery movement

  • Child Labour campaign with industrial revolution

  • Pre-WWI adoption of labour standards led by Switzerland

The New International Systemcreated in 1919

  • Two organizations established:

    • League of Nations: Military and political peace, purely inter-governmental

    • International Labour Organization: To keep the social peace – created tripartite

  • The League died - and the UN was born

  • The ILO survived and became the first specialized agency

ILO: The Only TripartiteSpecialized Agency

  • 182 Members

  • Twospecial distinctions: tripartism and standards

  • All decisions on tripartite basis

  • Each country represented by

    • Government representatives

    • Most representative organization of workers

    • Most representative organization of employers

ILO Structure

  • International Labour Conference

    • Annual – over 4,000 delegates

    • Each country represented by 2 Govt, 1 Worker, 1 Employer (but delegationsusuallylarger)

  • Governing Body

    • 56 members: 28 Goverments (10 permanent), 14 Worker, 14 Employer

  • International Labour Office

Major objectives

Social Justice: There canbe no lasting peacewithout social justice

Elimination of poverty: Povertyanywhereis a threat to prosperityeverywhere

Employmentcreation: full, productive and freely-chosenemployment

Decentwork in the face of globalization

ILO standards forworkers’ rights

  • All action based on ILO standards and Constitutional principles

  • Strong supervision

  • Supplemented by promotional activities

  • Continuous follow-up

  • Continuous review

  • Assistance for implementation

ILO Standards for Human Rights

  • Principal instruments: 188 Conventions, 199 Recommendations (2008)

  • Regular reporting, with input from employers’ and workers’ organizations

  • Unified supervisory body – detailed comments

  • Complaints procedures

  • Supervision basis of assistance

Supervision of ILO standards

  • Basic provision: regular supervision on the basis of Government reports, withworker and employer input – more than 2,000 reports eachyear

  • 2 Constitutional complaints mechanisms

    • Representations

    • Complaints

  • Committee on Freedom of Association

Article 22: supervision of ratified Conventions

Government reports

Employers and workers

(art. 23)

Committee of Experts

Direct requests

to governments


to governments

Conference Comittee

Constitutional complaints


  • by workers’ or employers’ organizations

  • Dealtwith by Governing Body Committee


  • By governments, Conferencedelegates, Governing Body

  • Examined by Commission of Inquiry

Committee on Freedom of Association

Created in 1951 by agreement with UN ECOSOC

Complaints of violations of freedom of association

Filed by workers’ or employers’ organizations

DOES NOT depend on ratification: any ILO member State

Basic ILO Human Rights Subjects

Freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining

  • Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize Convention, 1948 (No. 87)

  • Right to Organize and Collective Bargaining Convention, 1949 (No. 98)

The elimination of all forms of forced or compulsory labour

  • Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29)

  • Abolition of Forced Labour Convention, 1957 (No. 105)

  • The elimination of discrimination in employment and occupation

  • Equal Remuneration Convention, 1951 (No. 100)

  • Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Convention, 1958 (No. 111)

The effective abolition of child labour

  • Minimum Age Convention, 1973 (No. 138)

  • Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999 (No. 182)

Core Labour StandardsWidely Ratified

  • More than 125 countries ratified all 8 CLS (July 2008)

  • Some 7,600 ratifications in all

  • Ongoing ratification campaign: letters, Conference discussions, assistance

Other Human Rights Subjectsdealing with labour

  • See Arts. 6 to 8 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights:

  • Right to work (art. 6)

  • Just and favourable conditions of work (art. 7)

  • Fair wages and equal remuneration for work of equal value;

  • Safe and healthy working conditions;

  • Equal opportunity for everyone to be promoted in his employment to an appropriate higher level;

  • Rest, leisure and reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay, as well as remuneration for public holidays.

And more recent UN instruments

  • Convention on Migrant Workers

    • Supplements earlier ILO standards

    • Reports sent on priority basis to ILO for advice

  • Convention on Rights of Disabled Persons

    • Heavy ILO involvement in adoption, independent ILO work

ILO Declaration on FundamentalPrinciples and Rights at Work

  • Adopted 1998

  • Response to globalization

  • Promotional approach, geared to non-ratifying States

  • Assistance to implement principles and standards, for all States

Declaration of Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work

  • ‘an obligation, arising from the very fact of membership in the Organization, to respect, to promote and to realize, in good faith and in accordance with the Constitution, the fundamental rights which are the subjects’ of the eight ILO Conventions recognized as fundamental.

Declaration follow-up and Assistance

  • Global reports

  • Periodic reports

  • Significant technical assistance on:

    • Special Action Programme on Forced Labour

    • Freedom of Association

    • Discriminaiton

International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour

  • ILO’s largest assistance programme

  • Based on time-bound programmes

  • Large number of countries (nearly 90 in 2008)

  • Significantresults

Other subjects of ILO standards and assistance

  • Employers’ and workers’ organizations

  • Gender

  • Indigenous and Tribal Peoples (C. 169)

  • Social finance

  • Labour legislation and administration

  • Employment promotion

  • Corporate social responsibility

  • ……et al.

Labour standards and other international organizations

  • Part of global human rights texts

    • Universal Declaration of Human Rights

    • Covenants

    • Different UN treaties: CEDAW, CRC, CERD, Migrants

    • Regional instruments: Europe, Americas

International financial institutions

  • Last five years or so

  • Adoption by a series of international (and national) financial institutions of labour conditionalities

    • ADB

    • IFC

    • IADB

    • EBRD

  • But continued reticence by some IFIs on relation between labour law and development issues

  • OECD: 1996/2000 book

  • Other recent work

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