OVERVIEW: Workers' Rights as Human Rights

Workers’ Rights
Human Rights: 1802 -2013
The Struggle for Worker’s is as old as the Struggle for
Human Rights;
Whether you are a slave, a serf or “free” laborer, you are
living and toiling under conditions not of your own
The Struggle for Rights is a Struggle to Control your
Rights Human Rights cannot flourish where Workers’
Rights are not enforced.
What are “Labor Standards”?
◦ Most basic: minimum requirements of working conditions
prescribed through legislation, regulation, and laws
(relating to monetary and welfare benefits).
Modern Era: English Factory Legislation (1802)
marks the onset of the modern story of Labor
Standards and Workers’ Rights.
◦ Local to Global: Driven by the Workers Rights and
Standards movements:
 Industrialization and the “Labor Problem: the British Factory
System and “The Health and Morals of Apprentices Act (1802).
 Neoliberal Globalization and the “Labor Problem”: Global
Justice Movement (1999); the Worker’s Rights Consortium
(2000) WRC ; Institute for Global Labour and Human Rights (aka
National Labor Committee; 1981) The Institute
◦ International Labour Organization (1919) created the
possibility for general international standards:
 Philadelphia Conference (1944): Labor Rights as Human Rights;
 Fundamental Declaration of Rights at Work (1998): Consolidated
workers’ rights as human rights.
◦ Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948).
◦ Ideological Framing:
◦ From Narrow: Health and Males
◦ To Broad: Working Conditions and All Workers:
 Liberalism Vs. Social Democracy: Workers’ Rights Debate in
the 19th and 20th Centuries were framed by Liberal
(individual rights) and Social Democratic (Collective Rights).
 21st Century: Human Rights paradigm (which implies moral
and ethical arguments; individual and collective); that
Workers’ Rights are Human Rights that form the basis for
Human Development.
Convention 87*
(1) Freedom of Association: Workers and Employers have
a right to form and to join an organization of their choosing.
(2) Right to Collective Bargaining: All workers have the
right to collective bargaining
Convention 98*
(1) Right to Organize: Workers shall enjoy adequate
protection against acts of anti-union discrimination in respect
of their employment.
Convention No. 181*
(1) Private Employment Agencies can be used as a tool to
ensure that all workers, including those outsourced by
agencies have the same rights, including the right to
*(standard reference points—but not the only ones)
Article 23*
(1) Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of
employment, to just and favorable conditions of work
and to protection against unemployment.
(2) Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to
equal pay for equal work.
(3) Everyone who works has the right to just and
favorable remuneration ensuring for himself and his
family an existence worthy of human dignity, and
supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social
(4) Everyone has the right to form and to join trade
unions for the protection of his interests.
*(standard reference point—but not the only one)
We all have the right to a job of our choice that is
safe, pays well enough to live, and does not
infringe on our civil rights. We have a right to join
an organization of our choice.
Specific violations include:
 Minimum wage jobs that deny workers a living wage and
health care.
 Injuries and deaths resulting from unsafe or unhealthy
working conditions.
 Work requirements under welfare reform that force
recipients to take any job offered.
 Being fired or demoted for trying to form a union or for
complaining about working conditions.
 Mis-classification of employment status.
Born out of Crisis
Rooted in the Real Economy
The International Labour Organization (1919) predates the
United Nations and the Universal Declaration of Human
The ILO’s Mission sets the standard for Workers; Rights:
◦ To promote opportunities for men and women to obtain decent
and productive work, in conditions of freedom, equity,
security and human dignity, which is summed up by the
“Decent work as a global goal”
Specialized agency of the
182 member States
40 field offices throughout
the world
• Devoted to advancing
opportunities for women
and men to obtain decent
and productive work in
conditions of freedom,
equity, security and
human dignity
• Placing employment at
the heart of development
The only tripartite organization in the UN.
◦ Employers’ and workers’ representatives have an equal
voice with that of governments
Operates with practical, concrete and specific
contributions from its tripartite constituents
◦ Promote labor standards
◦ Create greater opportunities for decent employment
◦ Enhance coverage and effectiveness of social protection
– Strengthen tripartism and
social dialogue to advance
these goals.
In its first year, the ILO adopted 6 conventions, including
those covering…
Hours of Work
Unemployment Insurance
Maternity Protection
Minimum Age
Night work for Women and Youth.
At the end of Second World War, the ILO adopted the
Declaration of Philadelphia to broaden its aims and
– The Declaration was adopted by the ILO in 1944
and is the equivalent of what an organization
commonly refers to as its mission.
– In 1946, the ILO became the first specialized
agency associated with the newly formed United
Nations, following the dissolution of the League of
– On its 50th anniversary in 1969, the ILO was
awarded the Nobel Peace Prize
“The General Conference of
the International Labour
Organisation, meeting in its
Twenty-sixth Session in
Philadelphia, hereby adopts,
this tenth day of May in the
year nineteen hundred and
forty-four, the present
Declaration of the aims and
purposes of the International
Labour Organisation and of
the principles which should
inspire the policy of its
The Conference reaffirms the
fundamental principles on
which the Organisation is
based and, in particular, that:
 labour is not a commodity;
 freedom of expression and of
association are essential to
sustained progress;
 poverty anywhere constitutes
a danger to prosperity
 the war against want requires
to be carried on with
unrelenting vigour within
each nation…with a view to
the promotion of the common
The ILO seeks to promote social justice and
internationally recognized human and labor rights.
The ILO formulates international labour standards.
These standards take the form of Conventions and
Recommendations, which set minimum standards in the
field of fundamental labor rights: freedom of association,
the right to organize, the right to collective bargaining,
the abolition of forced labor, equality of opportunity and
treatment, as well as other standards addressing
conditions spanning across the entire spectrum of workrelated issues.
Subjects addressed by the ILO’s ILS
International labour standards respond to a growing number of needs and
challenges experienced by workers and employers in the globalized economy.
The following subjects are covered by international labour standards:
Freedom of association
Collective bargaining
Forced labour
Child labour
Equality of opportunity and treatment
Tripartite consultation
Labour administration
Labour inspection
Employment policy
Employment promotion
Vocational guidance and training
Employment security
Working time
Occupational safety and health
Social security
Maternity protection
Social policy
Migrant workers
Dock workers
Indigenous and tribal peoples
Other specific categories of
International labour standards are legal instruments drawn up by the
ILO’s constituents (governments, employers and workers) which set
out basic principles and rights at work.
ILS are divided into:
These are legally binding
treaties that are subject to
by member States.
These serve as non-binding
They can also be autonomous,
i.e., not
linked a Convention.
In many cases, a Convention lays down the basic principles to be implemented
by ratifying countries, while a related Recommendation supplements the
Convention by providing more detailed guidelines on its implementation.
Binding means mandatory as soon as a country has ratified a Convention and
integrated it into national law.
Today, the ILO’s Governing Body has identified eight “fundamental”
These principles are also covered by the ILO Declaration on Fundamental
Principles and Rights at Work (1998)
In 1995, the ILO launched a campaign
for the universal ratification of these
eight Conventions.
These cover subjects considered to be fundamental principles and rights at work:
Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise Convention, 1948 (No. 87)
Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining Convention, 1949 (No. 98)
Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29)
Abolition of Forced Labour Convention, 1957 (No. 105)
Minimum Age Convention, 1973 (No. 138)
Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999 (No. 182)
Equal Remuneration Convention, 1951 (No. 100)
Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Convention, 1958 (No. 111)
The ILO’s Governing Body has also designated another four
Conventions as “priority” instruments, thereby encouraging member
States to ratify them because of their importance for the functioning of
the international labour standards system. (In addition, there are more
than 150 Technical Conventions.
Labour Inspection Convention, 1947 (No. 81)
Labour Inspection (Agriculture) Convention, 1969 (No. 129)
Tripartite Consultation (International Labour Standards) Convention, 1976 (No.
Employment Policy Convention, 1964 (No. 122)
Work is central to people’s well being
Creating decent work should be at the heart of
development policy
Make globalization more
inclusive and fair
Centered on the ILO’s key strategic objectives…
◦ Employment
 The principal route out of poverty is work
◦ Rights
 People in poverty need
representation, participation
and voice
◦ Protection
 Earning power is suppressed
by marginalization and lack
support systems
◦ Dialogue
 The only way to solve
problems peacefully
The ILO headquarters is in Geneva,
The Office employs some 1,900
officials of more than one hundred
nationalities at its Geneva
headquarters and in forty offices
throughout the world. In addition,
some 600 experts carry out missions
under the technical cooperation
• Guy Ryder was elected as the 10th GD
by the Governing Body in May 2012
and took office on 1 October, 2012.
• He studied Social and Political
Sciences at the University of
Cambridge and Latin American
Studies at the University of Liverpool.