After more than two years of conflict, the right to strike was re-affirmed at the International Labour Organization on 25 February during the Tripartite Meeting on the Freedom of Association.
Employers brought the ILO’s supervisory mechanism to a standstill by challenging the existence of an international right to strike and the authority of the ILO. This conflict also endangered decades of ILO jurisprudence on the right to strike.
“Today governments and social partners have re-affirmed the right to strike as a fundamental right at work, and the role of the ILO supervisory mechanism,” said Rosa Pavanelli, PSI General Secretary. “These same governments are currently negotiating the Post 2015 Development Agenda and international trade agreements. We need to make sure that they show the same commitment to international labour standards across the board. While the recognition of an international right to strike is essential, attacks on the right to strike at national level are widespread. Therefore PSI will continue its campaign for the right to strike for all workers,” she added.
Sharan Burrow, ITUC General Secretary, said, “Having created the crisis, employer groups and some governments were refusing to allow the issue to be taken to the International Court of Justice even though the ILO Constitution says it should be. We have now managed to negotiate a solution which protects the fundamental right of workers to take strike action, and allows the ILO to resume fully its work to supervise how governments respect their international labour standards obligations.”
Union and employer representatives have now reached an understanding at a special ILO meeting this week to end the impasse, based on recognition of the right to take industrial action, backed by explicit recognition from governments of the right to strike, linked to ILO Convention 87 on Freedom of Association. This agreement is the result of a successful international union mobilisation on 18 February in support of the right to strike and months of lobbying governments and employers around the world.
Steve Cotton, ITF General Secretary, commented, “There is no doubt that without the huge mobilisation efforts of the global union federations and trade union organisations worldwide, the basic human right to withdraw your labour could have been removed. It is down to all of our efforts that the attempt was defeated – and it will be down to all of us to ensure that it is protected."
Outcome document of the meeting: Tripartite Meeting on the Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise Convention, 1948 (No. 87), in relation to the right to strike and the modalities and practices of strike action at national level