ILO deal upholds the right to strike

A victory for workers after years of deadlock and stalling by employers


Following two years of wrecking tactics and stalling by employers, pressure and widespread mobilisation from trade unions finally succeeded when the International Labour Organisation (ILO) agreed to uphold the right of workers to strike at its most recent meeting on 25 February.

In a joint statement after the meeting, the employers’ and workers’ unions affirmed that the right of workers to take industrial action continues to be recognised by the ILO.

There has been deadlock at the ILO since 2012 as employers’ representatives (including representatives of the UK’s CBI) stalled and blocked proposals, stating that the right to strike was not explicitly expressed in ILO Convention 87, even though for years it has been universally accepted by governments, employers and trade unions.

The result is that many claims of serious violations of the right to strike have gone unheard at the ILO.

The CBI had previously described the right to strike as a ‘dreaded theme’, and said that there had to be a counter to ‘incredibly well organised trade unions’ as welI as admitting that they were contributing to the wrecking operation at the ILO discussion.

On 18 February, global unions ran a day of protest in defence of the right to strike.

A deal was secured after a package of measures was agreed which included the protection of the fundamental right of workers to take strike action, and which allowed the ILO to resume fully its work to supervise how governments respect their international labour standards obligations.

The Government Group, which had previously been split on the issue, strongly endorsed the right to strike at the February meeting.

In a statement at the discussions it said:

“The Government Group recognises that the right to strike is linked to freedom of association, which is a fundamental principle and right at work of the ILO.

“The Government Group specifically recognises that without protecting a right to strike, Freedom of Association, in particular the right to organise activities for the purpose of promoting and protecting workers’ interests, cannot be fully realised.”

Tony Burke is assistant general secretary of Unite

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