India, China, Russia, US are among 14 countries opposing ILO convention 87 on workers right to association being referred to the International Court of Justice. Trade unions understand that the workers’ right to strike is integral to this convention.
India has opposed referring a disputed understanding of convention 87 of the International Labour Organisation to the International Court of Justice.
ILO’s Convention 87 concerns workers’ freedom of association and protection of their right to organise. It is one of the eight conventions that form the core of international labour laws, as interpreted by the declaration on fundamental principles and rights at work.
India is among the 14 government members of the ILO who, along with employers’ groups are challenging the long-accepted belief that ILO Convention 87 on freedom of association up-holds the right to strike.
A key ILO meeting on the right to strike is due to be held from 23-25 February.
Other government members opposing the right to strike include Algeria, Angola, Cambodia, China, Korea, Ghana, Iran, Russia, Sudan, UAE, USA and Zimbabwe.
The governing body of the ILO is composed of 28 governments, 14 employers and 14 workers who are its 56 titular members and 66 deputy members comprising of another 28 governments, 19 employers and 19 workers.
India is among 10 permanent titular government members because of its “chief industrial importance”.
14 of the 28 deputy government members too oppose referring the issue to the ICJ. Though these countries don’t have a vote, yet they do exercise influence. These countries include Bangladesh and Pakistan.
Strikes a last resort
The right to strike was never as contentious an issue. In 2015, the employers’ group at the ILO even recognised the right to strike following a crucial tripartite meeting.
A joint statement from the employers’ and workers’ groups at that meeting affirmed that the right to industrial action was recognized by the ILO. It was then thought that the matter had been settled for good.
According to trade union forum IndustriAll, “the fundamental right to strike is under attack from employers and governments at the ILO.”
“Eliminating this human right would have serious repercussions on us all,” it says.
The umbrella labour union organisation argues that striking is a last resort for workers, but sometimes the only tool for them to protect themselves. It helps them avoid being at the complete mercy of their employers.
By disputing the long-standing interpretation of ILO’s Convention 87, IndustriAll says, government’s will have no inhibitions to “ban industrial action and punish people who dare to strike.” Knowing that most strikes are over pay and dignified working conditions, governments are blatantly siding with big business.