Hands off our right to strike!

International issues Today (18 February) the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) will stage a worldwide action day in defence of the globally regulated right to strike.The right to strike is the last resort for workers, enabling them to demand reasonable working conditions.

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Conflict within the ILO 

The question of globally regulated right to strike is highly relevant since there is an ongoing conflict precisely concerning the right to strike in the UN body, the ILO.The employers are acting in a way that threatens the right to strike.This has led to obstruction of much of the important work done by the ILO.We are therefore convinced that the employers must stop their actions.

LO encourages the governments in the Nordic countries to continue to support our demands for recognition of the globally regulated right to strike.We also encourage the governments to support the workers of the world by using their power to influence other states and employers to defend human rights in working life.

The conflict arises from the employers’ opinion that ILO Convention No. 87 on freedom of association and protection of the right to organise does not regulate the right to strike.As early as in 1952 the parties were agreed that the right to strike is a given component of the right of association.It is crucial to the ability of trade unions to defend and influence their members’ rights.

But now the employer group in the ILO, which includes Nordic employers, no longer supports this practice. This means the disappearance of the only protection for the right to strike in many countries.It is a deliberately heavy blow to everyone who works and strives for acceptable working and living conditions.It also affects labour markets globally, with downward pressure on wages and conditions, as well as leaving an opening for unfair competition.This leads in turn to poorer and slower development of economies and labour markets.That is why it is both surprising and remarkable that the employers do not defend the right to strike and human rights at work.

Workers' rights are being undermined

The consequences of the employers’ deliberate strategy to weaken the ILO and workers’ fundamental rights have already become apparent.In Burma, where there is no national right to strike, the employers are now referring to the conflict within the ILO and denying people’s right to strike.  We have also seen similar developments elsewhere; not only in Belarus, Indonesia and Cambodia, but also in Canada and Belgium.The right to strike is being questioned or restricted around the world.

The Nordic employers’ undermining of the right to strike and support of the employers in the ILO allows violations to the right to strike, not least in developing countries.This is far from the Nordic tradition of responsible social partners.It is indefensible and should cease immediately.

The conflict within the ILO has continued for more than three years and it is very difficult to find a solution.That is why the workers have proposed that the conflict on the right to strike must be settled in the International Court of Justice in The Hague.The employer side is against this, with strong support from the Nordic employers.This has created a blocked ILO.

For the workers of the world a life without human rights at work, such as the right to strike and the right to join a trade union, is a life of very limited future prospects.

It will be a life of poverty, working under miserable conditions or even forced labour.When basic rights at work are no longer guaranteed it is not just a few people who are affected – everyone is affected.

Hands off our right to strike!