A recent report by the International Trade Union Congress (ITUC) has examined the role and rights of trade unions and worker organisations across some 139 countries. It has produced a global rights index based on what they perceive to be required rights for workers including the freedom of association, collective bargaining and the right to strike.
Out of the 139 countries that were surveyed only one (namely Denmark) honoured all 97 fundamental aspects of human rights. The UK fell into the same bracket as Sri Lanka, Tanzania and Venezuela.
Of course such reports always seek to name and shame certain states and are somewhat distorted by the fact that nation states are at different levels of development in terms of the level of sophistication of the relationships between the social partners or are at divergent levels of economic activity.
However, it is clear that the unions (at an international level) are adopting a more cross comparative approach and employers should be aware that trade unions may be using examples from other nation states to push forward agendas in their particular workplace.
It is interesting to note that the Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, has recently offered a stinging rebuke of unfettered market relationships. He is quoted as saying “We simply cannot take the capitalist system, which produces such plenty and so many solutions, for granted. Prosperity requires not just investment in economic capital, but investment in social capital”. He went on to state that “unchecked market fundamentalism can devour the social capital essential for the long term dynamism of capitalism itself. To counteract this tendency, individuals and their firms must have a sense of their responsibilities for the broader system”.
Carney is a keen observer and commentator on changes in the global economic paradigm and his comments should not be taken lightly. There is concern about the growing levels of inequality within economic frameworks and it will be interesting to see how nation states respond via their fiscal and regulatory policies in an attempt to continue to stimulate growth. It remains to be seen whether they also use the levers of employment law to provide greater protective rights to those who may be on the outskirts of protection. The trade unions at national and international level are keeping a close eye.
For more information contact:
Global Labour Law Unit
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