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INTERNATIONAL LABOUR RIGHTS – NEW METHODS OF ENFORCEMENT BY STEVE GIBBONS


Steve Gibbons is Head of Employment Law Services at the independent research group Incomes Data Services. He is also a member of the British Committee of ICTUR and Deputy Editor of the magazine International Union Rights. This publication, like all publications of the Institute, represents not the collective views of the Institute but only the views of the author. The responsibility of the Institute is limited to approving its publication as worthy of consideration within the labour movement.

ISBN 1 8732 71 63 July 1998 published by the Institute of Employment Rights 160 Falcon Road London SW11 2LN 0171 738 9511 e-mail ier@gn.apc.org designed by Megan Dobney 0181 761 7532 printed by Upstream (TU) 0171 358 1344 ÂŁ6.50 for trade unions and students ÂŁ20 others THE

INSTITUTE OF

EMPLOYMENT RIGHTS


international labour rights – new methods of enforcement

executive summary

by Steve Gibbons

i


contents

glossary

iv

FOREWORD

John Hendy QC

v

CHAPTER 1

introduction

1

CHAPTER 2

globalisation – the nature of the international economy textiles, clothing and footwear – international story the link between labour rights and economics

5 7 7

international labour rights – new methods of enforcement

CHAPTER 3

ii

making the labour rights link – the international institutions WTO – the social clause ILO NAFTA the new EU GSP labour rights clause the US GSP program

9 9 10 12 13 16

CHAPTER 4

corporate codes of conduct the content of codes independent monitoring of codes corporate codes in (in)action – Nike future developments codes of conduct – some preliminary conclusions

18 18 19 21 23 25


CHAPTER 5

conclusions making codes of conduct work industrial action and solidarity support putting trade unions at the centre

27 27 29 30

APPENDIX 1

participants in the ETI

31

APPENDIX 2

NAALC labor principles

32

APPENDIX 3

the ICFTU basic code of labour practices

34

Nike’s revised code of conduct

40

endnotes

43

recent publications

46

contents

APPENDIX 4

iii


foreword

This year sees the 50th anniversary of the adoption of ILO Convention 87, probably the most important employment law in the world. It is this Convention that requires the Member States of the ILO to respect freedom of association. In an ideal world we should be celebrating the advances made over the last 50 years. However, all over the world the basic rights of workers are violated on a day-to-day basis. In Colombia in 1997 some 156 trade unionists were killed and, according to the ICFTU, many of them were the victims of paramilitary groups which operate hand in hand with the government’s forces. These murders often took place while trade unions were in negotiation and virtually all have remained unpunished. In Indonesia and Nigeria valiant trade unionists have been imprisoned for years. In Australia, in Ontario, in New Zealand and of course in the UK repressive laws against trade unions have been introduced in recent years.

There is a sign of change however. The debate on international labour rights and enforcing labour standards across national borders is more advanced and more sophisticated than it has ever been before. The substantial arguments over the inclusion of a ‘social clause’ in trade agreements has made many people look at globalisation as is affects the rights of working people. On another dimension many companies are being forced to adopt codes of conduct on labour standards in relation to their suppliers.

foreword

The rapid ‘globalisation’ of the world economy has carried with it an increasing assault on the rights of workers in all countries. As multinational corporations seek out the highest profit, workers – whether in Tijuana or Tipperary – are told the same story – fewer rights, lower wages, higher productivity.

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We can celebrate many important initiatives to protect labour rights as this booklet outlines. We should look carefully, not just at the new mechanisms, but at the examples set for us by trade unionists the world over – many operating in circumstances far more difficult than those we face in Europe. There are many new ways to try to tackle the abuse of labour rights that blight our planet hour by hour. This excellent booklet by Steve Gibbons is a major contribution to new methods of solidarity and legal strategy to rectify these abuses as we move towards the millennium.

international labour rights – new methods of enforcement

John Hendy QC

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WHAT IS THE INSTITUTE? The Institute of Employment Rights was launched on 28th February 1989. As a labour law “think tank”, supported by the trade union movement its purpose is to provide research, ideas and detailed argument. In 1994 the Institute was granted charitable status. The Institute has attracted wide and distinguished support. Among the membership are John Hendy QC, Professor Keith Ewing, Lord McCarthy, Sir Peter Pain, and the general secretaries of Britain’s largest trade unions. The results of the work of the Institute are published in papers and booklets. It also provides short articles, free of legal jargon, for trade union journals and other publications. The Institute provides tools of analysis and debate for the trade union movement in the area of labour law. We are not a campaigning organisation. The Institute does not assume that legal measures can offer ultimate solutions for political, economic and social problems. However, it recognises that law has a part to play in influencing the employment relationship, both individually and collectively. Funding is from various sources, including subscriptions which entitle subscribers to a copy of all our new publications. If you are interested in subscribing or would like to know more about the Institute, then contact us at 160 Falcon Road, London SW11 2LN, 0171 738 9511.

£6.50 TRADE UNIONS AND STUDENTS £20 OTHERS

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