Tonia Novitz

Protecting the right to strike in the ILO and the European Court of Human Rights: the significance of Appn No 44873/09 Ognevenko v Russia

31 May 2019

By Tonia Novitz, Professor of Labour Law, University of Bristol

Freedom of association is a foundational principle of the International Labour Organisation (ILO). Not only is this principle recognised in the ILO Constitution, first established as Part XIII of the Treaty of Versailles, a century ago; but it is integral to the tripartite structure of the ILO, which relies on collective worker and employer organisations for its very operation. From the 1950s onwards, ILO supervisory bodies such as the Governing Body Committee on Freedom of Association (CFA) and the Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations (CEACR) have asserted that freedom of association also entails a right to strike. The CEACR has considered that the entitlement to organise and take industrial action is implicit in ILO Convention No. 87 on Freedom of Association and the Protection of the Right to Organise, which guarantees to trade unions the entitlement to organise their own activities. The CFA has considered the right to strike so vital to freedom of association that it is constitutionally guaranteed, regardless of ratification of ILO Convention No. 87 (or any other ILO Convention). On this basis, these committees have developed an extensive body of jurisprudence regarding protection of the right to strike and the legitimate restrictions that may be placed on its exercise – for it is not an unlimited entitlement, but must be subject to other aspects of private and public interest. That state of affairs continued for more than 50 years, until the employers’ group walked out of the ILO Conference Committee on the Application of Standards, objecting to protection of the right to strike under ILO Convention No. 87. This was a blow to the tripartite cooperation which had long been a feature of the ILO (see La Hovary, 2013 and Bellace, 2014), and to the potential influence of ILO standards regarding the right to strike in human rights litigation internationally, including before the European Court of Human Rights.

Are Conservatives ‘now the party of work’? The Trade Union Bill suggests not…

6 November 2015

By Tonia Novitz and Michael Ford, Professors of labour law at Bristol University

This post first appeared on October 12, 2015 on the policybristol website. It analysis the Bill, comments on its likely conflict with international law and provides links to useful documents. Since publication of this article, the Bill has passed through its Committee Stage and is due back in the Commons in its amended form for its third reading on 10th November 2015. The Government has also published its response to comments received to its consultation paper entitled Tackling Intimidation of Non-Striking Workers. IER will post further analysis of both developments in due course.

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