Freedom of association is a fundamental human right guaranteed by major international human rights standards, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and ILO conventions. Freedom of association is crucial to the functioning of a democracy and is an essential condition for the exercise of other human rights. In the human rights and business context, freedom of association is most frequently understood as the right of workers “to join organizations of their own choosing without previous authorization” (ILO Convention 87), which is a fundamental enabling right. It is a prerequisite for many other basic labour rights, as the ability of workers to organise allows them to use their collective power to achieve improved labour rights, health and safety at the workplace, the right not to be discriminated against and freedom from forced labour and child labour, amongst many others. The principle of freedom of association is at the core of the ILO’s values: it is enshrined in the ILO Constitution (1919), the ILO Declaration of Philadelphia (1944), and the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work (1998). It is also a right proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), has been included in a number of voluntary initiatives such as the Ethical Trading Initiative Base Code and is enshrined in Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights. In support of the latter, the Council of Europe notes that member states should take appropriate measures to ensure that the right to freedom of association can be effectively enjoyed without discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity.+ Read more
Nevertheless, there continue to be challenges in applying these principles despite clarity from international standards, the work of the ILO Committee on Freedom of Association, and other supervisory mechanisms that aim to ensure that this fundamental human right is respected the world over. In some states, certain categories of workers (for example public servants, seafarers, workers in export processing zones) are denied the right of association, workers’ organisations are illegally suspended or interfered with, and in extreme cases, trade unionists have been arrested or killed. As reported by International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) in its Global Rights Index 2017, the number of states experiencing physical violence and threats against workers rose by 10% in just one year. Furthermore, attacks on union members such as threats, kidnappings and physical violence from state security forces and gangs working on behalf of companies, were documented in 59 states – a rise from 52 in the year before. Trade unionists were detained or arrested in 44 states, and dismissal and other discriminative behaviour was recorded in over 70. The situation is the worst for trade unionists in the Middle East and North Africa, where the very fact of being a trade unionist in many of the states in the region often makes the exercise of freedom of association impossible in practice. Moreover, the persistence of the kafala or sponsorship system systematically excludes millions of migrant workers from the right to freedom of association. Sub-Saharan Africa closely follows these trends, including the non-recognition of trade unions for collective bargaining. While trade unions in Europe benefit from a strong tradition of industrial relations, this position could be changing. For example, in 2017 the UK passed “the worst anti-union legislation”. Overall, in 2017, 84 out of 139 states covered by the index excluded certain types of workers from the right to freedom of association. Additionally, 116 states violated the right to strike in practice in various forms, including exclusion/restriction based on the objective and type of the strike, the imposition of compulsory arbitration and interference in strike action. [Global Rights Index 2017].
The Commentary to Guiding Principle 29 highlights that while the operational-level grievance mechanisms could complement the wider stakeholder engagement and collective bargaining processes, they cannot substitute for either. Moreover, “ they should not be used to undermine the role of legitimate trade unions in addressing labour-related disputes, nor to preclude access to judicial or other non-judicial grievance mechanisms.” Additionally, Guiding Principle 30 states that “[i]ndustry, multi-stakeholder and other collaborative initiatives that are based on respect for human rights-related standards should ensure that effective grievance mechanisms are available”. The accompanying Commentary refers to trade unions, and is therefore premised on freedom of association existing. While employers are not required to take on an active role in supporting worker’s efforts to associate or organise, they must ensure that workers can exercise this right in a climate free of violence, pressure, fear and threats. Businesses can seek specific guidance and assistance on this from the ILO Helpdesk. This could be of particular help in circumstances where there are no adequate laws in place, or those that are do not meet international standards, but a business would nonetheless like to create policies that responsibly respect the right to freedom of association.
While some businesses take steps to ensure freedom of association, they are still too few and far between. Still, it is important to note some positive steps by businesses, such as those entering into International Framework Agreements. These agreements are formed between multinational companies and a Global Union Federation (GUF) in order to establish “an ongoing relationship between the parties and ensure that the company respects the same standards in all the countries where it operates”.
Freedom of association is reflected in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development under SDG target 8.8 (Protect labour rights and promote safe and secure working environments for all workers, including migrant workers, in particular women migrants, and those in precarious employment). The indicator designed to measure progress towards the freedom of association aspect of SDG 8.8 intends to measure the “level of national compliance with labour rights (freedom of association and collective bargaining) based on International Labour Organization (ILO) textual sources and national legislation, by sex and migrant status.” Business efforts to ensure respect for freedom of association and collective bargaining rights in alignment with ILO standards can also thus support more effective contributions to the achievement of this SDG Target.
16) Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions
What National Action Plans say on Freedom of association
Action point 19
Promote best practice of SMEs that adopt responsible supply chain management, especially through the « CSR Compass » tool
The right to freedom of association is only quoted in this point where is it mentioned as one among several issues that the CSR Compass covers.
Glossary [page 9]
“The Declaration of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) regarding fundamental principles and rights, issued in 1998, commits ILO Member States to respect and promote principles and rights in four categories – discrimination at work, freedom of association and the rights to collective bargaining, elimination of compulsory labour and abolition of child labour –whether or not they have ratified the relevant Conventions.”
[The Plan] recognizes the need to: (i) continue working to prevent union violence and encourage the promotion of workers’ rights and, (ii) continue with the national government’s commitment to guarantee the protection of human rights and the process of articulation between institutions and unions to advance in the construction of scenarios that benefit the country’s workers and union leaders.
VIII. FUNDAMENTAL PILLARS
i. Fundamental Pillar 1: The State’s obligation to protect human rights
Strand 5 [Eje nº 5]: Articulating spaces for social dialogue and effective participation
- The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development will implement strategies to continue to guarantee the right of association of small and medium producers and participation of farmers in public policy decisions affecting the sector.
ii. Fundamental Pillar 2: The duty of business to respect human rights
Strand 1 [Eje nº 1]: Provide companies with the tools to fulfil their responsibility to respect human rights
- The Ministry of Labour will promote respect for the fundamental right of association, unionisation and bargaining through accompaniment and training.
Strand 3 [Eje nº 3]: Train public and private companies on the need to mitigate the consequences of possible human rights impacts due to their operations, products or services provided, with an emphasis on those located in the region
- The Ministry of Labour [Mintrabajo] will support the strengthening of the trade union association process through training focused on raising awareness among the labour force on the right to association.
Pillar II, Scope and content of the obligation to respect human rights [page 30-31]
“What human rights? States bear liability for the full range of human rights. Businesses are required to respect those rights that could be affected by their operations, and must do so to the extent of a definite minimum, generally acknowledged fundamental standard deriving from: …
- the International Labour Organisation’s core conventions. [the footnote states that “There are eight such “core conventions”, dealing with forced labour (the 1930 and 1957 conventions), freedom of association, the right to collective bargaining, equal remuneration, discrimination, minimum worker ages, and the eradication of child labour.”]
These rights are fleshed out in a series of other specific instruments, such as the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises.
In practice, this concerns matters such as the ban on forced labour, child labour, and life- or health-threatening working conditions, the ban on workplace discrimination, the hindrance of association and collective bargaining, etc.”
Representation in court, legal assistance [page 44-45]
This section highlights a range of associations which can represent parties in certain types of procedures, for example:
“Even today, a trade union organisation may represent its members and associations may, in the course of their activities, represent victims of discrimination or foreign nationals in labour cases. It is worth considering expanding opportunities for representation by those organisations in the future.”
Conclusion [page 54-55]
“…an informal discussion platform will be set up to deal with matters related to business and human rights. That platform will meet as required to discuss questions of immediate interest. Representatives of state administration, businesses, the non-profit sector and trade unions will be invited.
- In the performance of tasks under the Action Plan, team up with business associations (the Czech Chamber of Commerce, the Confederation of Industry, the Confederation of Employers’ and Business Associations of the Czech Republic, and industry associations), trade unions and NGOs active in corporate social responsibility, and hold dialogue with them on the further development of topics related to business and human rights.
Coordinator: Ministry for Human Rights and all ministries concerned
2.0 The state duty to protect human rights
2.3 Actions taken [page 12-13]
Protection of human rights in the business sphere in Danish legislation
“The Working Environment Act of 2005 and the Act on the Work of Young Persons from 2005 implement the EU Directive 94 /33/EC from 1994 on the protection of young workers, and the 1956 Constitutional Act of Denmark covers freedom of association and assembly.”
1 The state obligation to protect human rights
1.1 Human rights in Finnish legislation [page 13]
“Our reinforced Constitution protects the inviolability of human dignity as well as the freedom and rights of individuals, and promotes justice in society. Fundamental rights (such as equality, freedom of movement, protection of privacy, freedom of association, freedom of speech and the right to social security and judicial protection) have been included in the Constitution”
II- Businesses’ Responsibility to Respect Human Rights
Introduction [page 37]
The NAP refers to framework agreements on by citing the CSR Platform’s recommendation of November 2014 to “encourage the generalization and strengthening of International Framework Agreements including criteria for human rights respect, measures to ensure regular monitoring of their effective implementation and a mechanism of evaluation ex-post.”
3. Risk Analysis and Impact Assessment
Practical Tools Addressing Specific Issues [page 41]
- ILO has created a business helpdesk providing questions and answers, resources and tools on issues connected with workers’ rights: …, freedom of association, … It also offers free and confidential assistance for company directors and workers.
4. International Framework Agreements [page 42]
An international framework agreement is an instrument negotiated between a multinational enterprise and a global union federation. It defines the rights of those working for the group’s subsidiaries and subcontractors around the world, as well as the social and environmental standards the parties wish to comply with. Generally, the agreement includes a monitoring mechanism involving trade union participation. International framework agreements enable businesses to make international commitments to human rights by working with employees and trade unions and respecting the same standards in all the countries they operate in. Businesses should be encouraged to conclude such agreements.
As of October 2015, 112 international framework agreements had been signed around the world.
One of France’s goals under this action plan is to significantly increase the number of international framework agreements.
- France encourages the generalization and reinforcement of international framework agreements that include human rights criteria, measures to regularly monitor their implementation and ex-post evaluation mechanisms
5. Employee Representatives [page 43]
In its 2013 opinion, the CNCDH recommended that “employee and union representatives be kept informed and consulted and be able to express their opinions when it comes to producing a company’s management report”, as this would “improve the credibility of such reports”. It added that each company should “be obliged to indicate whether there is in fact any form of union or employee representation within each of its entities and subsidiaries.”
The Act of 14 June 2013 on job security introduced several new provisions in this field. It gave employee representatives the right to vote on the administrative boards of large French companies (meaning they also had the right to discuss the content of management reports submitted to these boards). The act also reinforced obligations to keep employees informed by improving processes for consulting with and providing information to works councils.
Actions Underway [page 44]
- France ensures staff representative bodies have sufficient operating resources to defend human rights.
III- Access to Remedy
1. Judicial Mechanisms – At the National Level
The Jurisdiction of French Courts to Hear Criminal Matters [page 49]
More specifically, French legislation is strict in combating human rights violations by legal entities. Under French law, it is a criminal offence for companies to engage in activities that breach equality laws (…, anti-union discrimination, …), …, or social, health and safety laws (hindering organizations representing employees, …).
2. Non-Judicial Mechanisms – At the International Level
2.2 ILO Enforcement Mechanisms [page 56]
There are also three specific procedures for examining representations and complaints: …, and the special procedure for examining complaints about freedom of association (heard by the Committee on Freedom of Association).
2.4 The European Social Charter [page 57]
In order to promote and guarantee social rights not covered in the European Convention on Human Rights, the Council of Europe drew up the European Social Charter, which was adopted in Turin in 1961. Significantly, the 1961 Charter covers …, the right to organize, the right to bargain collectively, …
… France ratified the revised 1996 version of the European Social Charter, which took effect on 7 May 1999, at the same time as the 1995 Protocol providing for a system of collective complaints (ratified by 15 of the Council of Europe’s 47 Member States).
To enforce the Charter, a European Committee of Social Rights was created. This Committee adopts conclusions on the national reports submitted by State Parties, and adopts non-binding “decisions” on collective complaints lodged by national and international employers’ and employees’ organizations and NGOs. These conclusions and decisions must be approved by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe.
There is no mention of freedom of association in the Business and Human Rights Chapter of the Georgian Human Rights NAP.
The German NAP makes reference to freedom of association, noting that the ILO Core Labour Standards include freedom of association [page 5]. However elements of freedom of association can also be seen in the numerous references to trade unions and both business and civil society associations and organisations throughout the NAP.
The Irish NAP makes no direct reference to freedom of association.
A. Foundational Principles
…The Italian Constitution, within the framework of the basic principles of human dignity, equality and solidarity, sets forth several provisions ensuring … the right to freedom of expression and association …
Chapter 2. Action Plan
2. Areas of the NAP
(1) Cross-cutting areas
A. Labour (Promotion of Decent Work)
(Existing framework/Measures taken）
As measures that have already been conducted in the labour area, the Government made efforts to realize decent work by promoting labour policies to respect, promote, and realize the four principles concerning the fundamental rights stated in the ILO Declaration, namely: (1) freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining;
|CHAPTER TWO: SITUATIONAL ANALYSIS AND THEMATIC AREAS OF FOCUS
2.6 Labour [Page 12]
Article 41 of the Constitution of Kenya guarantees every person the right to fair labour practices, and confers specific rights on workers, employers and trade unions and employers’ organisations. Every worker is entitled to fair remuneration, reasonable working conditions, the right to join and participate in the activities of a trade union and go on strike as a means of advocating for their labour-related rights. Employers are entitled to form and join employers’ organisations and participate in such organisations’ programs. Trade unions and employers’ organisations are entitled to organise and form new or join existing federations.
Objective 3: ensuring access to effective remedy
A. Implemented measures [page 10]
5. “Improvement of collective dispute regulation. The aims is to held discussions with social partners to determine the need for revision of provisions regulating collective bargaining and to encourage parties to establish a mechanism for settling disputes at company level.
An amendment to the Labour Code of the Republic of Lithum1ia was adopted on 15 May 2014 and came into force on 1 July 2014. Labour Code provisions were set in accordance with conclusions provided by the International Labour Organisation’s (hereinafter referred to as ILO) Committee on Freedom of Association on strike regulation with regard to practical problems of dispute settlement. Labour Code provisions regulating suspension of strike action were revised, rules of interpretation of collective agreements were foreseen and strike legitimacy issues were clearly regulated in cases with a collective agreement in action.”
‘Luxembourg’s NAP does not explicitly address this issue’
‘The Mexico NAP does not explicitly address this issue’
The Dutch NAP includes a single reference to freedom of association.
3.1 An active role for the government
Level playing field [page 15]
“The Netherlands is also committed to universal ratification of the ILO’s fundamental labour standards: … freedom of association.”
ILO Core Conventions [page 31]:
Freedom of association (Convention No. 87 on Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise, and Convention No. 98 on the Application of the Principles of the Right to Organise and to Bargain Collectively).
CHAPTER 3: National Action Plan Priority Areas and Proposed Actions
3.1. General Proposed Actions
- Federal (page 15)
‘1. Conduct a mapping exercise to chart national progress made against, and steps required to advance, the four elements of the Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, that is: […] (4) protection of the right to freedom of association.
Performance indicator(s): (i) Mapping exercise report
UN Guiding Principle(s): 1, 2, 3, 8
Relevant SDG(s): Goal 5 – Gender Equality; Goal 8 – Decent Work and Economic Growth; Goal 10 – Reduced Inequalities; Goal 16 – Peace, Justice and Strong Institution’
This information is also covered under Annex I: Implementation Plan, Proposed Action 1 designating the Ministry of Human Rights, Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis and Human Resource Development and the Ministry of Commerce as Leading Entities (page 42).
ANNEX II | Actions Already Undertaken by Pakistan
B | Measures Relevant to NAP Priority Areas
iv. Labour Standards and the Informal Economy
- Punjab (page 81)
‘The Punjab Government passed the Industrial Relations Act in 2010, which allows citizens to exercise their right of association by joining trade unions to bargain collectively through their representative.’
- Sindh (page 82)
‘The Sindh Industrial Relations Act 2013 allows workers and employees to join trade unions so that they can bargain collectively through their chosen representatives.’
- Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (page 83)
‘The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Industrial Relations Act 2013 allows workers and employees to join trade unions so that they can bargain collectively through their chosen representatives.’
- Balochistan (page 83)
‘The Balochistan Industrial Relations Act 2013 allows workers and employees to join trade unions so that they can bargain collectively through their chosen representatives.’
Pillar I: The state’s duty to protect human rights
1. Regulations relating to business and human rights under Polish law [page 9]
The principles of labour law also include collective rights, namely the freedom of association of employees and employers (Article 18) and the right of employees to participate in the management of the work establishment (Article 18).
Prevention of economic exploitation of children [page 12]
Freedom of association is guaranteed by the provisions of the Constitution of the Republic of Poland (Articles 12 and 59) and legislation, in particular the Act of 23 May 1991 on Trade Unions (Journal of Laws of 2015, Item 1881). Poland has ratified the basic acts of international law on freedom of association, namely the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (Article 8), the European Social Charter (Articles 5 and 6), and ILO Conventions Nos. 87 and 98. According to Article 3 of the Act of 23 May 1991 on Trade Unions, no person should bear negative consequences of membership or non-membership in a trade union or of holding a function in a trade union. In particular, this cannot constitute a condition for entering into an employment relationship, maintenance of such a relationship, or promotion.
In accordance with Article 35(1)(c) of the Act on Trade Unions, discrimination against an employee because of his or her membership in a trade union, non-membership in a trade union, or the holding of a trade union function may result in criminal liability.
The Labour Code prohibits the unequal treatment of employees with respect to establishing and terminating an employment, terms of employment, terms of promotion, as well as access to training in order to improve professional qualifications, in particular on the grounds of trade union membership (Chapter II a, Equal Treatment in Employment). An employee may seek compensation from his or her employer before a court of law for a violation of the principle of equal treatment in employment, which cannot be lower than the minimum remuneration for work stipulated in separate provisions.
In addition, Article 183e of the LC provides for a mechanism of protection against the negative consequences of exercising employee rights or supporting an employee who has been treated unequally, e.g., on the grounds of his or her trade union membership. According to Article 183e § 1 of the Labour Code, the fact that an employee has exercised his or her rights when there has been a violation of the principle of equal treatment in employment may not constitute a grounds for disadvantageous treatment of such employee and may not result in any negative consequences towards the employee. In particular, it may not constitute grounds for termination of employment by an employer, with or without notice.
The above-mentioned provision applies accordingly to an employee who has provided support to an employee exercising his or her rights in respect of a violation of the principle of equal treatment in employment (e.g., testifying as a witness in court proceedings).
Pillar III: Access to remedies [page 44]
Polish legislation regulates mechanisms for protecting the period of the employment relationship with trade union activists. In accordance with Article 32 of the Act on Trade Unions, the guarantees of the duration of the employment relationship protect:
– members of the board of the establishment trade union organisation referred to by name (para. 1);
– other members of the establishment trade union organisation, referred to by name, entitled to represent the organisation before the employer or the authority or a person who performs activities in the area of labour law on behalf of the employer (para. 1);
– employees listed by name in the resolution of the founding committee (para. 7);
– employees who perform a function by choice in a trade union outside the establishment, who benefit from unpaid leave or an exemption from performing work (para. 9).
This list is exhaustive. In the case of an establishment trade union with the status of a representative organisation, the limit of employees covered by protection is calculated with the application of one of the two statutory methods (parity or progressive), and the choice of method is exclusive to the trade union. In light of Article 32(1) of the Act on Trade Unions, the employer may not, without the consent of the board of the establishment trade union organisation (respectively, the founding committee or the statutory body of a multi-establishment trade union organisation):
– terminate the employment relationship with a trade union activist (point 1);
– terminate the employment relationship with that person without notice (point 1);
–unilaterally change working or pay conditions to the detriment of a trade union activist (point 2), unless separate regulations provide for this (e.g., in the event of bankruptcy or liquidation of the employer).
The protection referred to above is available:
– for the period specified in the resolution of the board and after that period for an additional period corresponding to half of the period specified by the resolution; however, not longer than one year after that period (Article 32(2)); or
– a period of six months from the day the founding committee is established (Article 32(7)); or
– a period of leave or exemption and for one year after that period (Article 32(9)).
The lack of consent of the competent body of the trade union organisation is binding on the employer in the sense that they may not legally unilaterally terminate or change the employment relationship with a trade union activist. In certain situations, the protection of the period of the trade union activist’s employment relationship may, however, be excluded because of an abuse of the freedom of association. The Supreme Court has discussed the subject of abuse of protection of the period of the employment relationship of trade union activists, e.g., stating in judgement I PKN 23/00 of 12 September 2000 that the statutory guarantee of enhanced protection of the period of the employment relationship should be used only by a trade union activist who cannot be charged with a serious violation of basic labour obligations and using a trade union function as a kind of protective umbrella against justified labour-law sanctions. In the justification for the judgement, it was declared that, in the event of a breach of the formal provision for termination of an employment relationship under this procedure, resulting from the lack of consent of the establishment trade union organisation to terminate the employment relationship with a trade union official, the labour court is entitled, in accordance with established law, to order compensation in lieu of reinstatement.
Article 8 of the Act of 3 December 2010 on the Implementation of Certain European Union Provisions on Equal Treatment (Journal of Laws No 254, Item 1700, as amended) prohibits the unequal treatment of individuals on grounds of sex, race, ethnic descent, nationality, religion, religious denomination, world view, disability, age, or sexual orientation, including with respect to joining and working in trade unions, employers’ organisations, and enjoying the rights of members of such organisations. Everyone whose right to equal treatment has been violated has the right to compensation as laid down in the Act of 23 April 1964, the Civil Code (Journal of Laws of 2016, Item 380, as amended).
Out-of-court mechanisms for dealing with collective bargaining by employees include the possibility of initiating collective labour disputes between employees and their employer or employers concerning working conditions, remuneration, or social benefits, and the rights and freedoms of trade union workers or other groups entitled to form trade unions, under Article 1 of the Act of 23 May 1991 on Solving Collective Disputes (Journal of Laws of 2015, Item 295, as amended). Moreover, in light of the provisions of Articles 240 § 2 and 2411 Pt. 3 of the Labour Code, the parties to a collective agreement may, within the framework of the freedom of association, establish procedures for interpreting the contents of the agreement and for settling disputes between the parties in this regard. The parties to the agreement may determine procedures for settling disputes related to the subject of negotiations to conclude a collective labour agreement, or other controversial issues that may arise during the negotiations (Article 2413 § 2 of the Labour Code).
Principle 1 – State’s duty to protect HR
Slovenia will promote fruitful cooperation with the business sector, trade unions, education institutions, NGOs, and the broader civil society in promoting human rights in business. (pg. 9)
Principle 3d – Human Rights Due Diligence
When monitoring the implementation of the Action Plan, the Slovenian Government will continue the dialogue with the business sector, trade unions, NGOs and other partners on the implementation of human rights due diligence in practice, including the designing of mechanisms and tools for this purpose. (pg. 24)
Principle 8 – Gov’t agencies observe HR obligations
In December 2013, to promote the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Slovenia, in partnership with the Slovenian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, organised the National Forum on Business and Human Rights for representatives of relevant ministries, the National Assembly, business sphere, trade unions, NGOs and academia. (pg. 30)
Principle 8 – Planned activities/orientations
The promotion of the National Action Plan will be carried out both within the ministries and among other stakeholders, whereby the governmental sector will cooperate with the business sector, trade unions, NGOs and other stakeholders. (pg. 30)
Principle 31 – Operational-level Mechanisms
Slovenia will continue its efforts to establish cooperation with non-governmental organisations, businesses, trade unions and academia, to encourage enterprises to strive for continuous development and to apply the relevant appeal mechanisms to address the alleged or potential violations of human rights in business processes, also through human rights due diligence. (pg. 42)
Annex I – Human Rights Due Diligence
Among the aspects of human rights that business enterprises are obliged to respect are all human rights, including guaranteeing non-discrimination and the equal treatment of all persons, gender equality, the protection of fundamental workers’ rights, the prohibition of forced labour and labour exploitation, freedom of association, and the right to collective negotiations. (pg. 45)
Implementation of the National Action Plan
The implementation of the National Action Plan of the Republic of Slovenia on Business and Human Rights is monitored by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Slovenia in cooperation with other ministries and government offices; the Ministry may invite representatives of the Government, Human Rights Ombudsman, business sphere, trade unions, NGOs and academia to cooperate. (pg. 43)
South Korea’s NAP makes no reference to freedom of association.
Guiding Principle 1
“Spain has also ratified the eight fundamental Conventions of the International Labor Organization (ILO):
- Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise Conventions (No 87)
- Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining Convention (No 98).”
There is no direct reference to the freedom of association in the Swedish NAP, but reference is made to freedoms generally, trade unions, and collective agreements.
1 The State duty to protect human rights [page 10]
Swedish legislation to protect human rights
“Human rights are protected in Swedish legislation primarily via the constitutional regulations in the Instrument of Government, the Freedom of the Press Act and the Fundamental Law on Freedom of Expression. An individual’s fundamental rights and freedoms are also expressed in other laws. The European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms has been incorporated into Swedish law in its entirety and thus applies as Swedish law. When applying EU law, Sweden is obliged to follow the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. The provisions contained in Swedish law relating to the fundamental rights and freedoms of the individual are primarily aimed at public sector services within central government, municipalities and county councils. …
A typical feature of the Swedish labour market and the Swedish model is that the relationship between employer and employee is largely governed by collective agreements. These agreements often contain regulations that supplement and replace the procedures established by law. The most important act in the area of individual labour law is the Employment Protection Act (1982:80), which regulates how employment contracts may be entered into and terminated. This Act includes provisions stating that indefinite-term contracts should be the general rule but that fixed-term contracts can be mutually agreed in some cases. The Act also states that notice of termination of an indefinite-term employment contract must be based on objective grounds.
In the area of collective labour law, the Employment (Co-determination in the Workplace) Act (1976:580) is the main act. This Act regulates, for example, the right of employee organisations to participate in negotiations ahead of certain decisions by an employer, for example regarding significant operational changes. The Trade Union Representatives (Status at the Workplace) Act (1974:358) is also part of collective labour law. This Act contains regulations on the status of trade union representatives and the right to participate in trade union activities at individual workplaces. …”
2 The corporate responsibility to respect human rights [page 13]
“For a company’s employees, human rights in the workplace are particularly important. The right to participate in collective bargaining and the right to form or join free trade unions are examples of such rights. Special measures should be taken to identify and prevent anti-union policies or actions. This applies both in Sweden and abroad. In some countries it may be difficult for employees to assert their human rights in the workplace.”
2 National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights 2020-23
2.2 Pillar 2: the corporate responsibility to respect human rights
… as part of the UN Global Impact, a number of Swiss companies have voiced their commitment to respecting the freedom of association and recognise the right to collective bargaining in countries where these rights are limited or not recognised …
IV. The corporate responsibility to respect human rights
B. Actions taken
- Respect for employee interests and the views of stakeholders (page 12)
‘The workplace is especially important to the human rights of a company’s employees. Examples include an employee’s right to take part in collective bargaining, to form or join in a union, or the protection of labor rights. Accordingly, the Taiwan government actively provides guidance to laborers, focusing on such matters as formation of unions, creation of an environment that is conducive to a smoothly operating union, support for women’s employment, and assistance with the elimination of employment barriers.
At the same time, the Taiwan government encourages businesses to engage in dialogue with stakeholders, unions, and the general public regarding issues involving corporate social responsibility, in order to discover problems and take constructive steps to find mutually acceptable solutions. Investors and consumers are important stakeholders, and as such are be able to question how a business is run and express support and encouragement. News organizations, as members of the Fourth Estate, exercise independent oversight and can spur the public to pay closer attention to corporate social responsibility issues.’
This information is also covered under Appendix 4: Overview of the implementation of the state duty to protect and the access to remedy, The state duty to protect, UNGP4, Actions taken (page 44).
The Thai NAP does not make an explicit reference to freedom of association.
‘Uganda’s NAP does not explicitly address this issue’
The UK 2013 NAP notes the importance of ‘personal freedom’ and ‘democratic freedoms’ in the Ministerial Forward. This is echoed in the Introduction to the UK 2016 Updated NAP.
Outcome 2.1: Enhance the Value of Multi-Stakeholder Initiatives on RBC
New Actions [page 14]
“Promoting Worker Voice throughout Global Supply Chains: DOL, State, and USAID will promote worker voice and empowerment throughout global supply chains and will commit to: (1) building innovative tools to empower workers to directly report to relevant Departments concerns in federal supply chains; and (2) leverage public-private partnerships, stakeholder engagement, and labor diplomacy to promote worker empowerment throughout global supply chains. This effort will enhance the visibility of workers’ perspectives and of their representative organizations, and promote the ability of workers to organize. Various U.S. government agencies have funded and/or participated in initiatives to support stronger worker voice, such as through the Partnership for Freedom and the Supply Unchained initiatives.” – Implementing Department or Agency: DOL, State, USAID