The Five Fundamental Labour Rights

Exploration of the ILO fundamental labour rights - part 1

Ethical standards in business gain importance. That is why our Database filters the codes of conduct, supplier codes of conduct and other ethical documents from companies worldwide on the presence of the core labour standards. These standards are recognized by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) as fundamental labour rights and they became the benchmark in guidelines and ethical documents from companies where labour issues are concerned.

The Declaration of Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work was adopted in 1998. In the second paragraph it recognizes four principles as the fundamental labour rights: Child Labour, Forced Labour, Freedom of association and the Right to Collective Bargaining. Recently, in 2022, this paragraph was amended and a fifth fundamental labour right was added: Occupational Health and Safety. 

An ILO Declaration does not introduce new principles: it clarifies existing principles and adjusts their implementation in response to political and structural transformations. The Declaration came about because of concerns around social and labour rights due to challenges such as globalisation, which Kari Tapiola detailed in his report "The Teeth of the ILO - The impact of the 1998 ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at work.”

The Fundamental Labour Rights are, according to the Declaration, applicable to all member states regardless of their ratification status. Member states must respect and promote these rights.This commitment is supported by reoccurring follow-up procedures.

These follow-up procedures aim to acclaim the efforts member states put into respecting and promoting the fundamental labour rights. Follow-up procedures are built on three aspects. Firstly, the ILO annually reviews the efforts made by members who have not yet ratified all the fundamental conventions. Secondly, a global report on the fundamental labour rights is published to analyse the factual results of their efforts. Lastly, areas that need support when implementing the fundamental rights and putting them into practice can thus be identified.

Because of these follow-up procedures, the perseverance of these fundamental labour rights can be monitored. The fundamental labour rights are the basis for a fair and honest working environment. Therefore it is essential to understand the essence and purpose of these rights. In our upcoming blog series, each of the five fundamental labour rights will be dissected. Through current situations and real-life examples, we will shed light on the practical implementation of these rights, which will demonstrate their relevance and impact on workplaces. 


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