How human rights help unions organise
There are two ways in which this works.
One is the obvious: without freedom of expression, the right to life, and freedom to organise, trade unionists tend to get shot, harassed or excluded from the workplace. And without freedom to bargain collectively, they have less to offer their potential members. These are all fundamental human rights, even though it’s often only freedom of expression and the right to life that people think of, rather than the rights contained in the ILO’s core labour standards. But the fact is, those core labour standards are indeed considered as fundamental human rights (by the UN, who are the arbiters in this) and also by our own Government, the European Convention on Human Rights and so on. And rights like occupational health and safety are just extensions of the right to life. Sometimes, we need to be clearer about that when we’re arguing for something and we need to be clearer about what some people argue against.
The second is the reason for this post. As unions, we are not alone in calling for workers’ fundamental human rights to be observed and implemented. Amnesty International, which most of the public probably think of as an organisation campaigning for freedom of speech and opinion, is also campaigning for us. And this year marks the 30th anniversary of their Trade Union Network, so they’ve created a blog on union rights. Bookmark it, reference it, read it.