3.3.1 Fight for trade union rights
The universal and fundamental right of workers to form and join independent trade unions and to bargain collectively with their employers is the basis of trade union organisation. The IMF has always given the highest priority to fighting against the repression of trade unions and the violations of workers' and human rights. Binding intergovernmental rules in order to implement the core labour standards remain a fundamental demand of the IMF. The core labour standards of the ILO must be integrated both into the agreements of the WTO and in bi- and multilateral trade and investment agreements. In order to monitor the ILO standards in the WTO agreements, the existing ILO monitoring mechanisms need to be strengthened and extended, as demanded in 2008 in the ILO Declaration on Social Justice in a Globalized World. These demands will require stronger efforts from the IMF and its affiliates, together with other GUFs, the ITUC and TUAC. We have to become more visible, particularly in voicing our support of trade unionists who face grave risks including intimidation, assault, abduction, imprisonment, and even murder.
It is the main responsibility of the community of states and national governments to finally put into practice binding and sanctionable intergovernmental rules in order to enforce and implement a social dimension of globalization. Commitment of companies, such as IFAs, may represent an additional protection for workers.
In the age of globalisation, not only has the opportunity for international solidarity action increased, but its role in the fight for the advancement of trade union rights has become much more critical. Solidarity action is only as powerful as the collective force behind it. To be effective, it requires a two-pronged strategy, on one hand to put pressure on governments that systematically violate trade union and human rights, and on the other to take action against the anti-union behaviour of companies. For this purpose, it is particularly important to put pressure on employers along the companies' supply chain.
Furthermore, employers must not be allowed to profit from labour laws that render them immune from prosecution for violations of fundamental rights, as is the case in the Republic of Korea, where the criminal code also allows companies to sue unions and seek incarceration of union leaders under the charge of "obstruction of business". Such situations require carefully designed actions based on a systematic and close collaboration between the IMF, its affiliates, the other GUFs, TUAC and ITUC. Most important, however, is international workers' solidarity with a strongly committed organisation at the local level, failing which, no international solidarity action can be effective.
The IMF and its affiliates must go beyond mere coordination. Campaigns to effectively respond to violations of workers' rights by TNCs or certain countries and regions must be promoted and led by the IMF. To make this possible, affiliates must be fully committed to mobilising their members and be capable of implementing common strategies in the context of their respective countries, which includes ensuring a communication flow to their members to support their mobilisation efforts. We can only respond to rights violations as soon as they arise if we have an effective system and membership support and understanding.
IMF will collaborate with its affiliates and with other GUFs, TUAC, ITUC and Non-governmental Organisations (NGOs) to:
- Enforce the protection of worker and trade union rights through IFAs, OECD guidelines, ILO instruments, and trade agreements that include the ILO core labour standards and social minimum standards as well as sanctions in case of non-compliance to complement mobilisation efforts on the ground;
- Develop strategies and promote joint actions to achieve binding intergovernmental regulations on the enforcement of minimum social standards. This will include mobilizing and additional efforts at international and national levels to promote the universal respect in law and practice of the ILO's fundamental Conventions;
- Expose governments and companies that exploit workers and violate trade union rights, and develop issue-specific solidarity actions to reduce precarious work, subcontracting, two-tier wage systems, and legislative initiatives that seek to undermine workers' rights;
- Disseminate information about trade union rights abuses immediately and effectively through a rapid response system;
- Establish solidarity networks locally, regionally and internationally;
- Establish a solidarity page on the IMF website to serve as a resource for solidarity action and information, including ILO complaint guidelines and campaign status updates, news and other materials; and
- Provide affiliates and partners with information on actions, outcomes, evaluations of achievements, and strategies for future work regarding the advancement of trade union rights.
IMF will assist its affiliates to ensure that:
- Rapid response is organised to any TNC attack on workers' rights through information and mobilisation of the employees of the same company in all its countries of operations, and united action is taken while also pursuing cooperation among the IMF affiliates in these countries.
IMF affiliates will:
- Mobilise their members in support of unions fighting company-sponsored unions, anti-union legislation, union-busting tactics and industrial relations disputes;
- Ensure that immediate information on rights violations is fed into the IMF's rapid response system, and that there are timely updates on developments and local actions;
- Commit themselves to actively participate in campaigns developed by the IMF and take joint actions with other national unions and other like-minded social actors;
- Include rights issues in training and educational materials to ensure that solidarity actions and rights awareness reach the shop-floor;
- Publicize rights abuses, solidarity efforts and action taken internationally; and
- Ensure that no benefit guaranteed to the employees of a TNC in one country is based on an attack on the rights of its employees in another country.
Jun 19, 2009 – Alex Ivanou