Introduction to Labor Law
In this lesson, you’re expected to learn about:
– features of labor laws
– the International Labour Organization (ILO)
– international labor standards and conventions
What are Labor Laws?
Labor laws encompass various types of government mandates that define the relationship between an employee and employer.
Categories of Labor Law
There are two broad categories of labor law:
1) Collective labor law which is concerned with the relationship between employee, employer, and union.
2) Individual labor law which is concerned with the relationship between employee and employer, as defined through the contract for work.
Features of Labor Laws
• Labor laws define minimum acceptable employment standards and the function of the employment contract.
• Labor laws arose from workers’ demands for better working conditions and the simultaneous demands of employers to restrict the powers of workers’ organizations and to keep labor costs low.
• The rights and obligations between the worker and the employer are mediated through the employment contract.
Human Resource Management and the Law
The field of human resources management is greatly influenced and shaped by the laws governing employment issues. Indeed, regulations and laws govern all aspects of human resource management—recruitment, placement, development, and compensation.
International Labor Strandards
Since 1919, the International Labor Organization (ILO) has maintained and developed a system of international labor standards aimed at promoting opportunities for women and men to obtain decent and productive work, in conditions of freedom, equity, security and dignity.
In today’s globalized economy, international labor standards are an essential component in the international framework for ensuring that the growth of the global economy provides benefits to all.
What are International Labor Standards?
International labor standards are legal instruments drawn up by the ILO’s constituents (governments, employers and workers) setting out basic principles and rights at work.
They are either Conventions, which are legally binding international treaties that may be ratified by member States, or Recommendations, which serve as non-binding guidelines.
In many cases, a Convention lays down the basic principles to be implemented by ratifying countries, while a related Recommendation supplements the Convention by providing more detailed guidelines on how it could be applied. Recommendations can also be autonomous, i.e not linked to any Convention.
The Role of International Labor Standards
In 1919, the signatory nations to the Treaty of Versailles created the International Labour Organization (ILO) in recognition of the fact that:
“conditions of labour exist involving such injustice, hardship and privation to large numbers of people as to produce unrest so great that the peace and harmony of the world are imperilled.”
To tackle this problem, the newly founded organization established a system of international labour standards – international Conventions and Recommendations drawn up by representatives of governments, employers and workers from around the world – covering all matters related to work.
What the ILO’s founders recognized was that the global economy needed clear rules in order to ensure that economic progress would go hand in hand with social justice, prosperity and peace for all.
The ILO’s Governing Body has identified eight Conventions as “fundamental”, covering subjects that are considered as fundamental principles and rights at work: freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining; the elimination of all forms of forced or compulsory labor; the effective abolition of child labor; and the elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation.
These principles are also covered in the ILO’s Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work (1998). There are currently over 1,400 ratifications of these Conventions.
• Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise Convention, 1948
• Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining Convention, 1949
• Forced Labour Convention, 1930
• Abolition of Forced Labour Convention, 1957
• Minimum Age Convention, 1973
• Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999
• Equal Remuneration Convention, 1951
• Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Convention, 1958
The ILO’s Governing Body has also designated another four conventions as “priority” instruments, thereby encouraging member states to ratify them because of their importance for the functioning of the international labor standards system.
The ILO Declaration on Social Justice for a Fair Globalization, in its follow-up, underlined the significance from the viewpoint of governance of these Conventions.
1. Labor Inspection Convention, 1947
2. Employment Policy Convention, 1964
3. Labor Inspection (Agriculture) Convention, 1969
4. Tripartite Consultation (International Labor Standards) Convention, 1976
International labor standards are primarily tools for governments that, in consultation with employers and workers, are seeking to draft and implement labor law and social policy in conformity with internationally accepted standards.
For many states, this process begins with a decision to consider ratifying an ILO Convention. Countries often go through a period of examining and, if necessary, revising their legislation and policies in order to achieve compliance with the instrument they wish to ratify. International labor standards thus serve as targets for harmonizing national law and practice in a particular field.