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Conventions on Labor

ILO Conventions on Labor

Below we reprint the Conventions of the International Labor Organization, which along with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights inspired the standards in the Agricultural Justice Project Social Standards for Organic and Sustainable Agriculture. The eight core conventions are: 87) Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize (1948) 98) Right to Organize and Collective Bargaining (1949) 29) Forced Labor (1930) 105) Abolition of Forced Labor (1959) 138) Minimum Age (1973) 182) Worst Forms of Child Labor (1999) 100) Equal Remuneration (1951) 111) Discrimination (1958) The US joined the ILO in 1980, but has been slow to ratify the conventions and make the changes in US law that would be needed to comply. According to the US Council for International Business (2007 analysis), “Of the eight core conventions, the U.S. has ratified two (105 on forced labor and 182 on the worst forms of child labor) and one has been submitted to the Senate for consent (111 on discrimination). The remaining five conventions have not been ratified by the U.S. – for reasons detailed below – and thus the U.S. is not obliged to comply with their technical requirements. Ratification of an ILO convention would necessitate implementing legislation that would incorporate it into domestic law, superseding any prior federal or state statutes that might have conflicting legal requirements. Thus, ratification of any ILO convention that conflicts with U.S. law and practice would mandate changes to U.S. state and federal labor law so that they conform to the ILO standards.” This analysis goes on to detail the changes that would have to be made in state and federal laws. (p. 3)

International Labor Organization (ILO) core labor standards:

The following excerpts are from the Conventions passed over the past century by the International Labor Organization.

Convention 20 #

(1) Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.

(2) No one may be compelled to belong to an association.

(3) Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.

(4) Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.

(5) Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself  and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other  means of social protection.

(6) Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests

(7) Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay.

Article 25 #

(1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for  the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.

(2) Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection..

Convention 87 #


Article 1 #

Each Member of the International Labour Organisation for which this Convention is in force undertakes to give effect to the following provisions.

Article 2 #

Workers and employers, without distinction whatsoever, shall have the right to establish and, subject only to the rules of the organisation concerned, to join organisations of their own choosing without previous authorisation.

Article 3 #

Workers’ and employers’ organisations shall have the right to draw up their constitutions and rules, to elect their representatives in full freedom, to organise their administration and activities and to formulate their programmes.

Convention 95 #

Article 1 #

In this Convention, the term wages means remuneration or earnings, however designated or calculated, capable of being expressed in terms of money and fixed by mutual agreement or by national laws or regulations, which are payable in virtue of a written or unwritten contract of employment by an employer to an employed person for work done or to be done or for services rendered or to be rendered.

Article 2 #

  1. This Convention applies to all persons to whom wages are paid or payable.

Article 3 #

  1. Wages payable in money shall be paid only in legal tender, and payment in the form of promissory notes, vouchers or coupons, or in any other form alleged to represent legal tender, shall be prohibited.

  2. The competent authority may permit or prescribe the payment of wages by bank cheque or postal cheque or money order in cases in which payment in this manner is customary or is necessary because of special circumstances, or where a collective agreement or arbitration award so provides, or, where not so provided, with the consent of the worker concerned.

Article 9 #

Any deduction from wages with a view to ensuring a direct or indirect payment for the purpose of obtaining or retaining employment, made by a worker to an employer or his representative or to any intermediary (such as a labour contractor or recruiter), shall be prohibited.

Article 11 #

  1. In the event of the bankruptcy or judicial liquidation of an undertaking, the workers employed therein shall be treated as privileged creditors either as regards wages due to them for service rendered during such a period prior to the bankruptcy or judicial liquidation as may be prescribed by national laws or regulations, or as regards wages up to a prescribed amount as may be determined by national laws or regulations.

  2. Wages constituting a privileged debt shall be paid in full before ordinary creditors may establish any claim to a share of the assets.

  3. The relative priority of wages constituting a privileged debt and other privileged debts shall be determined by national laws or regulations.

Article 12 #

  1. Wages shall be paid regularly. Except where other appropriate arrangements exist which ensure the payment of wages at regular intervals, the intervals for the payment of wages shall be prescribed by national laws or regulations or fixed by collective agreement or arbitration award.
  2. Upon the termination of a contract of employment, a final settlement of all wages due shall be effected in accordance with national laws or regulations, collective agreement or arbitration award or, in the absence of any applicable law, regulation, agreement or award, within a reasonable period of time having regard to the terms of the contract.

C98 Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining Convention, 1949 #

Article 1 #

  1. Workers shall enjoy adequate protection against acts of anti-union discrimination in respect of their employment.

  2. Such protection shall apply more particularly in respect of acts calculated to–

(a) make the employment of a worker subject to the condition that he shall not join a union or shall relinquish trade union membership;

(b) cause the dismissal of or otherwise prejudice a worker by reason of union membership or because of participation in union activities outside working hours or, with the consent of the employer, within working hours.

Article 2 #

  1. Workers’ and employers’ organisations shall enjoy adequate protection against any acts of interference by each other or each other’s agents or members in their establishment, functioning or administration.

  2. In particular, acts which are designed to promote the establishment of workers’ organisations under the domination of employers or employers’ organisations, or to support workers’ organisations by financial or other means, with the object of placing such organisations under the control of employers or employers’ organisations, shall be deemed to constitute acts of interference within the meaning of this Article.

Article 3 #

Machinery appropriate to national conditions shall be established, where necessary, for the purpose of ensuring respect for the right to organise as defined in the preceding Articles.

Article 4 #

Measures appropriate to national conditions shall be taken, where necessary, to encourage and promote the full development and utilisation of machinery for voluntary negotiation between employers or employers’ organisations and workers’ organisations, with a view to the regulation of terms and conditions of employment by means of collective agreements.

C105 Abolition of Forced Labour Convention, 1957 #

Article 1 #

Each Member of the International Labour Organisation which ratifies this Convention undertakes to suppress and not to make use of any form of forced or compulsory labour–

(a) as a means of political coercion or education or as a punishment for holding or expressing political views or views ideologically opposed to the established political, social or economic system;

(b) as a method of mobilising and using labour for purposes of economic development;

(c) as a means of labour discipline;

(d) as a punishment for having participated in strikes;

(e) as a means of racial, social, national or religious discrimination.

Article 2 #

Each Member of the International Labour Organisation which ratifies this Convention undertakes to take effective measures to secure the immediate and complete abolition of forced or compulsory labour as specified in Article 1 of this Convention.

Convention 182 Child Labour #

Defining child labour #

Not all work done by children should be classified as child labour that is to be targeted for elimination. Children’s or adolescents’ participation in work that does not affect their health and personal development or interfere with their schooling, is generally regarded as being something positive. This includes activities such as helping their parents around the home, assisting in a family business or earning pocket money outside school hours and during school holidays. These kinds of activities contribute to children’s development and to the welfare of their families; they provide them with skills and experience, and help to prepare them to be productive members of society during their adult life.

The term “child labour” is often defined as work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential and their dignity, and that is harmful to physical and mental development.

It refers to work that:

  • is mentally, physically, socially or morally dangerous and harmful to children; and
  • interferes with their schooling by:
    • depriving them of the opportunity to attend school;
    • obliging them to leave school prematurely; or
    • requiring them to attempt to combine school attendance with excessively long and heavy work.

In its most extreme forms, child labour involves children being enslaved, separated from their families, exposed to serious hazards and illnesses and/or left to fend for themselves on the streets of large cities – often at a very early age. Whether or not particular forms of “work” can be called “child labour” depends on the child’s age, the type and hours of work performed, the conditions under which it is performed and the objectives pursued by individual countries. The answer varies from country to country, as well as among sectors within countries.

And this about agriculture and child labor:

It must be emphasized that not all work that children undertake in agriculture is bad for them or would qualify as work to be eliminated under the ILO Minimum Age Convention No. 138 or the Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention No. 182. Age-appropriate tasks that are of lower risk and do not interfere with a child’s schooling and leisure time, can be a normal part of growing up in a rural environment. Indeed, many types of work experience for children can be positive, providing them with practical and social skills for work as adults. Improved self-confidence, self-esteem and work skills are attributes often detected in young people engaged in some aspects of farm work.

Agriculture, however, is one of the three most dangerous sectors in which to work at any age, along with construction and mining. Whether child labourers work on their parents’ farms, are hired to work on the farms or plantations of others, or accompany their migrant farm-worker parents, the hazards and levels of risk they face can be worse than those for adult workers. Because children’s bodies and minds are still growing and developing, exposure to workplace hazards can be more devastating and long lasting for them, resulting in lifelong disabilities. Therefore the line between what is acceptable work and what is not is easily crossed. This problem is not restricted to developing countries but occurs in industrialized countries as well.

Agriculture is also a sector where many children are effectively denied education which blights their future chances of escaping from the cycle of poverty by finding better jobs or becoming self-employed. The rural sector is often characterised by lack of schools, schools of variable quality, problems of retaining teachers in remote rural areas, lack of accessible education for children, poor/variable rates of rural school attendance, and lower standards of educational performance and achievement. Children may also have to walk long distances to and from school. Even where children are in education, school holidays are often built around the sowing and harvesting seasons.