"Thank you to all those who raised their voice in support of this long-standing right to negotiate freely and fairly on behalf of workers everywhere. We know that having strong labour rights allows us to make a difference in the lives of everyone, not just of union members." — James Clancy, NUPGE National President.
Ottawa (27 Feb. 2015) — The right to strike has been reaffirmed at the International Labour Organization thanks to a massive, world-wide mobilization showing the incredible support for workers' rights.
Right to strike reaffirmed at the ILO
On February 25, at the Tripartite Meeting on the Freedom of Association, a solution was negotiated to break the impasse on the issue of the right to strike. For over two years, the Employers' Group and some governments challenged the existence of an international right to strike and the authority of the ILO, paralyzing the work of the committee.
A global day of action was organized for February 18 to add pressure to the Employers' Group to uphold decades of ILO jurisprudence on the right to strike. Unions from around the world, including the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE), spoke out on the importance of the right to strike for workers.
Global unions mounted a strong campaign to pressure governments to support the right to strike
The National Union urged people to contact Canada's minister of labour to ask her to show Canada's support for the right to strike at an upcoming meeting in March of the ILO's Governing Body.
In his letter to federal Minister of Labour Kellie Leitch, NUPGE National President James Clancy urged the Canadian government to take a strong defense at the ILO in support of the right to strike. “I especially urge you to take this action in light of the January 30, 2015, decision from our Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) concerning the case of SFL v. Saskatchewan. That decision affirmed the long-standing and widely accepted international principle that the right to strike is a basic human right, as well as a constitutional right of all Canadians.”
Workers from across the country sent letters asking the federal minister to support the Supreme Court's recent ruling on this fundamental right. Likewise, the tremendous mobilization around the world on the February 18 day of action had its desired effect on the position of the Employers' Group.
"Thank you to all those who raised their voice in support of this long-standing right to negotiate freely and fairly on behalf of workers everywhere," Clancy said. "Having strong labour rights allows us to make a difference in the lives of everyone, not just union members."
Solution to impasse allows ILO to resume its work monitoring whether governments are respecting their international labour standards obligations
Movement came after the three groups presented a package of measures that would allow for the impasse to be broken. The solution protects the fundamental right of workers to take strike action, and allows the ILO to resume fully its work to supervise how governments respect their international labour standards obligations.
The Government Group issued this statement at the meeting, "The Government Group recognizes that the right to strike is linked to freedom of association which is a fundamental principle and right at work of the ILO. The Government Group specifically recognizes that without protecting a right to strike, Freedom of Association, in particular the right to organize activities for the purpose of promoting and protecting workers’ interests, cannot be fully realized."
It went further saying, "However, we also note that the right to strike, albeit part of the fundamental principles and rights at work of the ILO, is not an absolute right. The scope and conditions of this right are regulated at the national level. The document presented by the Office describes the multifaceted regulations that States have adopted to frame the right to strike. We are ready, right from this Tripartite Meeting, to consider discussing, in the forms and framework that will be considered suitable, the exercise of the right to strike."
"We are pleased to see that a resolution has been found to allow the work of the ILO to move forward," said James Clancy, NUPGE National President. "The very health of our communities and our country depends on the constitutional guarantee of the right to strike. In order for these rights to be fully realized, we must have appropriate monitoring to ensure governments are living up to their international labour rights obligations."
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE