Freedom of association ensures that workers and employers can associate to efficiently negotiate work relations. Combined with strong freedom of association, sound collective bargaining practices ensure that employers and workers have an equal voice in negotiations and that the outcome will be fair and equitable. Collective bargaining allows both sides to negotiate a fair employment relationship and prevents costly labour disputes. Indeed, some research has indicated that countries with highly coordinated collective bargaining tend to have less inequality in wages, lower and less persistent unemployment, and fewer and shorter strikes than countries where collective bargaining is less established. (Note 1) Established collective bargaining practices were an element that allowed the Republic of Korea to weather the Asian financial crisis and enabled South Africa to make a relatively peaceful transition into the post-apartheid era. (Note 2) ILO standards promote collective bargaining and help to ensure that good labour relations benefit everyone.
Selected relevant ILO instruments
- Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining Convention, 1949 (No. 98) - [ratifications]
This fundamental convention provides that measures appropriate to national conditions shall be taken, where necessary, to encourage and promote the full development and utilization of machinery for voluntary negotiation between employers or employers' organizations and workers' organizations, with a view to the regulation of terms and conditions of employment by means of collective agreements.
- Labour Relations (Public Service) Convention, 1978 (No. 151) - [ratifications]
The convention promotes collective bargaining for public employees, as well as other methods allowing public employees' representatives to participate in the determination of their conditions of employment. It also provides that disputes shall be settled through negotiation between the parties or through independent and impartial machinery, such as mediation, conciliation and arbitration.
- Collective Bargaining Convention, 1981 (No. 154) - [ratifications]
Defines collective bargaining and calls for its promotion in all branches of economic activity, including public service.
- Further relevant instruments
- General Survey on the Fundamental Conventions (2012) - [pdf]
- Digest of decisions of the Committee on Freedom of Association - Fifth (revised) edition, 2006 (pdf)
- NORMLEX (Freedom of Association Cases)
- Reports of the Committee on Freedom of Association since 1952 (pdf)
- Reports of the Fact-Finding and Conciliation Commission on Freedom of Association (pdf)
- Reports of Commissions of Inquiry (Conventions on Freedom of Association and Collective Bargaining) (pdf)
- General Survey of Freedom of Association and Collective Bargaining (1994) - [pdf]
Note 1 - T. Aidt; Z. Tzannatos: Unions and Collective Bargaining: Economic effects in a Global Environment (Washington, DC, World Bank, 2002).
Note 2 - OECD: International Trade and Core Labour Standards (Paris, 2000).