Business and collective bargaining

The 1998 ILO Declaration of Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work affirms the importance of the effective recognition of the right to bargain collectively.

The fundamental Convention covering this right is the Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining Convention, 1949 (No. 98). The MNE Declaration provides detailed guidance on collective bargaining in its section on industrial relations (art. 49-56).

The right of workers to bargain freely with employers is an essential element in freedom of association. Collective bargaining is a voluntary process through which employers and workers discuss and negotiate their relations, in particular terms and conditions of work. It can involve employers directly, or as represented through their organizations; and trade unions or, in their absence, representatives freely designated by the workers.

Collective bargaining can only function effectively if it is conducted freely and in good faith by all parties. This implies:

  • Making efforts to reach an agreement
  • Carrying out genuine and constructive negotiations
  • Avoiding unjustified delays
  • Respecting the agreements concluded and applying them in good faith, and
  • Giving sufficient time for the parties to discuss and settle collective disputes.

Bargaining in good faith aims at reaching mutually acceptable collective agreements. Where agreement is not reached, dispute settlement procedures ranging from conciliation through mediation to arbitration may be used.

The collective bargaining process also covers the phase before actual negotiations - information sharing, consultation, joint assessments - as well as the implementation of collective agreements.

Q&As on collective bargaining

  • How can companies uphold the right to collective bargaining?
  • Mature system of industrial relations
  • Scope of collective bargaining
  • Right to strike
  • Carry-over rights of collective bargaining agreements