Term Paper: International Labour Law

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¶ … Professor Alston on the 'core labor standards' of the International Labour Organization (ILO), a review of how the Declaration goes against the original intent of the 1919 ILO tradition (ilo.org 2012). Pointing out that the intent of the ILO was to serve as a globally represented oversight in setting standards for International labor laws through use of conventions. Conventions being made up of legal and government delegates from each country to convene to discuss issues with labor and trade relations. According to Anderson in an article on Labour Rights on a Global Context, there are three main areas where international rights and enforcement coincide. Making social rights constitutional is an area deeply affected by politics and economic influences. Those with power be it corporations, developed nations, or those controlling natural resources such as oil and gas, the future of labour rights is questionable (Anderson 2001). The pressures of market imposed policy on social issues continues to support a profit driven agenda, that often coincides with social progress for developing countries (Anderson 2001). It is usually not until the conflict gains media attention or public outcry that any action is taken to change the labour conditions of undeveloped countries (Anderson 2001). Often to the peril and loss of life to those caught in the system. Those countries with the power to force social advancement often tend to wait until opportunistic advantages present themselves economically before stepping in (Anderson 2001). This idea tends to support Alston and at the same time it has hope for the Declaration of 1998 to instill some since of obligation based on the four core principles.

International administration was handled by the conventions reporting and monitoring channels (EIJL 2004). He expresses concern that the ILO Declaration for Founding Principles for Rights at Work (1998) have reduced the authority of the former ILO Labour standards (EIJL 2004 p. 457).

Reviewing the 1998 Declaration and Alston Thesis

Alston believes that the Declaration of the four core labor standards serve to digress the impact and intent of the original ILO administration. Alston goes further to discuss that this incessant concentration on the core labour standards will serve to diminish rather than strengthen the existing labour laws and its enforcement (EIJL 2004). Alston also has the view that this is the intent of the Declaration stating that certain countries are pushing this direction.

Alston's first argument is that the Declaration attempts to replace the diverse all encompassing labour rites previously established with a basic chain of command (EIJL 2004 p. 457).

The argument to this is correct. The Declaration does consider certain rights in a hierarchical type of rank as to importance. However so does the ILO which recognizes that the conventions dealing with human rights such as health and safety are among the top in its constitutional makeup (EIJL 2004 p. 458). In fact the way the ILO is setup is with checks and balances to ensure human rights are considered in a balanced context over a purely political or economic one.

A second assertion by Alston is that the chain of command hierarchical makeup of the Declaration gives special privileges to those four core rights pitting all other conventional proposals to the bottom rungs for review. Insisting that this puts those involved in conventions with these topics out of touch and beyond consideration in deference to the core agenda (EIJL 2004 p. 458).

The ILO convention for child labour was very detailed and set forth strict statutes or requirements that did not fit some of the countries (I. e. Canada) legal age laws therefore they could not ratify the ILO's decision (ILO. org 2012). The Declaration then served to bridge this issue by changing the detail to focus more on inhumane child labour standards vs. setting age limits, for example. This did not foundational change the ILO but allowed certain countries legal standing to ratify the ILO convention.

Alston then states that the four core rights are not consistent with any "economic, philosophical, or legal requirements, but based on a political" agenda of certain countries such as the United States (EIJL 2004).

In response to such accusations there is not a conspiracy to promote political or economic agendas but understanding 'real problems' within the context of the ILO standards of 1919 that made the conventional decision unratifiable for certain countries (ilo. org 2012). The conventions had in some cases set forth standards that many countries simply could not ratify based on the level of detail and applicability to certain types of workers in the workforce that simply do not exist for certain member countries. In this instance the Declaration simply allowed developing countries a less detailed alternative focusing on the general principle rather than a legal mandate (EIJL 2004).

Alston argues that the Declaration diminishes the core rights and separates them from the core standards discounting the conventions and their work to manage and monitor certain standards for the past decades. The result has been a failure to recognize the collective wisdom and decision making of the convention by replacing their rulings in setting these standards with vague principles (EIJL 2004).

Again this is questionable. Alston insists that detailed legal review and enforcement by the conventions set by ILO should be the law concerning international labour. The work of conventions is considered and passed to lawyers at Geneva yet many fail to be truly enforced in the real world (EIJL 2004). The precedence is recorded and reviewed as required depending on real world situations, such as Myanmar, to provide a starting point to resolve conflict. However oftentimes the legal statutes put forth often can not be applied 'as is' to every circumstance. Simply because each country has their own legalities to contend with and one size does not fit all.

Downgrading Non-Core Rights

Alston makes a claim that the Declaration uses regressive terminology which changes the rights to principles in effect downgrading the legitimacy of the ILO (ilo. org 2012).

This is a very strong allegation of the four core rights being "freedom of association and free collective bargaining," "eliminating forced labour," "abolishing child labour," and "prohibiting discrimination." This is regressive and political according to Alston (EIJL 2004). He feels this marginalizes the ILO regime.

The intent of the Declaration was to improve the ability of nation states to ratify and accept the ILO conventions though it is assumed by being a member they have agreed to the ILO conventions statutes. The Declaration allows those who have not ratified the common adherence to at least these four core principles. It keeps all members in the loop to continue to provide insight and input and participate in any reporting and monitoring of existing or new developments in the economic, philosophical, or social realms through ILO delegates to conventional discussions using these core agreed principles as a baseline (EIJL 2004).

Centralized ILO Principles or Rights

Alston asserts that the Declaration removes the ILO from its position as the centralized authority of labour rights.

This assertion is not based on any precedent of the ILO ever having centralized control over labor laws or their enforcement (ilo. org 2012). Therefore it is not a valid assertion. Each nation state has the overriding control over what labour laws have been legalized within its jurisdiction. The idea that the ILO has this position is not authentic (EIJL 2004). The ILO convention has authority at the international level to share and argue its points but little ability to enforce its standards on a member state alone. The enforceability comes from collective countries sanctions or power of co-members to stand together against actions by a specific member. The legal power of ILO is a through a complex investigation of allegations that must be reviewed by the convention assigned the particular area of labour conflict. Then after investigation, the briefs and findings must be communicated to the Geneva convention for debate and further discussion (Basu 2001).

Basu is in opposition of the viability of ILO going as far as to say they are "ill-conceived and most "likely to fail" (Basu 2001). Simply due to the bureaucracy behind moving any of the proposals beyond the table. For example stating that the "UN Global Compact" requires a unilateral authority. It is necessary to consider the input of developing nations according to Basu in order to remain viable as these countries will be a major contributor to the workforce. ILO-based principles tend to be most effective when kept at a localized level with possible input from the convention as a basis for resolution (Basu 2001). Input from the World Trade Organization can be coordinated for more enforcement, however due to the varying political influences, a common standing is highly unlikely (Basu 2001). If the political platform could be commonized among the nations, it would have a stronger platform for execution according to Basu.

If there is to be a legal action against a member country or group it has to be a decisive agreement among ILO convention members requiring… [END OF PREVIEW]

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