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Basic rights under ILO

Over the years the ILO has maintained and developed a system of international labour standards aimed at promoting opportunities for women and men to obtain decent and productive work, in conditions of freedom, equity, security and dignity.

Key international labour standards

The ILO sets international labour standards through key international agreements. The eight ‘core’ ILO Conventions cover the fundamental rights expressed also in the Declaration. These Conventions cover:

  • Forced labour Freedom of association and protection of the right to organise
  • Right to organise and collective bargaining
  • Equal remuneration
  • Abolition of forced labour
  • Discrimination (employment and occupation)
  • Minimum age
  • Elimination of the worst forms of child labour

Declaration on fundamental principles and rights at work

Declaration of Fundamental Rights at Work (1998) enshrines the right of workers to organise and bargain effectively, as well as freedom from discrimination and other basic employment rights.

In addition to the fundamental labour conventions the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work adopted in 1998 is an commitment by governments, employers’ and workers’ organizations to uphold basic human values - values that are vital to our social and economic lives; to respect and promote principles and rights in four categories, whether or not they have ratified the relevant conventions.

These categories are: freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining, the elimination of forced or compulsory labour, the abolition of child labour and the elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation.

The Declaration makes it clear that these rights are universal, and that they apply to all people in all States – regardless of the level of economic development. It particularly mentions groups with special needs, including the unemployed and migrant workers. It recognizes that economic growth alone is not enough to ensure equity, social progress and to eradicate poverty.

The Maritime Labour Convention

The Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 requires all governments which have ratified the convention to have laws and regulations that safeguard the following fundamental rights:

  • The right to freedom of association (the right of seafarers’ to join a trade union of their choice)
  • Effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining (the right of a union to negotiate a CBA on seafarers’ behalf)
  • The elimination of all forms of forced or compulsory labour (seafarers’ right to work of their own free will and to be paid for that work)
  • The effective abolition of child labour Elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation (seafarers’ right to be treated in the same way as fellow seafarers doing the same work regardless of race, religion, nationality, gender, sexual orientation or political views).

In brief, the seafarers have a right to a safe and secure workplace, where safety standards are complied with, where you have fair terms of employment, decent living and working conditions and social protection such as access to medical care, health protection and welfare.