February 18, 2015
Public sector unions are calling on governments around the world to recognize and protect the right to strike of all workers.
Public Service International, the international organization of over 650 public sector unions representing over 20 million workers in 148 countries and territories, is making the call on the global day of action in defense of the right to strike called by the International Trade Union Confederation.
The ITUC day of action - Hands off our right to strike - is in response to attacks from employer groups at the International Labour Organization, the United Nations body responsible for employment and rights at work, and the actions by some world governments to undermine the internationally recognized right of workers to strike.
The ILO serves as a reference point for international law on labour issues. As early as 1927, the ILO has recognized that the freedom of association extends to include the right of workers to go on strike. This right is affirmed by ILO Convention 87. Over the past two years, however, employer groups have been attempting to eliminate this right by undermining the work of the ILO.
The importance of the ILO recognition of the right to strike is highlighted in Canada, where that country’s Supreme Court recently struck down legislation that violated the rights of public sector union workers.
“Where good faith negotiations break down, the ability to engage in the collective withdrawal of services is a necessary component of the process through which workers can continue to participate meaningfully in the pursuit of their collective workplace goals,” said the Canadian high court in its decision on Saskatchewan Federation of Labour v. Saskatchewan.
The Supreme Court of Canada decision specifically cites Canada being a party to ILO Convention 87 and other international labour agreements. “Canada’s international obligations clearly argue for the recognition of a right to strike,” said the court’s decision.
SFL v. Saskatchewan is a prime example of the need to protect and strengthen international labour agreements and their protection on the right of workers to strike and take other collective actions.
PSI is urging all affiliates to work with their national governments to reaffirm commitments to ILO Convention 87, and to reject moves by international employers groups from undermining workers rights around the world.