Penn State Penn State: College of the Liberal Arts
SCHOOL OF LABOR AND EMPLOYMENT RELATIONS

Research

International Treaties and Protocols

CONTACT

Center for Global Workers’ Rights

Dr. Mark Anner
Center Director, Center for Global Workers’ Rights

EMAIL: cgwr@psu.edu
PHONE: +1 814-865-5425
FAX: +1 814-867-4169

International Treaties and Protocols

The International Labour Organization oversees labor standards internationally in a tripartite manner that combines worker, employer, and government input. It allows government bodies to ratify conventions for better labor standards within different realms including child labor, cooperatives, decent work, domestic workers, economic and social development, employment promotion, employment security, equality and discrimination, forced labor, freedom of association, green jobs, HIV/AIDS, industries and sectors, labor law, labor inspection and administration, labor migration, maritime labor, Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), rural development, safety and health at work, skills, knowledge, and employability, social security, working conditions, and youth employment.

For information on the full ILO Labor Code, including the NORMLEX – Database on International Labor Standards and NATLEX – database of national labor, social security and related human rights legislation.

For information on ILO protocols relating to child labor, including a description of Convention No. 138 on the minimum age for admission to employment and work, and Convention No. 182 on the worst forms of child labor.

For ratifications on ILO Convention No. 182 on the worst forms of child labor, see (C 182) child labor standards ratifications.

This is a convention in the United Nations that specifies specific human rights given to children worldwide including the right to protection from economic exploitation and the right to education.

A description of inherent dignity and inalienable human rights designated to every human being worldwide, The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was produced by the United Nations. In particular, Article 23 and Article 24 have special relations to workers’ rights.

Article 23:

  1. Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.
  2. Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.
  3. Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.
  4. Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.

Article 24:
Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay.

Produced by the United Nations, the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights intends to uphold the rights of all humanity. Particularly, Article 6, Article 7, and Article 8 have direct relation to workers’ rights.

The European Commission extends rights to European Union workers that include health and safety at work, equal opportunities for women and men, protection against discrimination, and labor law. Each member of the European Union must have national law that at least covers these criteria.

Protecting Workers' Rights for Specific Groups

  • Partnership to increase indigenous workers’ rights in Mexico
    DePaul University’s International Human Rights Law Institute has partnered with a Mexican NGO, the Centro de Derechos Humanos y Asesoria a Pueblos Indigenas (CEDHAPI), to provide legal training for employers and indigenous workers on labor rights.
  • Women and the environment
    This United Nations Population Fund article explains how environmental degradation affects women, as citizens and as workers.

Country-specific conditions

  • Documentary on labor rights in Azerbaijan: Without hands
    This is a shocking short documentary that provides a first-hand account of unsafe working conditions in Azerbaijan. It is told by a man who suffered the loss of both his arms while working.
  • Oil Workers’ Rights Protection Organization
    The Oil Workers’ Rights Protection Organization seeks to establish better conditions for workers in Azerbaijan’s oil sector, of which it has been said there has been massive human rights abuses.
  • U.S. Government Human Rights Report 2010
    In regard to workers’ rights, reporters in  Azerbaijan have reported cases that exempted workers from many of their rights, the seizure of union dues, the lack of freedom to bargain collectively over wages and working conditions, and the inability of workers to remove themselves from situations they deemed unsafe without jeopardizing their employment.
  • 2012 Annual Survey of Violations of Trade Union Rights
    Reported by the International Trade Union Confederation, this report summarized the ILO Core Conventions ratified and violations by Azerbaijan.

Pakistan’s ship cemetery scraps worker rights
This short video describes workers’ rights abuses occurring in a ship cemetery in Pakistan.

Pakistan’s daily wage workers struggle

If You Believe
Documentaries help to educate viewers about the estimated 1.7 million bonded laborers in Pakistan.

Basic Rights for Pakistan’s Domestic Workers: A Signature Away
This article from the Daily Times addresses the issues facing domestic workers, particularly women, in Pakistan.

Pakistan: Historic victory for workers’ rights and democracy 
The Labour Quami Movement (LQM) in the power-loom industry initiated a march demanding that their employers pay the federal minimum wage. Such action spurred government action which resulted in a significant increase in their wages.

U.S. Government Human Rights Report 2010
In relation to workers’ rights, reports have been issued stating difficulties surrounding requirements for labor union formation, union intimidation, and complications in the right to strike. There are also widespread minimum wage violations.

U.S.-Panama Free Trade Agreement 
The International Labor Rights Forum provides a summary of the U.S.-Panama Free Trade Agreement, including concerns regarding workers’ rights in association with it.

Panama’s Unraveling Democracy: The Social Cost of Martinelli’s Chorizo Law 
The Council on Hemispheric Affairs Research Associate, Alexander Brockwehl, offers insights into the severe suppression of workers’ rights in Panama.

UN Women- Better Working Conditions for Domestic Workers in Paraguay
Domestic workers in Paraguay have faced discriminated against and legally may only receive forty percent of the country’s minimum wage. However, activist groups campaigning around this issue are attempting to raise awareness of the struggles of Paraguay’s domestic workers, many of whom are women living in poverty.

ILO- Paraguay Ratifies the Domestic Workers Convention
On May 7, 2013 Paraguay ratified the Domestic Workers Convention which will legally allow domestic workers additional rights.

UN Refugee Agency- Report on Human Rights Practices in Paraguay for 2012
According to this UN report, women, LGBTA, disabled persons, indigenous persons, people of African descent, and other marginalized groups continue to face workplace discrimination and have extreme trouble finding work.

Employees’ Rights and Employers’ Obligations in Puerto Rico
The Society for Human Resource Management provides a summary of differences between the rights of employees and obligations of employers in Puerto Rico compared to most states in the United States. Some significant differences include aspects related to the termination of employment.

Puerto Rico’s Public Service Workers Win Back Rights 
In May 2011, public service workers were able to win back the right to collectively bargain and negotiate economic aspects of their contracts after such rights were suspended in 2009.

Puerto Rico Workers Protest Privatization 
Here is a summary of the battle against the privatization of public sector electricity that Puerto Ricans face due to the commonwealth’s economic troubles.

SEIU protest surround concern over a similar situation ten years earlier. 

Puerto Rican Farm Workers in Connecticut
A sizable population of Puerto Ricans have immigrated to Connecticut, and they work primarily in the agricultural sector. This article outlines their experiences from the late 19th century through the 1990s.

Puerto Rican Minimum Wage 
This summary states that the Puerto Rican minimum wage is only $4.10/hour, much lower than the federal minimum wage which takes precedent.

Workers’ Rights in South Africa: Does the Ruling ANC Party Represent the People? 
The government of South Africa still does not represent the interest of the people, many argue, but rather those of large multi-national companies investing in the country. Workers struggle to make ends meet as a result.

The South African Labour Guide

The South African Labour guide website provides information regarding labor law in South Africa.

South Africa: Workers’ Rights are Human Rights.

This article reflects the perspective of South Africa’s government officials regarding workers’ rights as well as the value South Africans put on May Day and what it represents.

Ripe with Abuse: Human Rights Conditions in South Africa’s Fruit and Wine Industries
This Human Rights Watch report analyzes the workers’ rights abuses faced by farmers in South Africa producing the country’s renowned wine.

The Northern Mariana Islands

Capital Crimes: Abramoff, Inc.
This article explains that the Northern Mariana Islands, although officially territories of the United States, are exempt from U.S. minimum wage and immigration laws. Nevertheless, imported workers labor under slave-like conditions in Chinese-owned factories while producing products under the “Made in the U.S.A” label.

Made in the U.S.A.? — Hard Labor on a Pacific Island/A special report.; Saipan Sweatshops Are No American Dream
The New York Times reports on the Saipan sweatshops in the Northern Mariana Islands where popular clothing brands also produce under the “Made in the U.S.A.” label.

Former sweatshop worker from Saipan speaks about conditions
This video captures a first-hand account of the sweatshop conditions experience in Saipan factories. 

American Samoa

American Samoa
The Institute for Global Labour and Human Rights provides a summary of the horrible labor conditions in U.S. territory the American Samoa.

American Samoa: Abuses Cited at Apparel Plant that Supplied U.S. Retailers
This article by Steven Greenhouse of the New York Times speaks of the terrible labor rights abuses that have occurred at the Korean Daewoosa factory in the American Samoa.

Women Fighting for the Rights of Uzbek Migrant Workers
Uzbek activists, Matabar Tajibaeva and Shakhida Yakub, are fighting for the rights of Uzbek migrant workers who are confronting the possibility of being placed in detention centers in Russia.

“Uzbekistan: Forced Labor Widespread in Cotton Harvest” 
This Human Rights Watch article provides information about Uzbekistan state authorities forcing its citizens, both adults and older children, to pick cotton during its harvest in response to widespread international attention on the use of small children to do so.

Freedom House Lists Uzbekistan Among 17 Worst Countries
Freedom House, a human rights organization, has listed Uzbekistan as one of the 17 least free countries in the world due to its suppression of political dissent and civic activity.

Forced Child Labor in the Cotton Sector
Between 1.5 and 2 million children are forced annually into the cotton fields of Uzbekistan while powerful foreign countries benefit off cotton trading imports.

“Kids Hard at Work in Uzbekistan’s Cotton Fields” 
See the included video of small children having to work in Uzbekistan’s cotton fields.