By Morgan McDonald- Research Coordinator
What are labor rights? How are labor rights a human rights issue? What is being done with labor rights at the national and international level? These essential questions are what the Center on Human Rights Education (COHRE) is focusing on as our yearly theme. Each year COHRE chooses a theme to explore and dive into more thoroughly, bringing community awareness to the issues, laws and initiatives being taken towards each theme.
This year we focus on labor rights. The right to work and the protection and respect of human life in the workplace. The International Labour Organization (ILO) promotes goals and actions to ensure that all have opportunity to decent and fair work, as well as feel protected to take action if they are being denied said rights. The ILO outlines international labor standards that should protect individuals basic rights and needs in the workplace. Such protections as the freedom and right to collective bargaining, eliminating all forms of forced labor, abolishing child labor, and eradicating discrimination in employment.
Labor Rights as Human Rights
As a human right, the UN outlines labor rights within the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). In articles 6-8 of this covenant, labor is outlined as a right that should be freely and equally accessible to all. According to the ICESCR, the workplace is required to provide fair wages for work of equal value, safe and healthy working conditions, as well as reasonable limitations of work hours, breaks and holiday pay. Along with these conditions outlined for the employer and workplace, the worker is entitled to form unions and the right to strike, within legal measures, without being reprimanded, fair wages, and decent work conditions. When these rights are violated or taken advantage of, a person’s inherent right to fair work is undermined, therefore violating their human right.
Laws and Rights
The difference between labor laws and labor rights are important to keep in mind as we delve into this discussion. Laws, many of which have been outlined above, are in place to ensure workers are protected and compensated fairly for their work. Laws vary from country to country, resulting in a difficult battle of dealing with labor markets that cross borders. Rights, which are under the blanket of the labor laws, give workers the security to ensure proper labor laws are practiced. Rights to proper breaks, fair pay, all should be able to be fought for and achieved without fear of job or wage loss.
As we look through these forms of labor rights and laws, we will continue to unpack the intricacies and issues that plague our world. Forced labor, sex trade, illicit markets, and more continue to enslave people around the world. Join us this year as we continue to bring light to what is being done with labor rights and laws.
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