Freedom of Association

International Labor Organization (“ILO”) has adopted and ratified various conventions and recommendations that cover subjects relating to work, employment, social security, social policy and human rights.  A society that recognizes the right of workers and employers to form and join organizations of their own choosing can be called as a free and open society.  ILO is continuously engaged in promoting freedom of association, and has been playing significant role in bringing democratic transformation in many countries. ILO also has advised governments on labor legislation, and suggested providing education and training for trade unions and employer groups.

As part of recognizing the rights of freedom of association and collective bargaining of workers and employers, ILO adopted two conventions:

  • Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize Convention, 1948 (No. 87) (“Convention No. 87”)
  • Right to Organize and Collective Bargaining Convention, 1949 (No. 98) (Conventions No. 98”).

According to the ILO’s constitution, “recognition of the principle of freedom of association” is a means of improving conditions of labor and attaining peace.  Convention No. 87 was adopted in the light of ILO’ constitution, and certain proposals relating to freedom of association and protection of the right to organize.  Likewise, convention No. 98 was adopted in the light of certain proposals relating application of the principles underlying the right to organize and bargain collectively.  Convention No. 87 reaffirms freedom of expression and association as an essential element to sustain progress and requires all member states of ILO to recognize the rights of both workers and employers to establish and to join organizations of their own choosing.  Under convention No. 98 workers are given adequate protection against acts of anti-union discrimination when it comes to their employment.

In 1951, ILO formed a committee on freedom of association to examine violations of employers’ and workers’ organizing rights.  Through the committee, ILO defends rights of trade unions and employers’ organizations.


Inside Freedom of Association