Freedom of association

By: Julie Thorpe

Freedom of association 

Facilitating Freedom of Association

in Challenging Environments


Just Solutions is clear that the development of successful workplace relations requires a dialogue to be developed between the partners in production.  For such a dialogue to be engaged, however,  there must be respect for each constituency.  The right to ‘freedom of association’ is required by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the relevant ILO Conventions (87 and 98).  Respect for this right cannot be expressed in the abstract.  To have a right means to be able to exercise it.  Much of Just Solutions’ work has therefore been concerned with enabling a better understanding of what is required to fulfil this basic human right in the workplace and in mediating improved relations between company managers and the bona fide representatives of their workers.

Our work in this area has included:

  • Special training for the internal compliance teams of several global apparel and sports brands in ‘freedom of association’, how to audit for it and how to enable its operation. This has included operations in China, India, S.E. Asia, Turkey, Central Europe, Africa and the Americas.
  • Several long-term projects in Bangladesh to advance ‘social dialogue’ at the level of local suppliers to major global clothing brands.
  • Chairing a four-year project in Turkey between multi-stakeholder organisations, global brands, local trade unions, and NGOs on the development of a common audit code to improve worker rights and protections.
  • Providing consultation and training services to enable a traditional soccer-ball manufacturer in Pakistan to allow workers to select their own representatives, and to establish a representation system. Thereafter, to train newly elected shop stewards in their role and to bring the new apparatus of dialogue into life.
  • Evaluating a major trade union development project between the affiliates of six global union federations in Eastern Europe and the Trans-Caucasus Regions.
  • Writing guides for brands, suppliers and other stakeholders on how to implement ‘Freedom of Association’ for such bodies as the Ethical Trading Institute (ETI) and the ILO

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