Shared Responsibility and the International Labour Organization
72 Pages Posted: 15 Mar 2014
Date Written: 2012
In contrast to previous legal studies of the ILO, which focused mainly on problems of enforcement, efficacy, or the institutional structure of the Organization, this article proposes a novel understanding of the obstacles to realizing the ILO’s goals in the global era, which, we assert, stem from the Organization’s continued espousal of the statist conception of responsibility for workers rights. Under this outdated and inadequate conception, the nation-state is the sole agent bearing responsibility towards workers within its jurisdiction. However, this statist conception offers ineffective protection of labor rights in the age of globalization. Instead, we argue, the ILO should adopt an alternative conception of shared responsibility. Under this approach, legal responsibility for unjust labor conditions in the global labor market would be assigned not only to the state in whose territory the labor rights violation occurs but also to additional public and private actors, including states other than the territorial state of the violation and powerful transnational corporations that participate in global production chains.
The innovative model of shared responsibility presented in this article rests on a multidisciplinary analysis, combining a detailed empirical-legalistic consideration of ILO internal mechanisms and structure with a normative-philosophical examination of the principles of justice that should be applied in international labor law. The article outlines four general principles for allocating shared responsibility for workers’ rights in the global labor market, based on the labor connection approach. It then proposes specific reforms to the ILO’s supervisory procedures and mechanisms that will enable the enforcement of labor standards across national borders. While these proposals may seem controversial, we demonstrate in the article that the “seeds” of their underlying values are already embedded in existing ILO structures.
Keywords: International Labor Organization (ILO), International Labor Law, Global Justice Theories, Shared Responsibility, Labor Law
JEL Classification: J00, F23, D64, F02
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation