Taking the Measure of Changing Labour Mobilization at the International Labour Organisation in the Wake of the Sovereign Debt Crisis
International and Comparative Law Quarterly (2019)
27 Pages Posted: 24 May 2019
Date Written: April 27, 2019
This analysis investigates changing mobilisation at the ILO in response to the labour and social rights shock created by EU and IMF demands in the EU sovereign debt crisis (Crisis Europe or euro-crisis). By mobilisation I mean the purposeful use of legal norms and institutions by social movements and civil society groups to advance identified policy goals. It can be contrasted with the use of legal norms and institutions by individuals or entities to settle disputes affecting them. After introducing relevant features of euro-crisis and the ILO, it develops an analysis that measures changing mobilisation at the ILO during euro-crisis. It then shows how such an analysis makes two key contributions: firstly, to our understanding of the ILO and, secondly, to how we approach mobilisation. Firstly, by viewing the ILO as a rights mobilisation structure, it shows the vitality and interest of doubted or neglected ILO supervision and complaints mechanisms. Five elements are underlined: the ILO is more than existing literature assumes; it questions the depiction of the ILO as a ‘toothless tiger’; the sharp divide between unions and NGOs is overstated; certain institutional design features make the ILO a good venue for transnational mobilization; the ILO is not transparent in terms of access to documents relevant to mobilization and compares poorly in this respect with UN Human Rights Treaty Bodies. Secondly, by setting it against existing literature, I show how the angle of measuring mobilisation is distinctive within the broader human rights mobilisation scholarship. The most important insights it introduces are: rejecting the assumption that mobilisation inevitably follows a significant rights shock such as euro-crisis; addressing the puzzles of union ‘mobilisation’ and motivation; operationalising measurement of mobilisation against the backdrop of venue choices; considering how to deal with an international organisation which is both a mobilisation venue and an engaged actor.
Keywords: ILO, EU sovereign debt crisis, changing mobilisation, labour rights, human rights mobilisation
JEL Classification: K31
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation