International Labour Law and Corporate Social Responsibility

Course content

Increasing globalisation involves intensified international cooperation and regulation of labour rights, with international labour standards also increasingly being incorporated into private contracts and Codes of Conduct. Migrant workers in large numbers cross borders, production is outsourced and staff out-placed to work in foreign countries, companies do business in countries at various stages of industrialisation, and private Codes of Conduct on labour rights issues are increasingly incorporated as parts of contractual obligation in business relationships. All of this results in increasing demands for knowledge and understanding of International Labour Law. Out-sourcing of production from industrialised to industrialising countries further attracts attention across borders to the status of labour rights and effective implementation of international labour law in various national settings. International labour law standards form an important part of the emerging international, supranational (EU) and in some cases national regulation of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) as well as in a number of public-private and private initiatives to regulate CSR and provide for complaints modalities.

The knowledge and understanding of international legal instruments on labour rights will aid the legal advisor to handle the fundamental principles of the labour law of most countries. It is also of increasing importance as a competitive parameter for many companies to be able to pass on documentation to partners in business, investment and the consumers that company activities are not based on or involve actions violating international standards of Human Rights, the fundamental ILO conventions, or increasing numbers of soft law instruments or voluntary business codes that draw on or relate to hard international labour law.

The course examines the major principles and mechanisms of international labour law from both a theoretical and practical point of view. The point of departure is taken in major conventions – especially the ILO conventions – and their importance in national legal frameworks and the operation of business. In this context the course will also examine implementation mechanisms, challenges facing effective implementation in various national and regional settings with regard to states’ obligations, implementation at business level and emerging tendencies towards public-private regulation of business responsibilities for international labour law. Throughout the course, this will feed into the role of the legal advisor in relation to effective observance of standards of international labour law and use of complaints modalities, including with regard to aspects of CSR that draw on International Labour Law.

The course is organised in three major parts:

The first part will give an introduction to international labour lawwith focus on both basic concepts and an overview of the global conventions (United Nations, International Labour Organisation) as well as the regional conventions (especially the European Convention on Human Rights and the European Social Charter). This part will also give an overview of the law making procedures and control mechanisms of the different international organisations and conventions.

The second part will examine the contents of the fundamental principles of international labour law. Focus is on the core labour rights as established in the ILO-declaration of June 1998 on fundamental principles and rights at work: Freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining, the elimination of all forms of forced or compulsory labour, the effective abolition of child labour and the elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation. These core labour standards are examined on the basis of the relevant ILO conventions as well as some other conventions.

The third part will focus on the emerging regulation of labour rights as part of Corporate Social Responsibility. Increasingly, (multinational) companies refer to international labour standards or conventions in Codes of Conduct for internal guidance or to be incorporated as part of contracts with business partners acting as suppliers (e.g. in the textile and apparel industries). Public-private and private initiatives have established sectoral codes (e.g. for the extractives industries or diamonds trade). Within OECD countries, National Contact Points provide a new form of complaints modality for organisations or others concerned about possible violations of labour rights even in companies acting outside the OECD. Companies subscribing to the United Nations Global Compact commit, i.a., to observing the international core labour standards. This part of the course will examine the role of international labour law in these contexts and provide a forum for discussion of emerging new forms of regulation under the umbrella of CSR.

Learning outcome

- Describe and explain the lawmaking procedures and the supervisory mechanisms of the relevant international conventions
- Describe and explain the basic concepts and the core labour standards of the relevant international conventions
- Describe and explain the role of international labour law standards as part of business contracts and CSR-policies
- Identify complex problems related to core international labour law rights and the role of these rights in CSR-policies
- Argue in favor of various tenable solutions and make a reasoned choice in relation to theoretical and practical considerations from a business as well as a legal point of view
- Communicate and formulate knowledge and arguments professionally and inguistically correct and in a way that is structured and coherent, including on the interaction between international labour law and various CSR instruments

Throughout the course, this will feed into the role of the legal advisor in relation to effective observance of standards of international labour law and use of complaints modalities, including with regard to aspects of CSR that draw on International Labour Law.

  • Jean-Michel Servais, International labour Law (Kluwer 2011)
  • Nordic Journal of Human Rights – Special Issue om Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). Vol. 25 2007 No. 4

    Total required reading is about 500 pages.
Written
Oral
Individual
Collective
Continuous feedback during the course of the semester
ECTS
7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Oral defence, 20 minutes
Oral exam based on synopsis, 20 minutes
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
External censorship

Single subject courses (day)

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Seminar
  • 28
  • Preparation
  • 178,25
  • English
  • 206,25