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International conventions

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) recognise the rights to:

  • work,
  • have just and safe conditions of work,
  • be free of discrimination at work,
  • receive equal pay for equal work; and
  • form and join trade unions. (ICESCR, Articles 6, 8 and 7 respectively).

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) is a United Nations body consisting of government, employer and union representatives. It has developed many conventions on workers' human rights, which many governments, including the Australian Government, have signed.

These cover:

  • Prevention of forced labour
  • Safe working conditions
  • Non-discrimination at work
  • Equal pay for equal work
  • Minimum age of employment to prevent child labour
  • The right to organise trade unions and to negotiate working conditions collectively

However, the rights in the signed Conventions have never been fully implemented into Australian law. Trade Unionists in Australia are left with scattered protections in some state and Commonwealth legislation.