Freedom of choice in establishing and joining organizations

Laws and practices may not hamper organizational structure and composition

Laws and practices may not hamper an organization’s structure and composition. For example, these could include restrictions attempting to affect the size of organizations by imposing minimum membership requirements beyond a true minimum for organizational purposes or the rights of certain categories of workers to organize.

Permissible restrictions and their limitations on special categories of workers - Download the chart


Laws and practices may not hamper trade union diversity

  • More than one trade union or workers’ organization with members from a given category of workers must be allowed;
  • Where a single organization is voluntarily established by workers, they must still be able to form other organizations if they wish.

Prohibition of trade union monopoly

Laws or practices may not:

  • Give particular trade union functions to a specifically designated trade union;
  • Let authorities refuse to register a trade union when they believe that another registered union adequately represents the workers concerned;
  • Make it compulsory to join a particular trade union;
  • Designate a specific trade union as the recipient of union dues.

Governments must not place one occupational organization at an advantage or disadvantage in relation to another as this may influence workers’ choice of membership.

Trade union security clauses

Union security clauses are intended, for example, to make trade union membership compulsory or to require the payment of dues by workers who are not members (agency fees) and who benefit from the advantages of the collective agreement negotiated by the union.

Systems which prohibit union security practices, as well as systems which permit such practices (without mandating them), are compatible with principles on freedom of association.

Article 2 of Convention No. 87 leaves it to the practice and regulations of each State to decide whether it is appropriate to guarantee the right of workers not to join an occupational organization, or to authorize and, if necessary, regulate the use of union security clauses in practice. The only condition imposed by the ILO supervisory bodies is that such clauses are the result of free negotiation between workers’ organizations and employers, including public employers.

On the other hand, compulsory contribution towards the maintenance of trade unions or employers’ associations, imposed by law, runs against the right to freely join the organization of one’s own choosing.

It becomes especially problematic if these contributions are collected by the Government which has not been party to the negotiation of such clauses, and eventually distributed to trade unions or employers' organizations, since such a degree of involvement raises concerns as to possible undue interference of the State in their activities. (CEACR 2012 General Survey, para. 99)