Promoting voluntary collective bargaining

Convention No. 154 explains further the aims of measures taken to promote collective bargaining. The following are FOA principles:

1. Collective bargaining coverage

Collective bargaining should be made possible for all groups of workers.

For example, the ILO supervisory bodies have said the following workers should enjoy collective bargaining rights:

  • All public service workers other than those engaged in the administration of the State (CFA Compilation of 2018, para. 1241) (to be extended to the public service for those ratifying Conventions Nos. 151 and 154);
  • Workers in export-processing zones (CFA Compilation of 2018, para. 403);
  • Workers in state-owned commercial or industrial enterprises (CFA Compilation of 2018, para. 1261).

2. Scope of bargaining

Collective bargaining should be progressively extended to all matters, including determining working conditions and terms of employment, regulating relations between employers and workers, and regulating relations between employers or their organization and a workers’ organization or workers’ organizations.

The ILO supervisory bodies have decided:

  • The exclusion, for example, of working time from the scope of collective bargaining, unless there is government authorization, would seem to infringe FOA principles (CFA Compilation of 2018, para. 1293);
  • Legislation amending collective agreements, for example, concerning the crewing of ships, is not in conformity with Convention No. 98 (CFA Compilation of 2018, para. 1298);
  • Where an agreement on a check-off system was changed by legislation, the CFA concluded that it should be possible for collective agreements to provide for a system for the collection of union dues, without interference by the authorities (CFA Compilation of 2018, para. 1295).

3. Rules of procedure

The establishment of rules of procedure agreed between employers’ and workers’ organizations should be encouraged.

Decisions of the ILO supervisory bodies:

  • The determination of the level of collective bargaining (at the enterprise, geographic area, sectoral or national levels) is to be left to the discretion of the parties. Therefore, the CFA has not considered the refusal of employers to bargain at a particular level as an infringement of freedom of association.
  • Similarly, however, legislation should in no way interfere with the possible legitimate trade union action which might be taken to influence the choice of bargaining level. Thus, the prohibition of strikes aimed at ensuring multi-employer agreements would be contrary to FOA principles (CFA Compilation of 2018, para. 771).

Collective bargaining should not be hampered by the absence of rules governing the procedures to be used or by the inadequacy or inappropriateness of such rules.

Decisions of the ILO supervisory bodies:

  • In one case, where there were legislated time-limits of 105 days within which employers had to reply to proposals by workers, and six months within which a collective agreement had to be concluded, the CFA thought it desirable to reduce these periods in order to encourage and promote the development of voluntary negotiation -- particularly in view of the fact that the workers in the country in question were unable to take strike action (CFA Compilation of 2018, para. 1501).
  • Procedures for the settlement of labour disputes should be so conceived as to contribute to the promotion of collective bargaining.

In this regard, the Voluntary Conciliation and Arbitration Recommendation, 1951 (No.  92) presents some of the essential  characteristics of such machinery:

  • Joint nature of machinery;
  • Voluntary recourse;
  • Procedures free of charge and expeditious.