International Journal of Comparative Labour Law and Industrial Relations

Volume 26 (2010)

Volume 26 (2010) / Issue 3

Tony Royle, 'The ILO’s Shift to Promotional Principles and the ‘Privatization’ of Labour Rights: An Analysis of Labour Standards, Voluntary Self-regulation and Social Clauses' (2010) 26 International Journal of Comparative Labour Law and Industrial Relations, Issue 3, pp. 249–271


This article examines the existing quasi-legal means by which international labour standards may be protected. This article considers the nature of the challenge that global capital creates for labour, the development of the International Labour Organizations (ILO’s) labour standards, and the consequences of its shift towards promotional principles, the growth of corporate voluntary initiatives by multinational corporations (MNCs), and finally the associated debates around the inclusion of social clauses in trade agreements. The analysis suggests that the ILO’s shift to ‘promotional principles’ and the formal acceptance of voluntary self-regulation from the late 1990s has not significantly improved the situation for workers but was a pragmatic response driven in part by US policy and the increasing marginalization of the ILO within the global system of economic governance. It is argued that even if the many political obstacles could be overcome, the result of including social clauses in World Trade Organization (WTO) trade agreements may not be straightforward. In conclusion, it is argued that in some respects the existing system has ‘privatized’ labour rights.

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ISSN: 0952-617X
ID: IJCL2010016