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close this bookABC of Women Workers' Rights and Gender Equality (ILO; 2000; 124 pages)
View the documentThe International Labour Organization
View the documentILO Publications
View the documentPreface to the earlier ABC of women workers' rights
View the documentPreface to the new ABC of women workers' rights and gender equality
Open this folder and view contentsIntroduction: Labour standards promoting women workers' rights and gender equality (Ingeborg Heide1)
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View the documentFacilities and equipment
View the documentFamily benefit
View the documentFamily responsibilities, workers with
View the documentFemale-headed households
View the documentFreedom of association and the right to organize
View the documentFundamental principles and rights at work
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View the documentOther ILO publications
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Freedom of association and the right to organize

Freedom of association and the right to organize are fundamental principles, aiming at freely exercised rights of workers and employers, without any distinction, to organize for the purpose of furthering and defending their interests.

Workers and employers have the right to establish and join organizations of their own choosing. Such organizations must have the right:

• to draw up their own constitutions and rules;

• to elect their representatives in full freedom;

• to organize their administration and activities, and formulate their programmes;

• not to be dissolved or suspended by administrative authority;

• to form and join federations and confederations.

Workers should be protected from anti-union discrimination. In particular, they should be protected against refusal to employ them because of union membership or participation in trade union activities.

Workers' and employers' organizations should enjoy protection against acts of interference by each other that are designed to promote domination, financing or control. Measures appropriate to national conditions should be taken to encourage and promote the development and utilization of voluntary collective bargaining as a means of regulating terms and conditions of employment.

Throughout the years, many trade unions have been instrumental in supporting and defending the rights of women workers. It is of major importance for the promotion of gender equality that trade unions actively organize women workers and adequately defend their interests through collective bargaining.

C. 87: Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise, 1948
C. 98: Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining, 1949
C. 141: Rural Workers' Organizations, 1975
R. 149: Rural Workers' Organizations, 1975
C. 151: Labour Relations (Public Service), 1978
R. 159: Labour Relations (Public Service), 1978
ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work and its Follow-up, 1998

→ see also Collective bargaining, Fundamental principles and rights at work and Trade unions

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