PLACING THE RIGHT TO STRIKE WITHIN A HUMAN RIGHTS FRAMEWORK
Keywords:right to strike, human rights framework, socio-economic rights, criticisms, civil and/or political right
Traditionally human rights have been divided into three generations. First generation rights, often referred to as civil/political rights, deal with issues of liberty and protect individuals from state interference. Examples of such rights include freedom of speech, freedom of religion and the right to life. Second generation rights are socio-economic in nature and protect rights such as housing, education and health care, while third generation rights are collective rights, for example the right to self determination and the right to
development. Socio-economic rights and collective rights do not have the same status as civil and political rights in international law. They are usually included in supplementary international documents, are ratified by fewer states and are subject to states’ economic constraints. The right to strike has often been described as a socio-economic right since it has been used to improve economic conditions for workers, such as wages, reasonable working conditions and a better standard of living (Novitz International Protection of the Right to Strike: A Comparative Study of Standards Set by the International Labour Organization and the Council of Europe (April 1998) published Oxford PhD 102; and see also Pillay “The Contemporary Protection of Social, Cultural Economic and Cultural Rights in International Law” http://www.communitylawcentre.org.za/ser/docs_2002/socio-economic_rights_in_international_law.pdf). The purpose of this note is to highlight the importance of the right to strike within the human rights framework. It proposes to do so in two ways. First, by showing that criticisms levelled against socio-economic rights are unwarranted and inapplicable to strikes and, secondly, by demonstrating that the right to strike is in fact a civil and/or political right, deserving of greater protection under international law.
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