International Labour Law Standards Concerning Collective Bargaining in Public Essential Services

Giuseppe Carabetta


Labour standards adopted under the auspices of the ILO constitute the principal international influences on public sector collective bargaining; it is those standards that are the subject of this article. Focusing on the position of essential public sector employees, ILO principles concerning collective bargaining, dispute settlement and the right of workers to withdraw their services as part of bargaining are examined. Particular attention is devoted to the application of ILO standards to essential public sector employees and police officers; and the extent to which Australian law complies with these standards. The ILO supervisory bodies have acknowledged that restrictions on the general right of workers to collectively bargain and to strike can be justified in the case of essential public employees, but only on a minimal or proportional analysis. The ILO has also emphasised that any restrictions on the right to strike must be compensated by adequate, impartial and speedy conciliation and arbitration processes. It is shown, however, that with respect to essential public employees and police officers operating under the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth), Australian law falls short on both of these scores, with a resultant uncertainty regarding the right of these workers to bargain collectively.


Labour Law, labour standards, public sector, collective bargaining, dispute settlement, withdrawing services, right of collective bargaining, right to strikeFair Work Act 2009 (Cth)

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