Paul Whitehead, Magda Barros Biavaschi, Stefanie Lorenzen, Beatriz Vacotto, Michael Fichter, Dr Frank Hoffer, Claudia Hofmann, Mark Anner, Penn State University, Christoph Scherrer, Tandiwe Gross, Bruno Dobrusin, and Edlira Xhafa

Blended Online Course on Global Workers’ Rights

  • FREE
  • English
  • Interdisciplinary
  • Certificate included

What is the course about?

Course Summary

Rights and dignity at the workplace are fundamental human rights. However, workers’ rights continue to be violated every day - millions of people worldwide are facing humiliation and mistreatment at work.

This course discusses what Global Workers’ Rights are and which instruments and strategies can be used to implement them. You will be invited to apply your new knowledge to a practical case of your interest.

Based on a mix of readings, video lectures, explanatory animations and interviews with activists and labour scholars from around the world, this course aims at increasing both knowledge and practical skills for furthering workers’ rights worldwide.

What will I learn?

At the end of the course you will understand…

  • The institutional structure of the ILO and get a first insight into its functioning as a standard setting organization
  • The economic arguments about ILS
  • The process of elaboration, adoption, revision and supervision of International Labour Standards and the active role that trade unions can play in these processes.
  • The concept of freedom of association and what makes it fundamental for realizing Global Workers’ Rights in general
  • The challenges of protecting workers in precarious and informal employment
  • How ILS may be incorporated into other instruments and initiatives beyond the ILO supervisory system, and how trade unions and other organizations can use these instruments in their work.

Course Structure

This course has a total of 12 chapters, and the topics for each chapter are the following:

Chapter 1: Introduction to the Course

Chapter 2: Labour Regulation and Development

Chapter 3: History and Concept of Global Workers’ Rights

Chapter 4: Introduction to International Labour Standards (ILS) and the Role of Trade Unions

Chapter 5: Supervision and Interpretation of International Labour Standards and the Role of Trade Unions

Chapter 6: Enabling Rights: Freedom of Association and Collective Bargaining

Chapter 7: Income Security: Minimum Wage and Social Security

Chapter 8: Access to Rights for Workers in Informal and Precarious Employment

Chapter 9: Introduction to Instruments and Initiatives Beyond the ILO

Chapter 10: Case Studies on Instruments and Initiatives Beyond the ILO

Chapter 11: Mapping Rights Violations in the World

Chapter 12: Practical Application

Line-up of contributors

Beatriz Vacotto

  • Lawyer and Senior Specialist for International Labour Standards and Legal Issues, Bureau for Workers’ Activities, ILO.
  • Main areas of interest: Support to trade unions on issues related to International Labour Standards and the ILO supervisory mechanisms.

Dr. Ben Scully

  • Lecturer at the University of Witwatersrand, South Africa.
  • Main areas of interest: Precarious Work, Economic Development, Social Welfare in the Global South.

Dr. Claudia Hofmann

  • Research associate at the Faculty of Law, University of Regensburg, Germany.
  • Main areas of interest: public international law, human rights, German constitutional and administrative law, social law and social policy, sociology of law.

Prof. Dr. Christoph Scherrer

  • Professor for Globalization and Politics, Social Science Department of the University of Kassel, Germany.
  • Main areas of interest: International Political Economy: Governance of world markets, international labor standards, cross-national transfer of institutions, theories of the International Political Economy.

Dr. Frank Hoffer

  • Economist and Senior Research Officer, Bureau for Workers’ Activities, ILO.
  • Main areas of interest: Wages Policies, Social Protection, International Research Cooperation.

Kirstine Drew

  • Senior policy advisor to the Trade Union Advisory Council to the OECD (TUAC).
  • Main areas of interest: OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises.

Magda Biavaschi, Ph.D.

  • Researcher and Assistant Professor at University of Campinas (Brazil).
  • Main areas of interest: outsourcing and labor courts.

Prof. Mark Anner, Ph.D.

  • Associate Professor of Labor and Employment Relations, and Political Science at Penn State University, USA.
  • Main areas of interest: global apparel industry, labor movements in Latin America, Corporate Social Responsibility, strikes in Vietnam.

Dr. Michael Fichter

  • Senior Lecturer at the Global Labour University, Germany.

  • Main areas of interest: global labour relations, trade unions, political economy.

Prof. Paul Whitehead

  • Professor of Practice in Labor Studies and Employment Relations at Penn State University, USA.

  • Main areas of interest: Trade unions, collective bargaining, labor and employment law, international labor law, international human resources, trade law, and programs for pensions, health care, and social security.

Patrick Belser, Ph.D.

  • Economist, Conditions of Work and Employment Programme, ILO.
  • Main areas of interest: analysis of wage trends, income distribution and the design of minimum wage policies. 

Peter Rossman

  • Director of international campaigns and communications at the International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers' Associations (IUF).
  • Main areas of interest: precarious employment, strategic corporate research and campaigning.

Renana Jhabvala

  • National coordinator of SEWA (Self-employed Women’s Association, India).

  • Main areas of interest: Workers in the unorganised Sector, urban poverty, slum and service delivery systems (among others).

Prof. Dr. Stefanie Lorenzen

  • Professor of Employment and Labour Law at the Berlin School of Economics and Law, Department of Business and Economics, Germany.
  • Main areas of interest: employment law, co-determination, right to collective bargaining, international and European labour law.

Tandiwe Gross

  • Programme Coordinator at the Global Labour University, Germany
  • Main areas of interest: Corporate Accountability, Labour in global supply chains, Cooperation of Trade Unions and Social Movements/NGOs, International Labour Standards.

Victor Hugo Ricco

  • Lawyer and Technical officer, Bureau for Workers’ Activities, ILO
  • Main areas of interest: International Labour Standards, Informal Economy, Forced labour.

Further contributors:

Anna Wolanska (International secretary of the trade union federation NSZZ “Solidarność” in Poland)

Eulogia Familia (Vice-President of the National Confederation of Trade Union Unity in the Dominican Republic)

Gustav Horn (Director of the Macroeconomic Policy Institute, Germany)

Isabel Ortiz (Director of the Social Protection Department, ILO)

Jayati Ghosh (Professor of Economics at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, India)

Karen Curtis (Chief of the Freedom of Association Branch, International Labour Standards Department, ILO)

Maria Helena André (Director of the Bureau for Workers’ Activities, ILO)

Rabiatou Sérah Diallo (General Secretary of the National Confederation of Guinean Workers)

Course Policies and Expectations

  • Students are responsible for reading course announcements concerning assignments and changes in the course structure.
  • The responsibility to meet deadlines for assignments and assessment lies with the student.
  • Homework and exams will not be accepted after the due date.

Additional information

  • Please note that documents which you post on the course website (e.g. answers to discussion questions, your strategy paper) will be visible for other students and professors in the GLU network, but not for the wider public (since only members of the GLU network have access to this course).
  • When you see several answers that have been posted below a discussion question you can rank these answers according to their relevance/pertinence with the help of the up and down arrow next to the answers. This way it can happen that the most relevant and pertinent answers are shown at the top.

Course instructors