What is the course about?
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.
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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
- 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.
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.
- 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.
Paul Whitehead is a Professor of Practice in the Penn State School of Labor and Employment Relations. He earned his B.S. in Labor Studies and M.S. in Industrial Relations from the University of Wisconsin. He is an honors graduate of Harvard Law School. For 28 years, Whitehead represented the United Steelworkers, the largest industrial union in North America, and an organization active in cross-border solidarity initiatives. In 2009, he joined the PSU faculty, where he has been active in its Center for Global Workers' Rights. In recent years, he helped to bring Penn State into the Global Labour University (GLU) via the creation of Penn State's one-year masters program in Global Workers' Rights. His teaching includes International Labour Law.
Magda Barros Biavaschi
Magda B. Biavaschi is a retired chief judge of the 4th Regional Labor Court. She holds a Master in Law (UFSC) - Public Institutions, PhD in Work Social Economics by IE/UNICAMP, Post-doctorate in applied economics by IE/UNICAMP, with research focused on Outsourcing and Labor Justice. She is currently a researcher and Adjunct Professor at CESIT /IE/ UNICAMP.
Stefanie Lorenzen is a professor for business law, especially employment and labor law at the Berlin School of Economics and Law since 2009. She worked for two years at the Ministery of Justice in Windhoek, Namibia, where she supported a development aid study on legal reform after the country’s independence in 1994. From 1998 to 2009 she was an attorney-at-law specialised in employment and labor law, with an international law firm in Germany and in her own practice. At the Berlin School of Economics and Law she academically directs a Master programme in Business Law in an International Context, and lectures on International Labour Standards and working conditions along the global supply chain.
Beatriz Vacotto graduated as a lawyer in Cordoba, Argentina and later obtained a Masters in International Relationship in the Graduate Institute of International Studies in Geneva, Switzerland. She is now working as Coordinator of the Wages, Working Time, Maritime and Specific Categories of Workers Team in the International Labour Standards Department of the ILO. Prior to that, she worked for the Bureau for Workers' Activities (ACTRAV), where she was in charge of assisting the ILO Workers' group and trade unions from different countries in work related to International Labour Standards and the ILO supervisory mechanisms. Her former experience includes working for the ILO training centre in Turin where she was responsible for a training project on freedom of association and in the ILO International Labour Standards Department in Geneva, where she was part of the secretariat of ILO supervisory bodies.
Dr. Michael Fichter
He moved to Berlin after receiving his BA in History at Stanford University. Until the end of 2011 he taught political science and labor relations at the Freie Universitaet Berlin. From 2005 to 2013 he also taught a seminar on "Strategies of Multinational Corporations and Labour" in the GLU German Program. His research focus for the past several years has been on global labor relations, in particular on the impact of global framework agreements and transnational union networks.
Dr Frank Hoffer
Dr Frank Hoffer is a research fellow of the Global Labour University. He studied in Bremen, London and Moscow. He holds a PhD in Economics. During his professional career, Frank Hoffer was a Labour Attache at the Germany Embassy in Moscow, worked as a senior research officer at the International Labour Organisation and served as the Executive Director of the ACT Foundation. His main areas of interest and research are social policy, wage policies and the application of international labour standards. He is a non-executive director of the GLU Online Academy board
Dr. Claudia Hofmann works as a research associate at the Chair for Public Law and Policy on the Faculty of Law at the University of Regensburg. Her research concentrates on the area of international law (in particular the field of socioeconomic human rights and international equality standards), social law and German constitutional and administrative law.
Prof Mark Anner, Penn State University
Mark Anner is a Professor of Labor and Employment Relations, and Political Science, and he is the Director of the Center for Global Workers' Rights at Penn State University. He is also the chair of the MPS Program in Labor and Global Workers' Rights, which is a part of the Global Labour University network. He holds a Ph.D. in Government from Cornell University and a Master's Degree in Latin American Studies from Stanford University. Dr. Anner's research examines freedom of association and corporate social responsibility, labor law reform and enforcement, and workers' rights in apparel global value chains in Central America and Vietnam. His publications include Solidarity Transformed: Labor Responses to Globalization and Crisis in Latin America* (Cornell University Press, 2011). Before beginning his academic career, Mark Anner spent eleven years working with labor unions and labor research centers in Central America and Brazil, and he was a union organizer in Boston.
Christoph Scherrer is professor for Globalization and Politics and executive director of the International Center for Development and Decent Work at the University of Kassel and a member of Steering Committee of the Global Labour University.
Tandiwe Gross graduated in political science and law and holds an M.A. in Labour Policies and Globalisation from the University of Kassel and Berlin School of Economics and Law. After working for the Global Labour University and the International Labour Organization in the area of labour rights and due diligence in global supply chains, she now works as Senior Programme Manager at the ACT Foundation.
Currently based in Canada, he worked for seven years at the Argentine Workers Confederation (CTA). He holds a PhD in Social Sciences from the University of Buenos Aires, Argentina and is a GLU alumni from the Masters in Globalisation and Labour at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, India.
Dr. Edlira Xhafa
Edlira Xhafa is the Executive Director of the Online Academy of the Global Labour University. She has a master's degree in Labour Policies and Globalisation from the Global Labour University (Germany) and holds a PhD in Labour Studies from the University of Milan, Italy. Since 2000, she has been engaged with national trade unions in her home country Albania, as well as in the Philippines, Bangladesh, Cambodia and Myanmar. She has also worked for, and collaborated with a number of international trade unions and labour organisations such as EI, PSI, BWI, ILO, FES and others.