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Labour rights

The EU uses increased trade opportunities to promote improved labour standards while preventing a 'race to the bottom'.  

Trade topics
  • Sustainable development

In recent trade agreements, the EU requires its trading partners to respect and implement the International Labour Organization's fundamental conventions on:

  • freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining (e.g. forming trade unions);
  • getting rid of all forms of forced or compulsory labour;
  • abolishing child labour, and;
  • ending discrimination in the workplace.

Developing countries using the EU's Generalised Scheme of Preferences+ must also put these four fundamental conventions into practice, among others.  

Working with the ILO

The EU works with the International Labour Organization to monitor and improve labour conditions in developing countries.

One example is the Bangladesh Sustainability Compact launched in 2013. The Compact aims to create a legal framework for labour rights, health and safety standards in clothing factories in Bangladesh and to ensure they are applied. It was a response to the 2013 Rana Plaza tragedy, in which over 1,100 people died when a garment factory collapsed.

Since the compact took effect:

  • 235 new inspectors have been recruited to ensure safety conditions in industrial buildings, and;
  • Nearly 350 trade unions have been created and 220 Workers' Welfare Associations registered with the right to collective bargaining.

Another example is the Initiative to Promote Fundamental Labour Rights and Practices in Myanmar of 2015. The initiative also includes the government of Myanmar, the US, Denmark, Japan and the International Labour Organization. It aims to:

  • help promote fundamental rights for workers in Myanmar;
  • create opportunities for businesses in Myanmar, and;
  • help transform Myanmar into an attractive trading and investment partner.

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