The ILO and the Right to Strike
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The existence or otherwise of the right of trade unions to strike is a controversial matter both at national and international level. If evidence of this is needed, it can be found in abundance in the experiences of many countries around the world. These experiences are reflected in the number of complaints that have come to the ILO from trade unions alleging infringement of the right. The ILO has since 1951 heard over 1,300 eases relating to trade union rights in general, and the right to strike has appeared very frequently. In fact, since the world economic recession began in 1973, during which time there was a general increase in the number of complaints, there was a roughly proportionate increase in the number of complaints contending breach of the right to strike. Because of this increase in the number of complaints relating to the right to strike, and also because where the right to strike is restricted or prohibited in national laws, unions tend to argue their eases on the basis of international law, it is important to examine two broad matters: the source of the right to strike and the nature and scope of that right, in international law. In the latter aspect, of particular importance to today’s Africa is the concept of essential services and the effect, on strikes, of stales of emergencies — which are frequently declared on the continent.