Editorial: The 80th anniversary of the Declaration of Philadelphia and the Campaign for Working Time and Paid Holidays

This edition of IUR opens with a contribution from the General Secretary of the ITUC, who has a stark warning to all, that labour movement values “are under attack worldwide”. Triangle argues that “unregulated, neo-liberal globalisation” has “left billions of people behind”. As he explains, this has created the conditions for a backlash feeding a worrying “rising tide of authoritarian and totalitarian regimes”. To respond to these threats, and recapture some initiative, Triangle outlines the ITUC’s For Democracy campaign, which he describes as “a blueprint for reimagining a more equal global economy in service of humanity”. It is time, Triangle urges, “to make good on the promises made in the ILO Declaration of Philadelphia”. Law professor Alain Supiot shares Triangle’s sense of foreboding, observing in interview that “everywhere, we see the dismantling of solidarity systems inherited from tradition or the welfare state” and a “programming” of workers that is “leading to new forms of dehumanisation of work”. Social justice, he tells us, “was at the heart of the Declaration of Philadelphia” but “is totally absent” from the new agenda.

Ewing calls Philadelphia “the most progressive legal text in international law ever created” and “a timeless Bill of Workers’ Rights, which if fully implemented would transform the lives of workers throughout the world”. But he fears that the Declaration “is in danger of becoming a relic of an age long since passed”, and shares concerns about new forms of work, where “the commodification of labour is now hidden in plain sight, workers disrespected as objects in a ‘labour market’ and treated like any other article of commerce: paid by the task, used only when needed, and discarded as quickly as possible”. But while our contributors are dismayed, they are not without optimism: Triangle proposes “a more equal global economy in service of humanity”; Ewing observes that the Declaration “remains at least formally a live instrument” and that of the choices currently being actively made by governments around the world “none of these is inevitable”; while Supiot reflects that the referral of the right to strike dispute at the ILO to the International Court of Justice is “a reminder of the primacy of the rule of law over the power relations in the international order”.

Turning to the second “focus” of this edition of IUR, Byrne and Scalmer examine the regulation of working time in the context of “a broad historical survey of Australian union campaigns, from the eight-hour day to a four-day week” of which modern forms are now “continuing the movement’s long tradition of taking action to secure a decent work/life balance for working people”. While in agreement that “shorter working hours are a marker of social progress and job creation”, Yildirim sets out a more cautious view from France’s CGT, observing that some four-day week proposals come “without any reduction in weekly working hours” and warning unions that a reduction in working days on that basis alone “is a false reduction”.

Zenroren’s Kurosawa is concerned by proposals developed by a government panel reporting on “work style” in Japan that favours ‘opt-outs’ or ‘derogations’ from working time limits that were only recently established in a culture where karoshi (“death from overwork”) remains a significant social problem. Kurosawa observes that “the report’s proposals in favour of exemptions from legal obligations are pointless at a time when strict implementation of worker protection provisions of relevant laws is called for”. Kurosawa’s fears may be well-founded, judging by the issues raised in Moretta’s contribution. In the UK, even just three years after working time rules came into force, those employers who were not restrained by collective agreements “came to rely almost exclusively on mass individual opt outs to exempt their workforces from time limits”. This situation, Moretta insists, is an “abuse of the individual opt out” and “exactly what one would expect in the circumstances”.

Closing this edition, IUR looks at the long development of the legal right to paid holidays around the world, and the role of unions in both advocating for these rights and in facilitating union- backed holidays.

Daniel Blackburn, Editor

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IUR journal brings together the latest news, views and information on trade union rights worldwide, covering key issues from varied perspectives. IUR has an accessible format that is appreciated around the world by an audience of trade unionists, legal practitioners and academics. The journal is available in print and digital formats, with an online archive dating back to 1993.

Previous editions:

IUR 224 ChinaIUR 221 South KoreaIUR 212 Minimum WageIUR 223 Right to Strike

Trade Unions Can and Must Help
to Rebuild Democracy

Luc Triangle

80th anniversary of Philadelphia
An Interview with Alain Supiot

The Declaration of Philadelphia:
80th Anniversary
Keith Ewing

ICTUR in Action "Interventions"

Union Struggles and
Working Time in Australia:
Past, Present, and Future

Liam Byrne and Sean Scalmer

The Four-Day Week,
a False Good Idea?

Ozlem Yildirim

Zenroren Demand
Government Panel’s Report
on ‘Work-Style’ Reform Be Retracted

Kurosawa Koichi

The UK and the regulation
of working time

Andrew Moretta

From Char-A-Bancs
to Holiday Camps:
The Campaign for Paid Rest

Daniel Blackburn


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The International Centre for Trade Union Rights

Established in 1987, ICTUR is a non-profit organisation
based in London, promoting international trade
union rights through research and advocacy services.

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