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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The Right to Freedom of Association in the Workplace: Australia's Compliance with International Human Rights Law

  • Author(s): Hutchinson, Zoé
  • et al.

The right to freedom of association in the workplace is a well established norm of international human rights law. However, it has traditionally received insubstantial attention within human rights scholarship. This article situates the right to freedom of association at work within human rights discourses. It looks at the status, scope and importance of the right as it has evolved in international human rights law. In so doing, a case is put that there are strong reasons for states to comply with the right to freedom of association not only in terms of international human rights obligations but also from the perspective of human dignity in the context of an interconnected world.

A detailed case study is offered that examines the right to freedom of association in the Australian context. There has been a series of significant changes to Australian labor law in recent years. The Rudd-Gillard Labor government claimed that recent changes were to bring Australia into greater compliance with its obligations under international law. This policy was presented to electors as in sharp contrast to the Work Choices legislation of the Howard Liberal-National party coalition government. This article critically assesses the extent to which the new industrial relations regime in Australia complies with international instruments governing the right to freedom of association at work.

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