Freedom of association

Freedom of association

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The manufacturing industry faces some specific challenges concerning working conditions, not least because production often takes place in undeveloped countries, where respect for human rights and the wellbeing of workers are overshadowed by problems related to poverty.

A genuine dialogue with freely chosen worker representatives enables workers and employers to reach better mutual understandings. Security of representation is a foundation for building trust on both sides. Dialogue makes it easier to anticipate problems related to the workplace and to make agreements that are mutually beneficial. In some countries, though, there are severe restrictions on the right to free association. NICE recommends that factories operating under such circumstances facilitate the formation of parallel means to independent and free association, such as working groups or committees that include all workers in the factory.

Businesses must uphold the freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining

Freedom of association mechanisms (unions, workers’ groups/committees) can also enable proper grievance systems to develop.


  • Protect the right of workers to meet in the factory during breaks, after or before work to discuss working conditions and concerns
  • Be informed about local laws in regard to collective bargaining and free association, in your own and your subcontractors’ countries
  • Communicate your policy about the right to collective bargaining and freedom of association to the workers
  • Train your managers and supervisors in freedom of association compliance and give your workers instructions on their rights under national law and company standards

More topics

Human rights
Freedom of association
Forced labour
Child labour
Working hours
Labour contracts
Sick leave
Grievance system
Occupational health and safety
Corruption and bribery
Monitoring and evaluation