International Labour Law


International Labour Law | Research Guide International Law

The purpose of international labour law is to regulate the relation of employers and employees, to make provision for settlement of industrial disputes and to provide for certain other purposes. Employment law, sometimes referred to as labour law, encompasses the massive compilation of statutory laws, administrative rulings, and legal precedents which cover all facets of the employer/employee relationship. To address the problems caused by the industrialization of Europe in the 19th century, Robert Owen of Wales, and Jerome Blanqui and Daniel Legrand of France, among others, brought the need for international cooperation in setting labour standards to international prominence. The reasons articulated for the necessity of cooperation were both benevolent and economic. Cooperation was necessary to eradicate poverty and injustice, not just to protect workers, but also to prevent the social unrest these conditions could engender. Furthermore, international cooperation was necessary because each nation would be at a competitive disadvantage if it imposed higher standards unilaterally. Ultimately, these concerns led to the formation of The International Labour Organization on April 11, 1919 as an affiliated agency of the League of Nations.

This Research Guide is intended as a starting point for research on International Labour Law. It provides the basic legal materials available in the Peace Palace Library, both in print and electronic format. Handbooks, leading articles, bibliographies, periodicals, serial publications and documents of interest are presented in the Selective Bibliography section. Links to the PPL Catalogue are inserted. The Library’s classification index code 156. International Labour Law; International Labour Organization (ILO) and subject heading (keyword) International Labour Law are instrumental for searching through the Catalogue. Special attention is given to our subscriptions on databases, e-journals, e-books and other electronic resources. Finally, this Research Guide features links to relevant websites and other online resources of particular interest.


Reference works



Periodicals, serial publications


New titles

1. From Chile to Vietnam: International Labour Law and Workers' Rights in International Trade
From Chile to Vietnam: International Labour Law and Workers' Rights in International Trade / Lance Compa. - Oxford ; Portland, Oregon : Hart Publishing. - Page 143-162 In: Critical Legal Perspectives on Global Governance : Liber amicorum David M Trubek / edited by Gráinne De Búrca, Claire Kilpatrick and Joanne Scott, ISBN 9781849464192: (2014), Page 143-162. - 2014
Keywords: Labour law, International labour law, International law and domestic law, Labor rights, International trade, North American Free Trade Agreement, N.A.A.L.C., International co-operation, International Labour Organization,

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  • Maupain, F., The Future of the International Labour Organization in the Global Economy, Oxford, Hart, 2013.

    Maupain, F., The Future of the International Labour Organization in the Global Economy, Oxford, Hart, 2013.

    The International Labour Organization was created in 1919, as part of the Treaty of Versailles that ended the First World War, to reflect the belief that universal and lasting peace can be accomplished only if it is based on social justice. As the oldest organisation in the UN system, approaching its 100th anniversary in 2019, the ILO faces unprecedented strains and challenges. Since before the financial crisis, the global economy has tested the limits of a regulatory regime which was conceived in 1919. The organisation’s founders only entrusted it with balancing social progress with the constraints of an interconnected open economy, but gambled almost entirely on tools of persuasion to ensure that this would happen. Whether that gamble is still capable of paying-off is the subject of this book, by a former ILO insider with an unrivalled knowledge of its work. The book forms part of a broader inquiry into the relevance of founding institutional principles to today’s context, and strives to show that the bet made on persuasion may yet pay off. In part, the text argues that there may be little alternative anyway, showing that the pathways to more binding solutions are fraught with difficulty. It also shows the ILO’s considerable future potential for promoting effective, universal regulations by extending its tools of persuasion in as yet insufficiently explored directions. Starting with an examination of how the organisation’s institutional context differs from 93 years ago, the author goes on to evaluate the prospects of numerous proposals put forward today, including the trade/labour linkage, but going beyond this. As a case study in how strategic choices can be made under legal, social and institutional constraints, the book should be valuable not only to those with an interest in the ILO, but to anyone who studies international organisation, labour law, law and society or political economy.

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  • Kott, S. and J. Droux (eds.), Globalizing Social Rights: the International Labour Organization and Beyond, Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan, 2013.

    Kott, S. and J. Droux (eds.), Globalizing Social Rights: the International Labour Organization and Beyond, Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan, 2013.

    Focusing on the ILO, this volume explores its role as creator of international social networks and facilitator of exchange between various national and international actors since its establishment in 1919. It emphasizes the role played by the ILO in the international circulation of ideas, expertise and practices that foster the emergence and shaping of international social models, and examines the impact of its methods and models on national and local societies. By analysing the case of the ILO, the authors rethink the influence of international organizations in the shaping of the contemporary world and the emergence of a global civil society. This collection brings together a variety of new scholarship by a group of highly qualified and internationally renowned scholars in the field of global history and the history of international organizations.

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  • Fairbrother, P., Transnational Trade Unionism: Building Union Power, New York, NY, Routledge, 2013.

    Fairbrother, P., Transnational Trade Unionism: Building Union Power, New York, NY, Routledge, 2013.

    Transnational trade union action has expanded significantly over the last few decades and has taken a variety of shapes and trajectories. This book is concerned with understanding the spatial extension of trade union action, and in particular the development of new forms of collective mobilization, network-building, and forms of regulation that bridge local and transnational issues. Through the work of leading international specialists, this collection of essays examines the process and dynamic of transnational trade union action and provides analytical and conceptual tools to understand these developments. The research presented here emphasizes that the direction of transnational solidarity remains contested, subject to experimentation and negotiation, and includes studies of often overlooked developments in transition and developing countries with original analyses from the European Union and NAFTA areas. Providing a fresh examination of transnational solidarity, this volume offers neither a romantic or overly optimistic narrative of a borderless unionism, nor does it fall into a fatalistic or pessimistic account of international union solidarity. Through original research conducted at different levels, this book disentangles the processes and dynamics of institution building and challenges the conventional national based forms of unionism that prevailed in the latter half of the twentieth century.

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  • Deinert, O., Internationales Arbeitsrecht, Tübingen, Mohr Siebeck, 2013.

    Deinert, O., Internationales Arbeitsrecht, Tübingen, Mohr Siebeck, 2013.

    Die Anknüpfungsnormen zur Ermittlung des anwendbaren Rechts bei Auslandsberührungen sowohl für den Bereich des Individualarbeitsrechts als auch für den Bereich des kollektiven Arbeitsrechts werden dargestellt und hinsichtlich ihres Umfangs ausgeleuchtet. Ein Hauptaugenmerk legt Olaf Deinert dabei auf den Umgang mit öffentlichem Arbeitsrecht. Einen wichtigen Schwerpunkt stellt zudem die Identifizierung und Anwendung arbeitsrechtlichen Eingriffsrechts dar. Die Bedeutung der europäischen Entsenderichtlinie 96/71/EG in diesem Zusammenhang und die dazu ergangene Rechtsprechung des EuGH werden intensiv untersucht. Die Reichweite des Arbeitsvertragstatuts wird für alle Bereiche des Arbeitsverhältnisses von Anbahnung und Abschluss des Vertrages, über Vertragsinhalte bis hin zu Vertragsbeendigung und nachwirkenden Rechtsfragen umfassend dargestellt und von Sonderanknüpfungen abgegrenzt. Bei allen diesen Fragen zieht Olaf Deinert rechtsvergleichende Erkenntnisse heran. Diese sind einerseits für die einheitliche Auslegung der europarechtlichen Regelungen des Internationalen Arbeitsrechts bedeutsam, andererseits dienen sie der Problemverdeutlichung sowie als Beispiele bei der Lösung kollisionsrechtlicher Einzelfragen.

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  • Kang, S., Human Rights and Labor Solidarity: Trade Unions in the Global Economy, Philadelphia, PA, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2012.

    Kang, S., Human Rights and Labor Solidarity: Trade Unions in the Global Economy, Philadelphia, PA, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2012.

    Human Rights and Labor Solidarity analyzes trade unions’ campaigns to link local labor rights disputes to international human rights frameworks, thereby creating external scrutiny of governments. As a result of these campaigns, states engage in what political scientist Susan L. Kang terms a normative negotiation process, in which governments, trade unions, and international organizations construct and challenge a broader understanding of international labor rights norms to determine whether the conditions underlying these disputes constitute human rights violations. In three empirically rich case studies covering South Korea, the United Kingdom, and Canada, Kang demonstrates that this normative negotiation process was more successful in creating stronger protections for trade unions’ rights when such changes complemented a government’s other political interests. She finds that states tend not to respect stronger economically oriented human rights obligations due to the normative power of such rights alone. Instead, trade union transnational activism, coupled with sufficient political motivations, such as direct economic costs or strong rule of law obligations, contributed to changes in favor of workers’ rights.

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  • Barnard, C., EU Employment Law, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2012.

    Barnard, C., EU Employment Law, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2012.

    This new edition of EU Employment Law provides a complete revision and update of the leading English language text in the field. The coverage in the new edition has been expanded with material on all the latest developments, incorporating the changes made by the Lisbon Treaty; the EU2020 strategy; the Charter of Fundamental Rights; the ‘Article 19 Directives’; the Temporary Agency Work Directive; the revisions to the existing including the Directives on Parental Leave and European Works Council; and the new Social Security Regulations 883/2004. It also analyses the ever-expanding body of employment case law, including the momentous decisions in Viking, Laval, Rueffert, and Commission v Luxembourg. The book begins with an examination of the development of EU employment law focusing on the shift from employment law to employment policy. The text then studies rule-making in the field of employment law, considering both the traditional routes to legislation and governance techniques such as the Open Method of Coordination. The final chapters look closely at the substantive area of employment law, examining the free movement of persons, equal treatment, health and safety and working conditions, the restructuring of enterprises, worker participation, and collective action. Throughout, the book addresses the fundamental question as to the purpose of EU employment law: is it primarily economic, or social, or both?

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  • Davies, A.C.L., EU Labour Law, Cheltenham, Elgar, 2012.

    Davies, A.C.L., EU Labour Law, Cheltenham, Elgar, 2012.

    EU Labour Law is a concise, readable and thought-provoking introduction to the labour and employment law of the European Union. The book explores the subject’s major policy themes, examines the various procedures by which EU labour law is made, and analyses key topics such as worker migration, equality, working time and procedures for workers’ participation in employers’ decision-making. It sets the legal materials in their policy context and identifies the important issues which have shaped the development of EU labour law and are likely to determine its future, including the economic crisis and the debate about fundamental rights in the EU.

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  • Max Planck Encyclopedia of Public International Law, International Labour Organization (ILO), by Heiko Sauer
  • The ILO Library page offers information about the ILO Library in Geneva as well as centralized access to the ILO’s online resources. Available resources include more than thirty databases, the ILO Thesaurus, research and topical guides, and news services.
  • ILOLEX  is the database which contains the ILO’s own publications. In addition to the text of ILO conventions and recommendations, ILOLEX offers ratification information, the ILO Constitution, the Digest of Decisions of the Committee on Freedom of Association, committee reports, declarations, surveys, the ILO handbook of procedure, a comprehensive list of terms defined in ILO standards, and detailed information about each publication. ILOLEX is aso accessible in French and Spanish.
  • Labordoc is the ILO’s database of work-related journal articles. Labordoc provides all ILO publications, as well as comprehensive coverage of work-related material from more than 500 journals. Although Labordoc’s coverage is comprehensive, it is not exhaustive, as articles are selected for inclusion. Further, Labordoc focuses its collection on material related to developing nations with an emphasis on empirical literature. The site’s interface is available in English, French, and Spanish.
  • LABORSTA offers statistical data for 200 countries and territories arranged by topic, country, or publication. The site also provides thorough definitions and explanations of relevant terminology and methodology. The user can retrieve data for several countries simultaneously or over a selected time period.
  • EPLex summarizes national employment protection law for more than seventy countries, focusing on seven primary topics: the source and scope of regulation, employment contracts, substantive requirements for dismissals, procedural requirements for individual dismissals, collective dismissals for economic reasons, severance pay, and avenues for redress. Within these primary categories, EPLex monitors more than fifty variables. The information is presented in a uniform questionnaire format with references to the relevant legislation. One can browse EPLex by country or by topic.
  • The NATLEX database contains information on the national labour, social security, and human rights legislation of 196 countries. NATLEX presents sources arranged by country or area of law and offers an advanced search feature. Although NATLEX itself is accessible in the ILO’s three official languages (English, French, and Spanish), each source is presented in only one of the three. NATLEX is maintained by the ILO International Labour Statistics Department.
  • The TRAVAIL legal database compiles information on employment and working condition laws. The site also provides helpful infosheets and illustrative maps. The scope of TRAVAIL is limited to laws related to working time, minimum wage, and maternity protection. Unlike NATLEX, TRAVAIL summarizes the information rather than retrieving the text of the legislation. One can browse by subject or by country and can select multiple countries and subjects for quick comparisons.
  • Triblex is the case law database of the ILO Administrative Tribunal. Triblex allows users to browse Tribunal case law by session, organization or keyword. The site also features an advanced search function which allows users to search by term, date, organization, session, keyword, or judgment number. Triblex also offers the enabling statute and rules of the Administrative Tribunal.
  • The ILO’s SafeWork Bookshelf site contains four important resources. First, the ILO Encyclopedia of Occupational Health an Safety offers in-depth articles on occupational hazards and conditions. The Encyclopedia is arranged by topic in 18 parts over four volumes. The fourth volume contains helpful guides which explain how to use the encyclopedia. Second, the collection of International Chemical Safety Cards presents medical and safety information on a large number of chemicals, arranged alphabetically. Third, SafeWork Bookshelf compiles ILO Conventions and Recommendations related to occupational Health and Safety. Last, ILO Codes of Practice are guides which offer recommended practices on several occupational topics. Codes are prepared by experts and approved by the Governing Body. SafeWork Bookshelf is clearly organized and easy to navigate.
  • CISDoc is a database of bibliographic information on occupational health and safety materials including regulations, ILO conventions, books, and journal articles. Because CISDoc offers only bibliographic material, the results are citations and not full text documents.


  • Dutch Parliamentary elections 2012: a more flexible Dutch dismissal system!

    Europe, Euro financial crisis, pension age, healthcare: a few hot topics during the Dutch Parliamentary elections 2012. Another main issue during the several political campaigns was reform of the Dutch dismissal law. This blog will briefly give a broad outline of the dismissal system in the Netherlands and the plans of reform.

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