International Labour Law and the Challenge of Pluralism in the International Order
Janelle M. Diller
ABSTRACT: International labour law (ILL) is changing in the face of new realities of the world of work. Transnational value chains bring an increasingly complex web of relationships and responsibilities between workers and employers, suppliers and retailers, and even States receiving and generating income. In addition, more and more rules and practices refer to ILL in international economic and monetary cooperation, bilateral trading arrangements, and voluntary industry initiatives in social responsibility. The pluralistic nature of this situation deepens as public international organizations and non-state actors wield increasing influence over public policy choices affecting ILL which used to be made exclusively within States.
These realities pose new challenges to the fundamental aim of ILL for all human beings to have the opportunity for well-being through decent work under national law that guarantees fair competition and the rights of workers. To effectively protect workers in globalized production and society, ILL’s traditional paradigm of State sovereignty is evolving to accommodate new methods for designing regulatory responses and collective bargaining arrangements.
ILL offers a distinctive laboratory in which to evaluate the interaction and coordination of the exercise of public authority by international and regional organizations, and the impact of private industry and unions in transnational initiatives. Examples are presented to expose the type of normative and operational inconsistencies in rules for the conduct of States and other duty bearers that risk to deter ILL and its broader effect on development and peace. The outlook ahead combines direct international cooperation with public and private sectors in countries of need, the extension of ILL’s value by leveraging external international instruments invoking ILL, and an innovation of ILO’s own methods of work to new structures that are discernable in yet distinct from national legal systems.