What Does Decent Work Mean?


“Decent work”, a term coined by the International Labour Organization (ILO) in 1999, refers to employment that contributes to the social and economic stability of workers. Decent work creates a cultural shift towards an equitable and stable workforce, empowering workers ability to financially improve their quality of life. Social justice values are embedded in decent work, striving for equity and equality beyond the workplace.

Women, migrant, young, temporary and racialized workers are most affected by precarious employment. Decent work agenda must ensure that vulnerable workers are protected and lifted out of marginalization in the workforce.

Decent work is defined by the ILO as:

“Work that is productive and delivers a fair income, security in the workplace and social protection for families, better prospects for personal development and social integration, freedom for people to express their concerns, organize and participate in the decisions that affect their lives and equality of opportunity and treatment for all women and men.”

Union’s Role in Promoting and Supporting Decent Work

Unions play a huge role in securing decent work for workers through organizing and bargaining working conditions that are embedded in collective agreements. Unions, representing the workers within it’s bargaining unit(s), are negotiators and advocates to ensure quality jobs, equity, dignity, equality, and safe working conditions, putting the voices of workers at the centre of development in the workforce. In collective agreements, unions are able to formalize policies and practices that will support economic stability, but also encourage social awareness and development for their members.

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