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ILO report emphasizes collective bargaining as key to protecting player rights


ILO report emphasizes collective bargaining as key to protecting player rights

The International Labour Organization (ILO), the United Nations Agency responsible for promoting dignified working conditions worldwide has released a landmark report on player rights.

The report, entitled Professional Athletes and the Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, is important follow-up to the inaugural Global Dialogue Forum on Decent Work in the World of Sport (Global Dialogue) held in 2020. The Global Dialogue saw three days of negotiations between a delegation of player unions led by the World Players Association (a sector of UNI Global Union), employer organizations, and governments on how to improve the workplace conditions and livelihoods of athletes globally.

The Global Dialogue acknowledged that athletes are workers and entitled to the same workplace protections as workers in any other sector – the starting point being the ILO’s Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work which set out the essential standards that must be guaranteed worldwide.

In its latest report, the ILO stressed athletes face various risks to their labour rights “including but not limited to obstacles to freedom of association; limitations on labour mobility and contractual freedom; unequal pay; exposure to racist, sexist and homophobic abuse and harassment; and a range of OSH  [Occupational Safety and Health]  risks.”

The report also emphasizes that the #Right2Organise and collective bargaining are the key to addressing these risks and emphasizes “players’ associations provide athletes with a collective voice and the bargaining power to negotiate a range of work/play conditions, including salaries, OSH risks and emerging issues such as data protection and the use of new technologies.”

The report extensively cites as best practice the collective bargaining agreements, policies, and research of World Players and many of its affiliates including the AFL Players Association (AFLPA), Australian Cricketers’ Association (ACA), EU Athletes, FIFPRO, National Football League Players Association (NFLPA), and Women’s National Basketball Players Association.

The report’s conclusions are particularly timely ahead of the upcoming Paris Olympics, given the International Olympic Committee (IOC) fails to respect the fundamental rights of athletes  including their #Right2Organise and denying them a share in the billions of dollars of revenue they generate for it. The report states:

In some sports disciplines and countries, the application of FPRW is advanced and has established a number of good practices and policies. In other disciplines and countries, the implementation of FPRW is nascent. The promotion of social dialogue [a form of collective bargaining] is a good starting point for such an endeavour, as it brings together relevant stakeholders to identify key challenges and elaborate possible solutions.

Head of UNI World Players Association, Matthew Graham said:

“The ILO has a critical leadership role to play in ensuring the fundamental rights of athletes are respected and protected across all sports and countries. This latest report confirms the urgent need for further dialogue and expert meetings at the global level so all stakeholders can fulfil their responsibilities to guarantee the fundamental labour rights of athletes.”