What is freedom of association and collective bargaining?
Freedom of association refers to the right of an employee / employer to join or create an organisation such as a trade union of their choice. This also includes the freedom not to be forced to join a group.
Collective bargaining agreement is defined by the ILO as “all negotiations which take place between a workers’ organisation and a group of employers on
- determining working conditions and terms of employment,
- regulating between employers and workers, and/or
- regulating relations between employers or their organisations and a workers’ organisation.” 
Why this matters?
Workers and employers should be ensured the right to freedom of association and collective bargaining, both of which are fundamental principles and a reflection of human dignity. 
Freedom of association and collective bargaining play a role in promoting the peaceful, inclusive and democratic participation of representative workers’ and employers’ organisations.
The application of these two fundamental human rights can have a major impact on working and living conditions, wages, working hours, and etc.
How – procedures to ensure workers’ rights of freedom of association and collective bargaining
- Policy. Establish a company policy that ensures the right of workers to freedom of association and collective bargaining.
- Non-interference. Employers are prohibited from interfering in any aspect of organising or collective bargaining, including the nomination, election, operation, administration, or financing of workers’ representation. Employers supporting organisations that compete with freely elected trade unions, including when the intent is employer control of the organisation, is considered interference and is prohibited.
- Non-discrimination. Employers should not discriminate or take adverse actions against employees, in retaliation for their exercising their employee rights, or participating in union activities.
- Continuous improvement. Management should be willing to discuss and improve issues raised by a union or other forms of workers’ committees.
Example of a freedom of association and collective bargaining policy
“Company shall freely allow workers’ lawful rights to associate with others, form, and join (or refrain from joining) organisations of their choice, and bargain collectively, without interference, discrimination, retaliation, or harassment. “
“Company upholds the freedom of association of its employees and the effective recognition of the right to bargain collectively.”
Click here to read the A.P. Moller - Maersk Global Labour Principles on Freedom of Association and Collective Bargaining.
Download the Supplier Sustainability Guidance-pdf here