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Access to justice and labour rights: Innovative paths to conflict resolution

Clinic coordinator

22 Nov 2023

On 10 November the Radboud Law Clinic & Institutions for Conflict Resolution organised a seminar “Access to justice and labour rights: Innovative paths to conflict resolution” hosted by Onderzoekcentrum voor Staat & Recht (SteR)

The seminar opened with keynote from Prof Janelle M. Diller, Geneva Graduate Institute/ILO. She talked about risks & opportunities of using multistakeholder agreements (MSIs) towards ensuring labour & human rights compliance in global supply chains. She relied on an example of the RanaPlaza Arrangement, a MSI that delivered compensation & medical care to persons who suffered injuries in the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Dhaka, Bangladesh 10 years ago.

In an afternoon panel, Nicky Touw (Open University), Marlou Overheul (Utrecht University), Roberto Baumgarten Kuster and Tesseltje de Lange (both Radboud University) discussed new initiatives aiming to enhance access to justice for victims of labour rights’ violations.

Nicky Touw talked about the proposal for EU Directive on Corporate sustainability due diligence (CSDDD) which aims inter alia to harmonize litigation against parent companies in relation to human rights violations in their supply chain. Nicky argued that the transparency obligations envisaged by the proposal may not necessarily lead to admissible evidence for litigation purposes.

Marlou Overheul talked about her empirical research at ERI: Empirical Research into Institutions for conflict resolution on no-fault compensation schemes for occupational diseases, using Dutch chromium6 case studies. No-fault compensation schemes are often presented as a quick, fair and just alternative to tort law proceedings. However, Marlou found that benefit recipients did not experience the procedure and its outcomes as fair & just.

Roberto Baumgarten Kuster talked about the potential of Dispute Systems Design in awarding compensation for labour rights violations similar to slavery in Brazil. In Brazil, thousands of workers are exploited in industries such as charcoal or wine production, beef cattle farming or coffee growing. Court cases to award damages to exploited workers are very slow. A scheme combining negotiation and mediation with due protection and support for victims might be more efficient in affording meaningful resolution.

Tesseltje de Lange talked about access to justice for labour migrants with a precarious employment position. These are eg domestic workers or (seasonal) workers in local farming. Labour rights of such workers are insufficiently protected in practice, despite the existence of laws such as the EU Employer Sanctions & Migrant Protection Directive. The new EU-funded (Horizon) project DignityFIRM will propose solutions for better protection of labour and other rights of workers in food supply chains, including those in irregular situations.

A special thanks to Lize Rixt Glas, Eva Rieter, attendees & students for their contributions. This was an inspiring event!

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