Beatriz Vacotto, Jeffrey Vogt, Paul Whitehead, Stefanie Lorenzen, Susan Hayter, Dr. Edlira Xhafa, and Dr. Aishah Namukasa

International Labour Standards: How to Use Them

  • FREE
  • English
  • Interdisciplinary
  • Certificate included

About this course

Welcome to our FREE online course "International Labour Standards: How to use them?"

Workers’ Rights are Human Rights. International Labour Standards are designed to provide minimum levels of protection every worker should enjoy. They serve as safeguards against exploitative and dangerous working conditions. Reaffirmed by the UN Sustainable Development Goals, fundamental rights and dignity at the workplace are a precondition for building inclusive and sustainable societies. However, making respect for workers’ rights a reality remains a daily struggle for far too many.

This short online course offers a mix of video lectures, readings, discussion questions and self-learning options to provide you with knowledge and practical skills for using International Labour Standards to promote and defend worker’s rights worldwide.

What will I learn

At the end of the course you will understand the concept behind International Labour Standards, as well as their standard setting process at the International Labour Organisation (ILO).

You will have a sound overview on the functioning of the ILO supervisory mechanisms and how you can use them to promote and defend workers’ rights in your country or at the international level. You will also have a good understanding of the fundamentals on Freedom of Association and Collective Bargaining, as well as the right to strike as a key element for realising workers’ rights.

What do I need to know?

No prior knowledge is required.

Course workload

The estimated workload is 5-6 hours per week if you read also the key reading for each unit.

Certificates and Scholarships

You can enrol and complete this course for FREE.

If you wish, you can also obtain a Certificate of Participation. This Certificate is an official document issued by iversity, which states that you have participated in the course. It contains your name, the time when you took the course, a short information about the course content and the logo of the GLU and iversity.

Requirements to obtain a Certificate of participation

You need to complete the course before you can purchase a Certificate of Participation, which costs 29€. To complete the course, you need to watch all the videos, respond to the quiz questions of each video and read the chapter summaries.


If you are from a non-OECD country or a trade unionist from an OECD country, you can apply for a scholarship, by sending an email to indicating your organisation and the country you are from.

Please complete the course before applying for a scholarship.

How to use course materials?

You can organise a local workshop on the topics of the course combining the course materials with local experts from trade unions, labour research institutes and universities.

If you work for a university, trade union or any other labour-related institution you are welcome to integrate the course material into your education and training programmes. All video lectures and interviews, readings, online resources, and exercises can be downloaded separately and used for free.

Course structure

Chapter 1: Introduction to International Labour Standards (ILS)

What is the concept behind International Labour Standards? Which types of International Labour Standards exist and how are they set? Which actors are involved and how are they interlinked? This chapter provides an overview on International Labour Standards and lays the foundation for understanding the standard setting mechanisms at the ILO. In particular, we have a close look at the role of trade unions in setting International Labour Standards.

Chapter 2: Supervision of International Labour Standards (ILS)
This chapter aims at enabling you to understand and use the ILO supervisory mechanisms for the protection of workers’ rights. The elaborate process is illustrated in a concise and hands-on way, and we take you through it step by step. Again, we pay particular attention to what trade unions can do to make effective use of the ILO supervisory mechanisms.

Chapter 3: Freedom of Association, Collective Bargaining and the right to strike
Freedom of Association and Collective Bargaining are ‘enabling rights’ at the heart of decent work. But what is the legal concept of Freedom of Association under Convention 87 and what makes it fundamental to the implementation of International Labour Standards? This chapter also provides you with an overview on the current debate on the right to strike as a key element of Freedom of Association.

Course instructors (in order of appearance)

Prof. Paul Whitehead (Professor of Practice in Labor Studies and Employment Relations at
Penn State University, USA)

Beatriz Vacotto (Head of Unit Maritime Team, ILO)

Prof. Dr. Stefanie Lorenzen (Professor of Employment and Labour Law at the Berlin School of
Economics and Law)

Jeffrey Vogt (Legal Director, Solidarity Center)

Susan Hayter (Senior Labour Relations Specialist, ILO)