Principles on labour inspection.

Defending the fundamentals of labour inspection against neoliberalism.


Published by labour inspectors: Fernanda Giannasi and John Graversgaard. 1. nov. 2000.


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If you agree with these principles, please sign it with your signature, and you will be a member of a GLOBAL NETWORK OF LABOUR INSPECTORS,working to defend and improve this important tool. Send your signature and information about the state of affairs in your country to: John Graversgaard, labour inspector, Denmark, e-mail: or Fernanda Giannasi, labour inspector, Brazil, e-mail:


















When nations and companies put profits before people in a still more globalized economy.

When concern for labour and environment are seen as technical obstacles for the so called free

trade and the operations of the transnational companies.

It is of central importance that we defend the central ILO-conventions on labour rights,  including health and safety and labour inspection. Labour inspection is a progressive social institution and it is of fundamental importance to defend labour inspection and focus on our strategic alliances in this struggle. Labour inspection was born through social struggle. And it must be defended through social struggle!


That is why a GLOBAL LABOUR INSPECTORS NETWORK(GLIN) has been formed.


Why labour inspection?


The protection of workers safety and health is often weak or non-existent, especially where workers are have no social protection.  We live in a world where work is often devalued and degraded. And open exploitation and speculation in labour is blessed as a sign of a dynamic free market economy producing wealth for the common good.


Labour inspection has the role of ensuring that labour laws are given practical effect and become actual standards for workers.  Labour inspection is often weak, corrupt or non-existent, playing a marginal role determined by the ruling political and economic elites of the nations.


But labour inspection was born with the workers movement when exploitation became so cruel that even the ruling class was disgusted. It has always played a controversial role. Free-marketers and liberalists of all shades have always been suspicious of labour inspection taking a too offensive role. Then better marginalize it or keep it low on ressources.


If we take a look at the nations around the world currently, the workers movement and the labour inspectorates are on the defensive. Transnationals and neo-liberalism in the ruling political elites are working to remove all obstacles to exploitation of labour. And governments are cutting their state budgets to lower taxation and attract foreign capital. We see a concentrated offensive to lower the labour standards, including safety and health.


Export-processing zones, transfer of risks, union-busting, unemployment, hunger and poverty is spreading especially in the third world countries. With greedy transnationals eager to ripe the fruits of cheap and unprotected labour. The highly developed countries are no exception with labour inspectorates kept on low budgets so they don`t intervene too directly in the runnings of the economy. Only the existence of relatively strong labour and union movements in some countries put brakes on the efforts to weaken government regulation.


ILO adopted in 1947 The Labour Inspection Convention(No. 81) with the goal of "ensuring respect for the protection of workers in the exercise of their duties and for promoting legislation adapted to the changing need of the world of work". This step forward in recognition of the world of labour was not given for nothing. It was the result of a long struggle to raise the voice of labour and workers daily demands to the political arena. A concession to labour that must be seen in the light of the defeat of fascism and victory of the democratic forces in the Second World War.


The ILO Convention pointed to a new important and independent role of labour inspection in modern society. Labour inspection is obliged to take an activist role in changing existing laws and practices, if they are not adapted to the social and technological realities of the present. But this progressive role for labour inspectors  has always run into political obstacles because it confronts the power elites by documenting the needs and problems of labour openly to government and the public.


Defending and improving this important tool.


Labour inspection is central to the problems of workers health and safety, and to the problems of millions of children of school-age working under disastrous and inhumane conditions. But labour inspection is often very limited in its approaches, under direct political control of a state eager to please and compromise with the economic interests of employers and multinationals.  There is limited international exchange of know-ledge and experience as inspectors are weakly organized. Progressive and tradeunionist inspectors are often intimidated as they try to push for stricter enforcement and regulation to compensate for the freedom given to employers. The dominating neo-liberalistic doctrines have accelerated this development.


Unions often become sceptical of labour inspection because of this weakness.  And there is a risk that they will abandon this tool, rather than trying to improve it.


We must strengthen the labour inspectorates and work together with progressive unions, grassroots, NGO`s, victim groups, attacked communities, intellectuals, religious groups etc. Seattle was an example of  a new global society  where people were fighting together against social and environmental injustices


We must cooperate north and south  and run international campaigns to fight child labour, asbestos and other hazardous risks to workers health and safety. ILO estimates that over 300.000 workers are killed every year  and including occupational diseases, the death toll is over 1 million a year.