The potential dangers of the workplace, especially in the construction, manufacturing, extractive industries and mining sectors has necessitated the provision of measures to ensure that an injured workman is adequately compensated for loss of employment and loss of income arising from workplace related injuries. Unfortunately, workers are often left to the whims and caprices of their employers, who in most cases treat their welfare with levity.
Early industrial employment conditions saw men and women workers receiving low wages, enduring long work hours, serving in hazardous job sites, and suffering from discrimination (including sexual harassment). Child labor was also prevalent. These issues led laborers to organize protests or to negotiate for just rewards and safe work environments.
When the International Labor Organization (ILO) was established in 1919, member-countries signed conventions that aimed “to promote rights at work, encourage decent employment opportunities, enhance social protection and strengthen dialogue in handling work-related issues.” The ILO encourages tripartism where representatives from state governments, employer organizations, and labor groups participate in consultations to identify ideal labor standards and policies. Later on, the ILO strengthened its campaign through its Decent Work Agenda (DWA). The DWA promotes fair and rights-based trade globalization to fight poverty.
Aside from compassionate employers and labor friendly political leaders, much credit in the evolution of a humane workplace goes to labor unions whose collective efforts resulted in many benefits for men and women workers in general. Through gaining political and legislative leverage, they successfully asserted their right to organize and collectively bargain for better work conditions. These include reduced work hours, wage increases, grievance and arbitration procedures, provisions for occupational safety and health, paid vacation and sick leaves, death and medical benefits, retirement pensions, and non-discriminatory policies on gender, religion, age, and race, among others.