CAIRN-INT.INFO : International Edition

In 2012, for the first time in its long history, the international labour standards’ supervisory system of the International Labour Organization (ILO) was paralysed by an internal conflict started by the employers’ group at the International Labour Conference. During the conference, the employers’ delegates challenged the recognition of the right to strike by Convention no. 87 and the legitimacy of the Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations to interpret the Convention. I analyse this unprecedented conflict as a transnational mobilisation of the employers’ group, and explain the genesis of this movement. First, I underline the reasons for this conflict, which resulted from the evolution of the ILO since the end of the Cold War and from the increased visibility of international labour standards in the legal landscape. Second, I focus on the sociology of the entrepreneurs of the mobilisation. I show the role of lawyers from large Anglo-Saxon law firms who specialise in anti-union counsel. These lawyers are characterised by an antagonistic legal style (adversarial legalism) at odds with the ILO’s logic of tripartite consensus.

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