Reclaiming space for workers in the 21st century: A literature review on worker centers

This report reviews the emergence, experiences and practices of workers’ centres in different contexts of labour relations.

The past two decades have witnessed a significant increase in the number of worker centres as facilities dedicated to workers. The purpose of this literature review is to review the documentation of these trends, understand the causes for the emergence of such centres, the different contexts in which they were created and their functions. Workers’ centres are usually meant for all types of workers, however literature shows that they tend to cater primarily to the needs of informal workers, migrant workers and other workers in precarious jobs. They also tend to exist and be located in areas where fundamental principles and rights at work (FFRPs), such as non-discrimination, freedom of association and collective bargaining as enshrined in International Labour Organization (ILO) Conventions No. 111, No. 87 and No. 98, are a distant reality for its users or members. Practices in different parts of the world indicate that workers’ centres can play an important role, albeit non-exclusive, in creating more enabling conditions for the exercise of some fundamental principles such as freedom of association. The paper includes a list of good practices of workers’ centres.