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Special procedures - Complaints to the CFA

The complaint alleging violation of freedom of association and collective bargaining is lodged

A complaint can be lodged by any ILO constituent – a government, employers’ or workers’ organizations – against a government, whether or not the country concerned has ratified the relevant Conventions.

Set up in 1951, the CFA is a standing committee of the Governing Body. It has an independent chairperson, and is composed of nine titular members and nine deputy members from the Government, Employers’ and Workers’ groups of the Governing Body, all appointed in their personal capacity. The CFA meets three times a year, in the weeks before the Governing Body meetings in March, June and November.


The CFA is tasked with examining alleged infringements of the principles of freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining. These principles concern fundamental rights which are the subject of international labour Conventions on freedom of association and collective bargaining, as enshrined in the Preamble to the ILO Constitution and the Declaration of Philadelphia. The CFA also examines infringements of civil liberties, as defined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), which are essential for the normal exercise of trade union rights and as expressed in the Resolution concerning trade union rights and civil liberties adopted by the International Labour Conference in 1970. The CFA examines complaints whether or not the country concerned has ratified the relevant Conventions.

The mandate of the CFA consists in determining whether any given legislation or practice complies with the principles of freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining. The object of the procedure is not to blame or punish anyone, but rather to engage in a constructive tripartite dialogue to promote respect for these principles.

Role of the CFA subcommittee

Since 2016, the CFA has a subcommittee whose proposals are placed before the CFA for final decision. The subcommittee has appreciably strengthened the CFA’s governance role with respect to several aspects of its work:

  • criteria for merging cases;
  • identification of priority cases for examination and cases that can be merged;
  • the setting of the agenda of the next CFA meeting, ensuring rapid examination of serious and urgent cases and relative regional balance;
  • a dynamic follow-up review of the effect given to its recommendations; and
  • an improved presentation of the introduction to the CFA report to communicate more clearly and effectively its expectations to constituents.

As of today, the CFA has examined more than 3,300 cases covering most aspects of freedom of association and collective bargaining and a Compilation of its decisions is available in the ILO website.

The recently established practice of publishing CFA annual reports provides helpful information on the use of the procedure throughout one year. The annual report is supported by statistical data, e.g. on the number of lodged complaints, the origin and nature, and other details with regards to the work undertaken by the CFA, the progress made and the serious and urgent cases examined. Since 2019, the Chair of the CFA presents the annual report to the CAS.

For more information on the procedure, see on the ILO website the overview on the CFA, the Procedures for the examination of complaints alleging violations of freedom of association, which is annexed to the Compilation of decisions, and the CFA reports. To know more about the procedure before the CFA, a flowchart presentation is also available.

Click to read about the cooperation with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations in respect of freedom of association

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