Table of Contents

Research Handbook on Transnational Labour Law

Research Handbook on Transnational Labour Law

Research Handbooks in International Law series

Edited by Adelle Blackett and Anne Trebilcock

The editors’ substantive introduction and the specially commissioned chapters in the Handbook explore the emergence of transnational labour law as a field, along with its contested contours. The expansion of traditional legal methods, such as treaties, is juxtaposed with the proliferation of contemporary alternatives such as indicators, framework agreements and consumer-led initiatives. Key international and regional institutions are studied for their coverage of such classic topics as freedom of association, equality, and sectoral labour standard-setting, as well as for the space they provide for dialogue. The volume underscores transnational labour law’s capacity to build bridges, including on migration, climate change and development.

Chapter 1: Conceptualizing transnational labour law

Adelle Blackett and Anne Trebilcock

Subjects: law - academic, human rights, labour, employment law, public international law


The deliberately short and pithy chapters in this research handbook offer a unique and multifaceted lens through which to explore the texture of transnational labour law (TLL). For at least the past 30 years, TLL has emerged alongside struggles to understand and address the implications of a ‘polycentric’ globalization, for the implicit domestic labour law bargain. Some relevant changes include heightened global interdependency, technological innovation, labour migration, increasing informalization of work, and the persistence of poverty, discrimination and inequality along fault lines of historical marginalization. Today, thick webs of contractors structure global production chains, constructing yet obscuring links between workers in the global South who produce products they cannot afford to buy, and workers in the global North who both market and consume goods they no longer produce. The transnational enterprises through which markets operate are able to control the means of production, transform that control into power, and exercise it transnationally to compel workers to live and produce by their norms. Similarly complex networks of labour brokers recruit workers from an intricate range of regional peripheries, to provide a host of activities recharacterizedas services. They may work in actively informalized agricultural production, building construction or care reproduction servicing global cities, shaped in the light of – rather than in opposition to – a global and regional architecture structuring the provision of services transnationally. Such phenomena reflect and adapt a Westphalian notion of state sovereignty, and the highly differentiated rules governing the conditions of movement of products, services and capital.