Governments, employers, player associations as well as sports bodies should promote all forms of social dialogue, including collective bargaining, to improve working conditions for professional athletes worldwide. That is the main conclusion of the first forum on Decent Work in Sport organized by the International Labour Organization (ILO).
During a three-day landmark meeting for the sport industry held at the ILO office in Geneva, the tripartite body composed of representatives from governments, employers and workers debated on decent work conditions in sport.
FIFPRO General Secretary Jonas Baer-Hoffmann acted as spokesperson of the delegation of player unions under the umbrella of the World Players Association, which amongst others included the International Rugby Players, the Federation of International Cricketers’ Association and EU Athletes.
Sports governing bodies including FIFA, UEFA and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) attended the forum as observers.
The dialogue resulted in the adoption of “Points of Consensus”, which includes a list of recommendations on actions to be taken jointly by the stakeholders and the ILO.
The forum underlined in particular that professional athletes are workers and that having free, independent and player driven unions is a key condition for an effective social dialogue and collective agreements.
The forum recommends that all parties involved should create an “enabling” environment by:
- Generating equal opportunities for all and equal working conditions for female athletes;
- Protecting athletes from violence, racism, abuse and discrimination;
- Developing personal development and learning programmes;
- Ensuring safety and health;
- Enforcing law and practice and creating social protection coverage;
- Safeguarding the rights of children and young people to participate in sports in conditions of freedom, dignity and safety.
“It’s time for the global sports industry to recognise that collective agreements and social dialogue between athletes and employers provide the best means to bring stability to changing labour markets in the world of sport,” said FIFPRO General Secretary Baer-Hoffman, who is also a Vice President of the World Players Association.
“The points of consensus outlined by the ILO need to lead to practical actions to strengthen fair and decent working conditions for athletes who operate in a competitive and high-pressure environment.”
FIFPRO Vice President Geremi Njitap added that players deserve the same protections as every working person. “All too often, players are victims of serious abuses of worker rights including poor and late pay, unsafe work, sexual abuse, gender-based discrimination and racial vilification. Yet when players organize and collectively bargain at national, regional and international level their sports have grown on and off the field enabling playing careers to flourish.”