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The International Labour Office, a United Nations agency, makes distinctions between an essential service and a minimum service.
- 582. What is meant by essential services in the strict sense of the term depends to a large extent on the particular circumstances prevailing in a country. Moreover, this concept is not absolute, in the sense that a non-essential service may become essential if a strike lasts beyond a certain time or extends beyond a certain scope, thus endangering the life, personal safety or health of the whole or part of the population.
- 585. The following may be considered to be essential services:
- the hospital sector
- electricity services ...;
- water supply services ...;
- the telephone service ...;
- the police and the armed forces ...;
- the fire-fighting services ...;
- public or private prison services ...;
- the provision of food to pupils of school age and the cleaning of schools ...;
- air traffic control ….
- 587. The following do not constitute essential services in the strict sense of the term:
- radio and television ...;
- the petroleum sector ...;
- ports ...;
- banking ...;
- computer services for the collection of excise duties and taxes ...;
- department stores and pleasure parks ...;
- the metal and mining sectors ...;
- transport generally ...;
- airline pilots ...;
- production, transport and distribution of fuel ...;
- railway services ...;
- metropolitan transport ...;
- postal services ...
- refuse collection services ...;
- refrigeration enterprises ...;
- hotel services ...;
- automobile manufacturing ...;
- agricultural activities, the supply and distribution of foodstuffs ...;
- the Mint ...;
- Paramedics and ambulances ....;
- the government printing service and the state alcohol, salt and tobacco monopolies ...;
- the education sector ...;
- mineral water bottling company ….
While maintaining a right to strike, the ILO recognizes situations and conditions under which a minimum operational service could be required.
- 606. The establishment of minimum services in the case of strike action should only be possible in: (1) services the interruption of which would endanger the life,
- personal safety or health of the whole or part of the population (essential services in the strict sense of the term); (2) services which are not essential in the strict
- sense of the term but where the extent and duration of a strike might be such as to result in an acute national crisis endangering the normal living conditions of
- the population; and (3) in public services of fundamental importance.
Examples where the ILO considered conditions met for a minimum operational service include a ferry service, ports, underground railway, transportation of passengers and commercial goods, postal services, refuse collection service, the mint, banking services, petroleum sector services, education services, and animal health services.
- International Labour Organization, Freedom of association - Digest of decisions and principles of the Freedom of Association Committee of the Governing Body of the ILO. Fifth (revised) edition, 2006.