Victoria University of Wellington
Freedom of association is recognised by the International Labour Organisation 1998 Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work as a fundamental human right. It is a particularly important work right in that it empowers workers to protect their other work rights.
Global supply chains make it difficult for nation states to protect work rights and it is increasingly apparent that voluntary corporate social responsibility has limitations. In response to this, new forms of governance and accountability are emerging which focus on recognised international rights, such as freedom of association, which business is required to “respect”.
Accounting techniques such as social audits are intrinsic to expectations that business “respect” human rights. At the same time as accounting is being given more prominence as a tool for protecting human rights, critical accounting theorists are attempting to reinvent accounting and to develop new forms of counter accounting. Dialogic accounting is one strand of this; it builds on agonistic political theory and seeks to foster democratic participation.
This paper explores the nexus between freedom of association, emerging forms of governance and dialogic accounting. It uses dialogic accounting theory as a framework for considering both the limitations and the potential of accounting as a means to protecting freedom of association. It concludes that law and accounting are in the early stages of reinvention in this area. Dialogic accounting provides a useful framework to inform further developments.
Amanda Reilly is a senior lecturer in the School of Accounting and Commercial Law at Victoria University of Wellington. Her primary research interest is in labour law broadly defined.