Freedom of association implies respect for the right of all employers and all workers to freely and voluntarily establish and join groups for the promotion and defence of their occupational interests. Both workers and employers have the right to set up, join and run their own organizations without interference from the State or any other entity. All, including employers, have the right to freedom of expression and opinion, including on the topic of unions – provided that the exercise of this right does not infringe a worker's right to freedom of association. As a voluntary initiative, the UN Global Compact does not and cannot require that employers adopt or express any particular opinion. To be able to make a free decision, workers need a climate free of violence, pressure, fear and threats.
"Association" includes activities of rule formation, administration and the election of representatives. The freedom to associate involves employers, unions and other workers representatives freely discussing issues at work in order to reach agreements that are jointly acceptable. These freedoms also allow for industrial action to be taken by workers and organizations in defence of their economic and social interests.
Collective bargaining is a voluntary process or activity through which employers and workers discuss and negotiate their relations, in particular terms and conditions of work and the regulation of relations between employers, workers and their organizations. Participants in collective bargaining include employers themselves or their organizations, and trade unions or, in their absence, representatives freely designated by the workers. An important part of the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining is the "principle of good faith". This is important for the maintenance of the harmonious development of labour relations. This principle implies that the social partners work together and make every effort to reach an agreement through genuine and constructive negotiations, and that both parties avoid unjustified delays in negotiations. The principle of good faith does not imply a pre-defined level of bargaining or require compulsory bargaining on the part of employers or workers and their organizations.