Maria Helena Andre address to the Congress of General Federation of Bahrain Trade Union

Speech by Maria Helena Andre at the national congress of General Federation of Bahrain Trade Union Congress, Manama, Bahrain.

Statement | 05 March 2016
Maria Helena ANDRE,Director of ACTRAV
Dear Friends,
Delegates to the GFBTU’s Third General Congress

I bring you the warmest greetings of the International Labour Organization and its Director General, Guy Ryder. We wish you all the best for the success of your important work.

A Congress is always a significant moment in the life of an organisation. By evaluating the past you set the agenda for the future. You look at the ILO as a privileged partner in your work for working class people.

Your meeting today - as a Trade Union national Centre - is a clear proof of the commitment and determination you have in playing fully the role in promoting decent work in the global Trade Union movement.

ILO welcomes this and congratulates you on this initiative of holding your congress on a timely basis within a transparent and democratic process.

At a moment when the eyes of the World are focused on the tensions and conflicts reflecting your region, it’s timely to recall the basic founding propositions of the ILO that lasting peace depends on social justice.

GFBTU as an independent and democratic Trade Union organisation and we in the ILO, must join hands to advance these common values.

The tripartite structure of the ILO gives trade unions their seat at the international multilateral table. Our mandate – to secure lasting peace through social justice – has never been more contemporary and it echoes the historic mission of trade unionism.

The ILO is the custodian of the international labour standards which define rights at work and we are responsible for their application.

Guy Ryder, our Director General, is leading a deep process of change, of reform in the ILO which is designed to make the organisation more effective, more relevant, more useful, closer to the realities of work in its member States and, yes, more efficient.

While the ILO must continue to hold its 186 member States to their international obligations to apply the Conventions that they have ratified, we also need to turn our attention to the management of increasingly complex challenges in the world of work.

As the ILO moves towards its centenary three years from now, it needs to be prepared to take on these new challenges and some old ones as it is the case of eliminating child labour for the still 168-million strong army of child labourers, or liberating the 21 million victims of forced labour. Or more recently to address the drama of the refugees and displaced persons.

The Rana Plaza tragedy two years ago in Bangladesh tells us a lot about how global supply chains can operate to produce enormous profits at one end but lethal working conditions at the other. These need to become chains of decent work, and the ILO needs to be engaging with the companies involved and their workers to make that happen.

Similarly, we need to take a new look at how we move the struggle for gender equality forward to a successful conclusion. After decades of valuable work and the introduction of anti-discrimination legislation in most countries, women still confront major labour market discrimination, segregation and unequal pay.

We have to build on what we’ve already done but simply doing more of the same will not be enough.

It is necessary to innovate, to redefine how work interacts with the rest of our life arrangements, how work-life balance can become a reality to all workers, in their road to sharing more and better family and social responsibilities. The ILO intends to take up this challenge even further.

And with the world of work changing with unprecedented speed in ways which too often are to the detriment of working women and working men, we need to deepen our understanding and our capacity to deal with the forces that will continue to transform the global landscape of labour, the future of work – demography, technology, increasing global production systems integration, the raise in inequalities, the role of tripartism, social dialogue and collective bargaining and all the rest.

That is a precondition for putting them at the service of social justice and decent work.

I would like to take this opportunity to recall the ILO’s commitment to the work in Arab Region. With the support from its Arab Constituents, a lots been achieved already.

Together, we are doing more to understand, analyse and address the challenges that you face in circumstances which are often very far from easy.

Developments in almost most regions of the world, but particularly yours, call for fundamental change to achieve Equity and dignity of work; that means decent jobs are there for women and men, that means full respect for rights of work, it means adequate level of social protection provided to all and it means the affective use of dialogue to address problems and conflicts as they arise.

This takes me back to the two tripartite agreements signed by the Constituents on 2012 and 2014 regarding the issue of the Dismissed workers. The ILO hopes that these agreements were respected and the dismissed workers are back to work.

According to 2014 agreement and I quote: ’All signed parties express their interests in strengthening the mutual trust and cooperation based on International Labour Standards and on the respect of the interests of each party towards supporting production relations and pushing forward social dialogue. It is in the interests of the three signatories to take all possible measures to reinstate the remaining dismissed workers to their jobs, according to what is clarified in this agreement, and remove all obstacles.’ I can only encourage the tripartite constituents in this country to pursue this road.

Dear Friends,

The Arab Region is faced with social and economic challenges that impact on both the current and future generations.

Unemployment in the region, particularly among Youth, remains the highest in the World with 28% in average. Arab Women face particular challenge in the Labour Market. The Gender unemployment gap is getting larger not smaller. Labour migration, an important and distinctive feature in your region, calls for interventions to insure the protection of the fundamental rights of all migrant workers.

And with this same vision, the ILO has been and will continue to respond to the needs of Arab workers in the Occupied Arab Territories to meet the labour and humanitarian needs of Palestinian people.

Finally, I want to salute the carriage you shown to defend and promote the values for which the ILO stands. And by doing this I would like to express gratitude to the incredible work done by the trade union leaders that will step down at this congress, while at the same time wishing the best of luck to those who will be elected.

I wish your Congress all success. You can count on the ILO today and in the future.