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ILO Governing Body to Examine Declaration on Fundamental Rights


Press release | 21 November 1997


GENEVA (ILO News) ­ Meeting in Geneva at its 270 th session, the ILO Governing Body agreed to place on the agenda of the 1998 International Labour Conference an item relating to the consideration of a possible ILO Declaration of principle concerning fundamental rights and its appropriate follow-up. The Governing Body instructed the ILO secretariat to prepare, in close consultation with constituents, a draft Declaration for submission to the Governing Body at its next session in March, 1998.

While the specific content of the text, as well as the modalities of follow-up, will be the subject of further discussions, the Declaration is to be based on the principles embodied in the seven "core" Conventions of the ILO relating to fundamental rights (Note 1) . These deal with the right of workers to organize and bargain collectively, the abolition of forced and child labour, equal pay for work of equal value and non-discrimination in employment.

A campaign to achieve universal ratification of the seven core Conventions was launched in May 1995. Since the beginning of this campaign, the ILO has registered over 60 ratifications and confirmations of previous obligations concerning the fundamental Conventions. Many countries are currently involved in formal ratification procedures or are in the process of examining the ratification of the Organization's core Conventions.

The Working Party on the Social Dimensions of the Liberalization of International Trade continued its previous debates and reviewed in particular developments in other agencies, including the Bretton Woods institutions and OECD.

In other decisions, the Governing Body adopted the report of the ILO Committee on Freedom of Association which examined 28 complaints of violation of trade union rights and reached definitive conclusions in 19. (Note 2)

The Report of the Committee on Freedom of Association highlighted the failure of the Government of Nigeria to accept a direct contacts mission to the country and reiterated in the strongest possible terms the appeals that have already been launched to accept such a mission.

The report points out that "for nearly three years, the Government has consistently evaded responding to the urgent calls for a mission" and that "the behaviour of the Government gives rise to serious doubts concerning its good faith in dealing with the Committee."

The complaints against the Government are serious and of long-standing, involving accusations of anti-union decrees, violence and detention of trade unionists in Nigeria.

Previous Committee rulings have underscored the "persistent deterioration of trade union rights in Nigeria." Should the government persist in its negative attitude, the Workers' Group of the Governing Body gave notice of its intention to request the Governing Body, at its next sitting, to initiate proceedings under article 26 of the Constitution (complaints procedure).

The Governments of the Republic of Korea and Djibouti agreed to accept missions during the first half of 1998.

Other cases where progress was made include registration of previously contested trade unions in Argentina and Bangladesh, reintegration of dismissed trade union labour inspectors in Guatemala and the revision of aspects of labour law under consideration by the Peruvian legislature.

In response to allegations of denial of union recognition, government interference in trade union activities and harassment and detention of trade unionists in Indonesia, the Committee expressed its "deep concern that no action has been taken by the Government to remedy the situation of workers in Indonesia, which is still characterized by serious and worsening infringements of basic human and trade union rights and violations of freedom of association principles in law and practice."

It called on the Government to drop criminal charges brought against a detained trade unionist, Mr. Muchtar Pakpahan, to have him released and "to ensure that Mr. Pakpahan can freely exercise his legitimate trade union activities." The Committee noted that "the measures taken against Mr. Pakpahan are linked to his trade union activities. It also asked the Government to provide information on a number of detained members and officers of a non-recognized trade union federation, Serikat Buruh Sejahtera (SBSI), to release other imprisoned unionists and to reinstate workers who have been fired for legitimate union activities.

The Committee on Freedom of Association, established in 1951, oversees compliance with the fundamental principles of freedom of association, which guarantee, inter alia, the right of workers to organize and to engage in collective bargaining. It meets three times annually and consists of 3 government representatives, 3 employer representatives and 3 worker representatives.

The Committee on Employment and Social Policy examined the work of the Task Force on Full Employment and Sustainable Livelihoods established by the United Nations' Administrative Committee for Coordination (ACC) following the World Summit for Social Development (Copenhagen, 1995).

The Task Force which is coordinated by the ILO, has conducted seven country reviews covering Chile, Hungary, Indonesia, Morocco, Mozambique, Nepal and Zambia. Their purpose is to develop recommendations on employment policy based on a review of employment trends in each of the countries concerned. A synthesis report submitted to the Governing Body singled out some key areas for future action, including the promotion of the urban informal sector and upgrading its conditions of work and productivity.

Work on ILO country reviews covering Brazil and Ukraine has made considerable progress; the first review will be concluded at the end of this year. A number of countries have expressed interest in participating in similar reviews.

The Governing Body also ruled on the date for the election of the next Director-General, which is now set to take place in March 1998. The rules governing the election of the Director-General stipulate that candidatures shall be sent to the Chairman of the Governing Body of the ILO at the latest one month prior to the date of the election. To be elected, a candidate must receive the votes of more than one-half of the members of the Governing Body entitled to vote.

The current five-year term of the Director-General, Michel Hansenne terminates on 3 March 1999, and he has announced that he will not be seeking a third term.

The Governing Body, composed of 28 government members (Note 3)

, 14 employer members and 14 worker members convenes three times annually. It is the executive arm of the ILO and takes decisions on the implementation of ILO policy and programmes. Ten of the government seats are permanently held by major industrialized countries. The remaining members are elected for three years by governments, workers and employers respectively, taking account of regional distribution.

The Chairman of the 270 th session of the Governing Body was Mr. Ahmed Ahmed El Amawy, Minister of Manpower and Immigration of Egypt. Mr. William Brett (United Kingdom) was the worker Vice-Chairman and Mr. Jean-Jacques Oechslin (France) was the employer Vice-Chairman.

Note 1.

Freedom of association and collective bargaining (No. 87 and 98); Forced labour (No. 29 and No. 105); Non-discrimination (No. 100 and No. 111); and Minimum Age (No. 138).

Note 2.

Cambodia, Canada/Ontario, Comoros, Croatia, Cuba, Ecuador, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Indonesia, Japan, Latvia, Lebanon, Mauritania, Mexico, Niger, Peru, Philippines, Spain, Venezuela.

Note 3.

Bangladesh, Brazil*, Canada, Chile, China*, Colombia, Congo, Egypt, France*, Germany*, Guinea, Hungary, India*, Italy*, Japan*, Republic of Korea, Mauritius, Nigeria, Panama, Poland, Russian Federation*, Saudi Arabia, Suriname, Swaziland, Thailand, Turkey, United Kingdom*, United States*.

(* = members holding non-elective seats as States of chief industrial importance).