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International Labour Conference concludes its work

The International Labour Organization (ILO) concluded its annual meeting in Geneva after considering a wide range of issues, including HIV/AIDS, gender equality and the effect given to ILO labour standards and adopting a historic Global Jobs Pact.

Press release | 19 June 2009

GENEVA (ILO News) –The International Labour Organization (ILO) concluded its annual meeting here today after considering a wide range of issues, including HIV/AIDS, gender equality and the effect given to ILO labour standards and adopting a historic Global Jobs Pact (see Press release ILO/09/39).

The 98th International Labour Conference also adopted a programme and budget for the 2010-2011 biennium of $726.7 million which maintains the same level of resources as 2008-2009. More than 4,000 government, worker and employer delegates from the 183 member State ILO participated in the Conference.

The Conference held a first discussion on a new international labour standard on HIV/AIDS and the world of work against the backdrop of a growing epidemic and the impact of the economic crisis on health budgets, development assistance and treatment programmes. The Recommendation would include provisions on prevention programmes and anti-discrimination measures at national and workplace levels, and strengthen the contribution of the world of work to universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support. A second discussion on the proposed Recommendation will follow in June 2010.

The Conference discussed gender equality in the world of work, noting that despite real progress since the last ILC general discussion on the issue in 1985, major challenges remain. Delegates said the economic crisis was jeopardizing fragile gains in empowering women, but also presented opportunities to shape new gender equality policies. The ILO’s future work – and responses to the jobs crisis – should assist constituents in creating equal opportunities for women and men in education and skills training, sharing family responsibilities, remuneration of work, formal economy jobs and entrepreneurship development and in exercising their rights at work.

During the plenary, delegates addressed the latest ILO report on the situation of workers in the occupied Arab territories which depicts “a dismal human, economic and social situation in the occupied Arab territories, overshadowed by stalled peace negotiations”.

The Conference Plenary discussed the ILO’s annual Global Report on forced labour on 9 June. The report, entitled “The Cost of Coercion” estimates the “opportunity cost” of coercion to the workers affected by forced labour practices in terms of lost earnings at over US$ 20 billion.

International labour standards

The Conference Committee on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations examined 25 individual cases covering the whole range of concerns addressed by the ILO Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations in its report submitted to the Conference(for more information, please go to /global/What_we_do/Officialmeetings/ilc/ILCSessions/98thSession/comm_reports/lang--en/index.htm).

The Committee again held a special sitting on the application by Myanmar of the Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29), following up measures taken in the context of Article 33 of the ILO Constitution.

Acknowledging some limited steps on the part of the government of Myanmar, including the further extension of a complaints mechanism on forced labour, the Committee was however of the view that those steps were totally inadequate. It strongly urged the Government to fully implement without delay the recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry and the comments and observations of the Committee of Experts. More particularly, it asked the Government to take necessary steps to bring the relevant legislative texts and the new Constitution into conformity with ILO Convention No.29; ensure the total elimination of persistent and widespread forced labour practices, and that perpetrators of forced labour, whether civil or military, were prosecuted and punished under the Penal Code; issue an authoritative statement at the highest level clearly confirming to the people of Myanmar the Government’s policy for the elimination of forced labour and its intention to prosecute perpetrators; approve a simply worded brochure in accessible languages on the functioning of the complaint mechanism on forced labour; and eliminate the continuing problems in the physical ability of victims of forced labour or their families to complain.

The Committee also noted with serious concern the continued human rights violations in Myanmar including the detention of Aung San Suu Kyi. The Committee called for her release and that of other political prisoners, as well as labour activists. It further called for the immediate release of those persons who were associated with the operation of the complaints mechanism and who were currently incarcerated.

Myanmar was also listed as a case of continued failure to implement the Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise, Convention, 1948 (No.87) . The Committee recalled that the persistence of forced labour could not be dissociated from the prevailing situation of a complete absence of freedom of association and the systematic persecution of those who try to organize.

The Committee also drew the attention of the Conference to two other special cases. In the case of Iran concerning the application of Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Convention, 1958 (No.111), the Committee remained concerned at the lack of evidence of any real progress made with respect to the situation of women in the labour market, and expressed continuing concern about the situation of religious and ethnic minorities with regard to their equal access to employment and occupation.

In the case of Swaziland, the Committee called upon the government to ensure the release of any persons being detained for having exercised their civil liberties, and regretted that, although the Government benefited from ILO technical assistance for some time now, the amendments requested for many years now to bring national legislation in conformity with the Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise, Convention, 1948 (No.87) have yet to be adopted.

The General Survey discussed by the Conference Committee this year was on the Occupational Safety and Health Convention, 1981 (No. 155), the Occupational Safety and Health Recommendation, 1981 (No. 164), and the Protocol of 2002 to the Occupational Safety and Health Convention, 1981. The Committee adopted conclusions on its discussion in which it set out elements for of a Plan of Action to promote the instruments.

The role of the International Labour Conference is to adopt and oversee compliance with international labour standards, establish the budget of the Organization and elect members of the Governing Body. Since 1919, the Conference has served as a major international forum for debate on social and labour questions of worldwide importance. Each of the 183 ILO member State has the right to send four delegates to the Conference: two from government and one each representing workers and employers, each of whom may speak and vote independently.