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ILO Governing Body wraps up its 332nd session

The March 2018 session of the ILO Governing Body ended on 22 March. ILO News discussed the highlights with Juan Llobera, Clerk of the Governing Body.

Comment | 26 March 2018

ILO News: A major development for this very busy session was the discussion on Venezuela. Can you tell us about the outcome?

The Governing Body discussed again the complaint concerning the non-observance by the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela of Conventions 26, 87 and 144 on minimum wages, freedom of association and tripartite consultation. The complaint alleges attacks, harassment and a campaign to discredit the employers’ organization – FEDECAMARAS – its leaders and affiliates.

The Governing Body expressed its regret that it had not been able to carry out the high level mission it had recommended at its November 2017 session, due to objections raised by the Government about the agenda of the mission, and decided to establish a Commission of Inquiry, which is the ILO’s highest level investigative procedure.

In taking this decision, it expressed deep concern about the lack of any progress with respect to its previous decisions and recommendations regarding the complaint.

In particular, it referred to the failure to establish a tripartite roundtable, bringing together government, employer, worker, as well as ILO representatives, to foster social dialogue, in order to resolve all pending issues.

ILO News: What does the decision mean in practice?

A Commission of Inquiry is made up of three independent members, whose task it is to carry out a full investigation of a complaint, ascertain all the facts of the case and make recommendations on measures to be taken.

To date, 12 Commissions of Inquiry have been established, the latest one followed a complaint filed against the Government of Zimbabwe in November 2008.

ILO News: What about the discussion on Guatemala?

The complaint is about non-observance by Guatemala of the Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise Convention, 1948 (No. 87), made by delegates to the 101st Session (2012) of the International Labour Conference under article 26 of the ILO Constitution.

In its decision, the Governing body especially took due note both of the significant progress achieved in the implementation of the national tripartite agreement of November 2017 and of the efforts under way in this respect.

It urged all stakeholders to continue to devote all efforts and resources necessary to achieve the complete implementation of the national agreement aimed at settling the unresolved matters in the complaint as well as the agreed roadmap.

The Governing Body will continue monitoring progress at its next session in June 2018.

ILO News: This 332nd session of the Governing Body was also the occasion of a high-level visit?

On 19 March, the Governing Body discussed the reform of the UN and its implications for the ILO. On this occasion, the UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina J. Mohamed came to the ILO and addressed the Governing Body. She had a 3-hour exchange with Governments, Employers and Workers.

An information session was also held on the ILO Global Commission on the Future of Work. Governing Body members and the diplomatic community in Geneva were briefed by several commissioners on major issues affecting the world of work in the future.

The discussion on salaries at ILO headquarters in Geneva was also on the agenda. What was the conclusion?

On the two last days of the meeting, Governing Body members discussed whether reductions applied to UN staff salaries – following decisions taken by the International Civil Service Commission (ICSC) at its 85th Session regarding the post adjustment index for Geneva – should apply to ILO professional and higher category staff too.

Serious concerns were raised about the process and the results of the 2016 cost-of-living survey on which the index is based. The Governing Body requested the ILO secretariat to continue to actively engage with the ICSC, with the objective of reforming the post adjustment and other salary survey methodologies, with the full involvement of the UN workers’ federations and respect for basic principles of social dialogue.

In view of the long-term risks for the ILO and its staff of departing from the United Nations common system of salaries, and notwithstanding the concerns associated with the ICSC decisions, the same reduction of 5.1 per cent of take home pay, already applied to Professional and higher category staff of the United Nations and other specialized agencies in Geneva, will apply to ILO staff. A reduction of 3 per cent will apply from 1 April 2018, and a further reduction of 2.1 per cent will apply from 1 June 2018.

In these circumstances, the ILO Staff Union declared a strike.

What happened with the proposed tobacco discussion?

Due to the early closing of the session, the Governing Body had to postpone decisions on several items, including the proposed strategy to address decent work deficits in the tobacco sector and the workplan for strengthening the ILO supervisory system of international labour standards. These will now be discussed at a future meeting.

ILO News: Can you tell us briefly about the other main decisions made during the 332nd session?

One important item focussed on forced labour in Myanmar. The Governing Body noted the significant progress that has been made and decided that the additional reporting to each Governing Body session on cases of forced labour, as decided in November 2017, would no longer be required, but it also urged the Government to engage in the process of labour law reform and to promote freedom of association.

The Governing Body held a follow-up discussion to the IV Global Conference on the Sustained Eradication of Child Labour that took place in Buenos Aires in November 2017. One of its decisions was to encourage the General Assembly of the United Nations to declare the year 2021 as International Year for the Elimination of Child Labour.

Among the numerous topics on the agenda, the Governing Body also discussed the agenda of the Centenary International Labour Conference in 2019, agreeing that the agenda would be primarily focussed on the future of work and other centenary initiatives, and include the second discussion on a standard setting item on violence and harassment against women and men in the world of work. It also discussed ILO South-South and triangular cooperation and decent work, the review of the MNE Declaration follow-up mechanism comprising promotional activities and an information-gathering system, and the results-based evaluation strategy 2018–21, and made decisions on the headquarters’ building renovation project.