Tuvalu – a small island State tackles labour law reform

Tuvalu is one of the ILO’s smallest Member States with a population of little more the 10,000 people spread across eight islands. Tuvalu, like a number of other countries in the Pacific region has labour legislation that has been in place for many decades with elements originating from in early colonial times.

News | 01 April 2014
Last year the Labour Ministry prioritised reviewing the Employment Act, Trade Unions Act and Industrial Relations Code to consider how it could be modernised and improve compliance with the eight Fundamental ILO Conventions. “Most of our labour laws are outdated. We really need to review these laws to make sure they comply with ILO Conventions” said Tefiti Malau, Labour Officer, Tuvalu Ministry of Labour.

With the support of the ILO Office of Pacific Island Countries, a review of existing labour legislation was undertaken, and, in February this year, the results of the review were discussed at a seminar with a range of organisations in Funafuti. The Labour Ministry is the first to acknowledge that over time the law has largely fallen out of date and no longer reflects the economic and social aspirations of Tuvaluan people. Consequently, rights and obligations of employers and employees have largely been forgotten about by many people. And, in some cases with good reason, as many terms and conditions of employment (such as a prohibition on women working at night) no longer reflect the reality of working life.

For participants in the seminar, there was no question that the existing legal framework needs to change and an inclusive and participatory approach to reform is needed, where Tuvaluans have a say about what matters to them. Despite being one of the ILO’s smallest member States, the issues are no less significant. Minimum wages and tackling discrimination were two a range of issues that were highlighted during the February seminar. The ILO Office of Pacific Island Countries is continuing to work with the Labour Ministry throughout 2014 to progress the law reform process.