Reflecting on the relevance of cooperatives to the topics of discussion at the 106th ILC

On the second day of the 106th International Labour Conference, the COOP Unit was invited to make a presentation to the African government group on the relevance of cooperatives and other social and solidarity economy enterprises with regard to the main topics of discussion at the conference.

News | 12 June 2017
Guy Tchami from ILO COOP presenting to the African government group
ILO COOP was invited by the African government group to present on the relevance of cooperatives and other social and solidarity economy enterprises with regard to the main topics of discussion at the conference this year. The presentation focused on the role of cooperatives to the topic of discussion during three committees.

For the general discussion at the Committee on Labour Migration it was noted that the Migrant Workers Recommendation, 1975 (No. 151) underlines the relevance of cooperative enterprises for migrant workers as member-owned and democratically controlled businesses. Migrants benefit from cooperative services in host countries in a range of sectors from finance and employment to housing, education and health. As producers, artisans and traders, migrant workers set up their own cooperatives to address livelihoods needs in host countries. They also join existing cooperatives in host countries as members or workers. In countries of origin, financial cooperatives can help leverage the role of migrant workers’ remittances with lower transaction costs.

For the Committee on Employment and Decent Work for the Transition to Peace it was noted that cooperatives are mentioned in the context of enabling environment for sustainable enterprises including “cooperatives and other social economy initiatives” in the proposed revision for the text of the Employment (Transition from War to Peace) Recommendation, 1944 (No. 71). Cooperatives play a critical role in post-conflict reconstruction by creating jobs for returning minorities and ex-combatants, rebuilding businesses and homes, giving refugees and internally displaced persons access to markets, and facilitating reconciliation and peace building in many countries.

The recurrent discussion at the Committee for the Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work focused on the following four areas: (a) freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining; (b) the elimination of all forms of forced or compulsory labour; (c) the effective abolition of child labour; and (d) the elimination of discrimination. Like any other businesses, cooperative enterprises have an obligation to comply with responsible labour practices. It was noted that the set of values and principles cooperatives are based upon make them natural allies in advancing FPRW. Examples of ways cooperatives engaged in this field included awareness-raising campaigns among their members and within their communities on FPRW and ensuring that their own business operations were free of labour rights abuses. The presentation provided the opportunity to share recent document briefs produced by ILO COOP on the four areas under review. The briefs reflected on how cooperatives and their unions and federations can be critical conduits in delivering the messages around FPRW to their members across sectors.

After the presentation, the national delegates from the Africa Group posed questions ranging from cooperatives’ links to green agenda and cross border membership in cooperatives to cooperative education and financing.