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GB.268/LILS/7
268th Session
Geneva, March 1997
 
  Committee on Legal Issues and International Labour Standards LILS  

SEVENTH ITEM ON THE AGENDA

Standard-setting policy: Ratification and promotion
of fundamental ILO Conventions

Contents

I. Background

II. References to ILO assistance

III. Concluding remarks

Appendix: Table of ratification and information concerning the ILO's fundamental Conventions
as at 14 February 1997


I. Background

1. At its 265th Session (March 1996) the Governing Body asked the Director-General to report to the present session on the progress made in ratifying the fundamental ILO Conventions on any new information he has received and on the assistance that the Office has provided. Following up his two previous letters in 1995, therefore, the Director-General sent a third letter in December 1996 to those ILO member States that have not ratified all the fundamental ILO Conventions, with a request that they indicate any obstacles to ratification and the assistance that the ILO could provide them in overcoming those obstacles. The letter asked specifically if there had been any changes in the Government's position since his previous communication. The seven Conventions concerned are:

The first part of this paper summarizes the replies received by 14 February 1997 together with the responses to the document that the Office submitted to the Governing Body at its 265th Session (March 1996). As in previous years, information received since 14 February 1997 will be communicated verbally to the Committee when it discusses this paper. The second part of the paper deals with the countries that have requested ILO assistance or have referred to it.

2. There have been 16 new ratifications of the seven fundamental Conventions -- or confirmations of earlier commitments -- since the Governing Body's 265th Session (March 1996). Georgia confirmed its earlier commitments in respect of Conventions Nos. 29, 98, 100, 111 and 138. Convention No. 105 was ratified by the Czech Republic, Convention No. 87 by the Republic of Moldova, Mozambique and Zambia, Convention No. 98 by the Republic of Moldova, Mozambique, Nepal, Suriname and Zambia, Convention No. 100 by Estonia, and Convention No. 111 by the Republic of Moldova. By 14 February 1997 replies had been received from 49 of the 146 countries to which the Director-General had sent his latest letter. Counting all the replies received since the beginning of this exercise, the Governing Body and the Office have received information from 114 of the 153(1) countries that had not previously ratified the seven fundamental Conventions. All in all, it is encouraging that the campaign launched by the Director-General to promote the ratification of the ILO's fundamental Conventions is gradually having an effect in most of the member States concerned. In addition to the 29 ratifications that have been registered since March 1995, the Director-General's letter has in many cases revived discussion in those countries of the desirability of ratifying the fundamental ILO Conventions, and in many cases procedures have been initiated to consider the possibility of doing so.

A. Forced and compulsory labour

Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29)

3. Since the previous paper (March 1996), Georgia has confirmed its earlier commitments in respect of this instrument.

4. China has recalled its position with respect to the ratification of ILO Conventions. According to the Government, ratification and application of international labour Conventions must be looked upon as a gradual process determined by the specific circumstances of each member State. The role of the Office is to take into account the particular characteristics of each State and bring it progressively to ratification and full application of the ILO Conventions. As regards China, the Government has during the past two years conducted a detailed examination of the fundamental ILO Conventions that it has not yet ratified (Nos. 29, 87, 98, 105, 111 and 138), and a comparative analysis of the provisions of those Conventions and of national law and practice shows clearly that the country has made considerable progress towards their application. At the appropriate time, and in the light of the country's interests, the Government will ratify the fundamental ILO Conventions that it has not yet subscribed to. In the case of Conventions Nos. 29 and 105, the Government states that China's Labour Code contains specific provisions on the right of workers to choose their employment and prohibiting forced labour which are in line with the basic principles embodied in these two instruments.

5. Kazakstan states that Conventions No. 29, 87, 98, 105 and 111 will be submitted to Parliament for ratification (but gives no indication of its intentions regarding Convention No. 100). Rwanda states that Convention No. 29 has been submitted to the competent authorities for adoption.

6. Eritrea is planning to ratify the seven fundamental Conventions once its new constitution has been drafted.

7. Armenia has given its assurance that it will devote its urgent attention to submitting Conventions No. 29, 87, 98, 105 and 138 to the National Assembly for possible ratification. The Republic of Korea, which became a member of the ILO in 1991, has ratified none of the seven fundamental Conventions, but the Government states that the procedure for ratifying Conventions Nos. 29, 100, 105, 111 and 138 will be initiated once the competent bodies have been consulted. The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, which has also not ratified any of the fundamental ILO Conventions, reports that the new Government is studying the possibility of ratifying these instruments. Qatar states that the six instruments that it has not ratified -- Conventions Nos. 29, 87, 98, 105 and 138 -- are being examined.

8. The United States observes that ratification of this Convention runs counter to the current trend towards privatization of prison management.

9. Zimbabwe indicates that Parliament has not yet taken any decision on the ratification of the six fundamental Conventions that the country has not yet ratified (Conventions Nos. 29, 87, 98, 105, 111 and 138).

Abolition of Forced Labour Convention, 1957 (No. 105)

10. Since the previous paper (March 1996) the Czech Republic and Georgia have ratified Convention No. 105. The United Arab Emirates state that steps have been taken to ratify the Convention, but at 3 February 1997 the Office had not yet received the official instrument of ratification. Croatia states that it has ratified this Convention by an Act that came into force of 10 October 1996 and that it will shortly communicate the official document of ratification to the Director-General. Mauritania reports that it ratified the Convention on 11 February 1996, but the Office has not yet received the official instrument of ratification.

11. The position of Armenia, China, Eritrea, Kazakstan, Republic of Korea, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Qatar and Zimbabwe on Convention No. 105 is described above in the section on Convention No. 29.

12. The following Governments state that the ratification process is under way: Burkina Faso (also Convention No. 138), India (the problem with ratifying this Convention was that the legislation in force in one of the States of the Federation was incompatible with it, but with the help of the local authorities the Government has finally managed to have that State's legislation amended), Lao People's Democratic Republic (also Conventions Nos. 87, 98, 100, 111 and 138), Slovakia (also Convention No. 138) and Togo.

13. Cambodia states that, following the adoption of a revised Labour Code on 10 January 1997, the necessary documents for submitting Conventions Nos. 87, 98, 100, 105, 111 and 138 for ratification are being prepared for submission to the Council of Ministers and the National Assembly. Chile states that an examination of Convention No. 105 has shown that current legislation is in line with the instrument's provisions and that a bill will shortly be brought before Parliament for its subsequent ratification. Azerbaijan reports that it is considering ratifying the Convention once the reform of the legislative system that is currently under way has been completed; it is not at present possible to ratify the instrument because forced labour is governed not only by the Labour Code but by a whole series of texts.

14. Japan, Myanmar (also Conventions Nos. 98, 100, 111 and 138) and the Russian Federation report that ratification of the Convention is being studied. Sri Lanka states that, despite the difficulties it has mentioned previously (namely, that national law and practice are not in accordance with the provisions of the Convention), the Government has placed the matter before the Attorney-General and requested him to give his opinion on the prospects of ratifying the Convention; it is awaiting his reply.

15. Bulgaria recalls that its economy is in a transitional stage and that it has therefore not been able to give priority to the submission of this Convention to the competent authorities for ratification.

16. Singapore states that it does not at present intend to ratify the Convention (which it denounced in 1979), or Conventions Nos. 87, 100, 111 and 138.

B. Freedom of association

Freedom of Association and Protection of the
Right to Organise Convention, 1948 (No. 87)

17. Since the previous paper (March 1996), the Republic of Moldova, Mozambique and Zambia have ratified Convention No. 87.

18. The position of Armenia, Eritrea, Kazakstan, Qatar, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Zimbabwe on this Convention is explained in the section concerning Convention No. 29, and that of Cambodia, the Lao People's Democratic Republic and Singapore in the section concerning Convention No. 105.

19. Fiji and Guinea Bissau indicate that the ratification procedure has been initiated and Georgia that it intends to ratify the Convention in the near future.

20. Mauritius states that, following a national seminar that was held in September 1996 and consultation with the Office, it is now possible to envisage ratifying the Convention once the relevant legislation has been revised. Thailand reports that it has set up a technical committee of legal experts to examine the ratification of Conventions Nos. 87, 98, 100, 111 and 138. Before it expresses its opinion on the desirability of ratifying these instruments, however, the Committee will have to consider what amendments have to be made to existing legislation. Saudi Arabia (also Convention No. 98), Bahrain (also Conventions Nos. 98, 100, 105 and 138) and Nepal state that they are examining the possibility of ratifying the Convention.

21. China states that freedom of association is embodied in the country's Constitution, Labour Code, Trade Union Act and all other relevant legislative texts and that the main provisions of the Convention are already in force. Because of the need to ensure the success of current reforms and the stability of the country, however, the Government is required by law to authorize the registration of mass organizations, including trade union organizations.

22. Chile states that a bill to bring the Labour Code into line with Conventions Nos. 87 and 98 will shortly be submitted to Parliament.

23. Jordan indicates that ratification of Convention No. 87 has been postponed. The United Arab Emirates have informed the Office that the technical committee set up to consider ratification of the seven ILO fundamental instruments has not recommended ratification of Conventions Nos. 87, 98 and 111. India has reaffirmed its position on Conventions Nos. 87 and 98(2) and hence the fact that it is not in a position to ratify those instruments. New Zealand states that it does not plan to ratify the Convention (or Conventions Nos. 98 and 138) until it is in a position to apply them fully (ratification of ILO Conventions is reexamined periodically). The Republic of Korea notes that some of its legislative provisions are not in line with the ILO's Conventions on freedom of association and that ratification of Conventions Nos. 87 and 98 cannot be envisaged until the country's system of industrial relations has been completely revised. Brazil states that the President of the Republic recently requested the Minister of Labour to prepare a reform of the country's industrial relations system (and specifically the system of compulsory contributions), once the country's trade union confederations have given their approval; the new bill should reflect some of the principles set out in Convention No. 87.

24. The United States states that its position has not changed since its previous communication.(3)

Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining
Convention, 1949 (No. 98)

25. Since the previous paper (March 1996) the Republic of Moldova, Mozambique, Nepal, Suriname and Zambia have ratified Convention No. 98 and Georgia has confirmed its earlier commitments with respect of this instrument. The United Nations Treaty Section has sent a copy of Burundi's ratification, inter alia, of Conventions Nos. 98 and 138, but at 3 February 1997 the Office had not yet received the official instruments of ratification.

26. The position of Armenia, Eritrea, Kazakstan, Qatar, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Zimbabwe on the Convention is explained in the section concerning Convention No. 29, that of Cambodia and the Lao People's Democratic Republic in the section concerning Convention No. 105, and that of Chile, India, Republic of Korea, New Zealand, Saudi Arabia, Thailand and the United Arab Emirates in the section concerning Convention No. 87.

27. Mauritania reports that a bill to ratify Conventions Nos. 98, 100 and 138 has been submitted to the Government for adoption and should come before Parliament at its May-June 1997 Session.

28. Switzerland states that an examination of the Convention by the Administration has shown that ratification is possible from the juridical standpoint; a draft message endorsing the Convention has accordingly been prepared and included in the analysis of the Conventions adopted by the 82nd and 83rd Sessions of the International Labour Conference. The texts will be examined by the Federal Council in 1997 and then submitted to the Chambers. Mexico states that tripartite consultations are being held on the instrument to decide whether it should be ratified.

29. China states that, with the gradual establishment of a socialist market economy, the State has established a system of collective bargaining for a trial period and that the existing legislation contains provisions on collective bargaining procedures and the protection of workers' representatives. A law on collective agreements is also being prepared.

C. Non-discrimination

Equal Remuneration Convention, 1951 (No. 100)

30. Since the previous paper (March 1996) Estonia has ratified Convention No. 100 and Georgia has confirmed its earlier commitments vis--vis this instrument. The United Arab Emirates state that they have ratified the Convention and that the official instrument of ratification should reach the Office shortly.

31. The position of Eritrea, Qatar and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia is explained in the section concerning Convention No. 29, that of Cambodia, the Lao People's Democratic Republic, Malaysia, Myanmar and Singapore in the section concerning Convention No. 105, and that of Thailand in the section concerning Convention No. 87.

32. Antigua and Barbuda reports that the Convention is currently before the competent bodies and that ratification should take place in the course of 1997. The Government states, however, that the legislation in force is already in line with the principles embodied in the Convention.

33. Bangladesh indicates that the Government's examination of the desirability of ratifying the Convention is almost complete.

34. The Republic of Korea reports that there are no significant obstacles to ratification of the Conventions concerning non-discrimination in employment and occupation, i.e. Conventions Nos. 100 and 111, and that the Government intends to initiate the procedure for the formal ratification of these instruments as soon as it has finished consulting the ministers concerned and the social partners.

35. Following the seminar that was held in Fiji in January 1997, the Government states that it intends to ratify Conventions Nos. 100, 111 and 138.

36. Mauritius reports that the ratification of Convention No. 100 will be examined when the new Labour Code is drafted. The situation was examined at a national tripartite seminar that was held in September 1996.

37. Bahrain and Pakistan state that ratification of the Convention is being studied.

38. Suriname and the United States repeated their position regarding the ratification of Convention No. 100, namely, that they do not intend to ratify the instrument for the time being.

Discrimination (Employment and Occupation)
Convention, 1958 (No. 111)

39. Since the previous paper (March 1996) the Republic of Moldova has ratified Convention No. 111 and Georgia has confirmed its earlier commitments vis--vis this instrument.

40. The position of Eritrea, Kazakstan, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Zimbabwe is explained in the section concerning Convention No. 29, that of Cambodia, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Malaysia, Myanmar and Singapore in the section concerning Convention No. 105, that of Thailand and the United Arab Emirates in the section concerning Convention No. 87, and that of Fiji and the Republic of Korea in the section concerning Convention No. 100.

41. Estonia states that the proposal to ratify the Convention will be submitted to Parliament in 1997. The United States reports that the Secretary of State for Labor initiated the procedure for submitting the Convention to the Senate for examination and approval of ratification at the beginning of January 1997. Luxembourg states that it intends to submit a bill for Parliamentary approval of the Convention at the earliest opportunity.

42. Mauritius states that the absence of any national authority responsible for supervising policy as regards non-discrimination is an obstacle to the Convention's ratification. The matter was discussed at the tripartite national seminar that was held in September 1996. Japan states that it wishes to examine in more detail how the national laws and regulations would need to be brought into line with the instrument before deciding on whether it can be ratified.

43. China states that there is no discrimination in employment or occupation as defined in the Convention in its national law and practice.

44. The United Kingdom notes that since its initial communication on the subject there has been no new development to justify its changing its position on the desirability of ratifying the Convention. At the 265th Session of the Governing Body, the Government explained that the absence of any legislation specifically prohibiting any form of discrimination based on political opinion, social origin or religion (except in Northern Ireland) and the Government's refusal to attribute certain public service posts to British citizens born outside the United Kingdom or of parents born abroad were an obstacle to ratification of the Convention.

45. Sri Lanka, which notes that discrimination in recruitment, promotion, transfer, disciplinary procedures, etc. does exist in the private sector, states that once the Workers' Charter (currently being examined by a ministerial committee) has been adopted by Parliament, the Government will examine the possibility of ratifying the Convention.

D. Minimum age

Minimum Age Convention, 1973 (No. 138)

46. Since the previous paper (March 1996), Georgia has confirmed its earlier commitments vis--vis Convention No. 1038. Argentina, Nepal and the United Arab Emirates report that they have ratified the Convention but at 3 February 1997 the official instruments of ratification had not yet been communicated to the ILO.

47. The position of Armenia, Eritrea, Qatar, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Zimbabwe on this instrument is explained in the section concerning Convention No. 29, that of Cambodia, the Lao People's Democratic Republic, Myanmar and Singapore in the section concerning Convention No. 105, that of New Zealand, Thailand and the United Arab Emirates in the section concerning Convention No. 87, that of Mauritania in the section concerning Convention No. 98, and that of Fiji in the section concerning Convention No. 100.

48. The ratification procedure has been initiated in Burkino Faso and in Slovakia (which reports that the formal process of ratification should be completed by the end of 1997).

49. Chile, Colombia, Estonia, Jamaica, the Republic of Korea (following the recent adoption of an Act raising the minimum age of access to employment from 13 to 15 years), Lithuania (at the end of January or beginning of February 1997), and Portugal (the proposal for ratification submitted by the former Government is no longer valid) report that the Convention will very shortly be submitted to the competent authorities for ratification.

50. Senegal states that it is considering ratifying Convention No. 138 and would like to have the Office's assistance in studying the instrument's technical details.

51. Kuwait, Mali and Saudi Arabia indicate that they will examine the possibility of ratifying the Convention when the current revision of their legislation has been completed. Switzerland states that its examination of the Convention has revealed that Swiss positive law does not conform entirely to the provisions of the Convention and that the Administration is currently looking into the various possibilities of amending the legislation so that it does.

52. Austria and the Czech Republic report that they are considering ratifying the Convention but must first of all incorporate the European Union's Directive concerning the rights of children in their own legislation.

53. The Dominican Republic indicates that Convention No. 138 is currently being examined with the social partners and that it should eventually be possible to ratify it. Brazil states that ratification of Convention No. 138 and the application of Recommendation No. 146 is one of the objectives of the national human rights programme launched by the President of the Republic in May 1996. The first stage of the process was the President's message (October 1996) to the Congress inviting it to adopt a draft amendment to the Constitution -- currently under discussion -- that would prohibit all work, including traineeships, by children under the age of 14.

54. China states that child labour is strictly prohibited and that the sanctions for non-observance of the law are extremely heavy. The Government also points out that it is one of the signatories of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and that it hopes to be able to ratify Convention No. 138 in due course.

55. Guinea Bissau states that the Convention is being studied with a view to its possible ratification by the National People's Assembly. Ratification is also being considered in Bangladesh, the Republic of Moldova and Pakistan.

56. Sri Lanka indicates that it has not yet taken the necessary measures to bring its legislation and practice into line with the provisions of the Convention. Suriname reports that the Labour Advisory Board has not yet been consulted on the desirability of ratifying the Convention.

57. The Government of Australia, India, Mexico and Panama state that they do not wish to ratify the Convention. Australia notes that its position on the subject has not changed since its previous communication.(4) However, since the subject is on the agenda of the 86th Session (June 1998) of the International Labour Conference with a view to the adoption of a new instrument on child labour, the Government hopes that the new instrument will be more effective in resolving the problem of child labour in Australia.

58. Jordan and the United States report that ratification of Convention No. 138 has been postponed.

II. References to ILO assistance

59. Two countries (India and Mali) mentioned the assistance they are receiving from IPEC in the matter of child labour. In January 1997 a national tripartite seminar on the fundamental ILO Conventions was organized in Fiji. The social partners recommended ratification of Convention No. 87 and, in due course, of Conventions Nos. 100, 111 and 138. A national tripartite seminar on Conventions Nos. 87, 100 and 111 was also organized in Mauritius from 30 September to 3 October 1996 and ratification of these three instruments is under consideration.

60. Saudi Arabia, which has not ratified Conventions Nos. 87 and 98, states that it will not hesitate to request the Office's assistance at the appropriate time. The Republic of Korea indicates that, before initiating the formal process of ratification of Conventions Nos. 29 and 105, it will request the ILO's expert assistance in examining the conformity of its national legislation with the two Conventions.

61. Botswana has consulted the multidisciplinary team based in Harare on its possible ratification of the fundamental ILO Conventions. Indonesia received technical assistance from the Office in connection with its possible ratification of Convention No. 138, through the expert on international labour standards of the multidisciplinary team based in Bangkok. Senegal has asked for the assistance of the expert on international labour standards of the multidisciplinary team based in Dakar with a view to the submission of Convention No. 138 to the National Assembly.

62. Armenia and Gambia have expressed a wish for the Office's technical assistance with a view to the possible ratification of the seven fundamental ILO Conventions. Myanmar has requested the Office's assistance in examining the possible ratification of Conventions Nos. 98, 100, 105, 111 and 138. Sri Lanka has expressed a wish for the expert services of an official of the Equality and Human Rights Coordination Branch (International Labour Standards Department) with a view to its possible ratification of Convention No. 111.

63. The ILO's field offices have also played an important role indirectly by making their services available to the member States and responding to their requests for assistance.

III. Concluding remarks

64. As indicated above, 29 new ratifications or confirmations of earlier commitments vis--vis fundamental Conventions have been registered since the Director-General launched his initiative in March 1995; the ILO is awaiting official instruments of ratification from six countries (Argentina, Burundi, Croatia, Mauritania, Nepal, United Arab Emirates). In 13 cases (Antigua and Barbuda, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Colombia, Estonia, Fiji, Guinea Bissau, Republic of Korea, Lithuania, Portugal, Sri Lanka, Switzerland) the Office was informed that ratification could be expected soon and in 11 cases (Azerbaijan, Cambodia, Chile, Eritrea, Estonia, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Switzerland, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Zimbabwe) that further ratifications could be expected following the establishment of a new Constitution, the adoption of a new Labour Code or the amendment of certain laws. Two countries (Republic of Korea, Pakistan) reported that a decision on the ratification of Conventions would be taken once the workers' and employers' organizations had made known their own views.

65. Finally, though information has been received from most of the member States on their position regarding the ratification of the seven fundamental ILO instruments and on any obstacles to that ratification, the 39 following countries have never replied directly to the various letters sent by the Director-General: Afghanistan, Albania, Belize, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cape Verde, Chad, Comoros, Congo, Djibouti, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Gambia, Grenada, Guinea, Haiti, Indonesia, Kenya, Liberia, Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, Malawi, Morocco, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Saint Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Sao Tome and Principe, Seychelles, Solomon Islands, Somalia, Swaziland, Tajikistan, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Yemen, Yugoslavia.

66. It is proposed to report once again to the Governing Body at its 271st Session (March 1998)(5) on any further progress in ratification of these Conventions, on further information received and on any assistance rendered.

Geneva, 24 February 1997.

1 This includes the two countries that joined the ILO after the first letter was sent, i.e. Gambia and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. It also includes Ireland and Luxembourg, the only two countries to have ratified all the fundamental Conventions except Convention No. 111, which were not asked to supply additional information in reply to the Director-General's first letter, in view of the General Survey that was prepared for that year by the Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations (see footnote 3 of document GB.264/LILS/5).

2 GB.264/LILS/5, para. 26.

3 GB.265/LILS/6, para. 18.

4 See GB.264/LILS/5, para. 40.

5 As decided at the previous meeting of the Governing Body. See document GB.265/LILS/6, para. 58.


Updated by VC. Approved by NdW. Last update: 26 January 2000.