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87th Session
Geneva, June 1999

Report of the Committee on the Application of Standards

Committee report

Submission, discussion and adoption

The PRESIDENT -- We shall now consider the report of the Committee on the Application of Standards, which you can find in Provisional Record No. 23, Parts One and Two.

I call on Mr. van de Ree, the Reporter, to present the report of the Committee.

Mr. VAN DE REE (Government delegate, Netherlands; Reporter of the Committee on the Application of Standards) -- It is indeed an honour and a pleasure to address the plenary session of this year's session of the International Labour Conference to present the report of the Committee on the Application of Standards.

I have not been a member of the Committee for that many years and I have to admit that this is the first time I have actually attended the presentation of the report to the plenary.

I should like to start on a more personal note before touching on the more serious part of my job. The work of the Committee on the Application of Standards is not familiar to everyone who attends the Conference. This might have something to do with the fact that the Committee goes about its business in another part of the world, namely the ILO building. It takes an effort to just visit us there. It might also have something to do with the fact that our work is not considered very exciting. Another term to use in this context, probably more up to date, would be "cool". My two teenage sons definitely think that my business here, at the International Labour Conference, is very "uncool".

But I can live with that: after all, following up the implementation of ratified Conventions is, in fact, quite important.

I see it as part of my work as Reporter of the Committee on the Application of Standards also to look after its public relations, and part of this is to inform those who are not familiar with its work.

In the Committee, we participate in a frank, critical but constructive tripartite dialogue and our sole purpose is, as a result, to help member States progress in implementing their obligations concerning international labour standards. We usually do this in a spirit of good will and, as I have just said, in a critical and at the same time constructive manner. Over the years, the Committee has earned itself the undisputed title of moral conscience of the ILC. It was our obligation to live up to that reputation this year. Moral conscience on a more day-to-day basis comes down to being an essential actor in the regular monitoring system, a system that looks into the application of standards adopted by the Conference.

This work is based on the examination of periodic reports sent by governments. After an initial examination of these reports by the Committee of Experts, it is for our Committee, in a tripartite framework, to discuss the different questions raised by the experts in their report. Our Committee seeks, through open dialogue with the governments concerned, to find solutions to problems and difficulties which have been identified. It is obvious that in ratifying a Convention, a government demonstrates the intention to live by its obligations. That is the basis from which we start.

Almost as obvious is the fact that, in our Committee, we will find differences of opinion on the implementation of Conventions. This is where we learn, in very serious cases, about incidences in the sphere of child labour, forced labour, freedom to form trade unions and collective bargaining, about the disappearance of trade unionists, and the appalling conditions under which child labour and other forms of forced labour are performed.

Being on the Committee and hearing these stories, sometimes told by the people who were victims of these practices, is something that you will not forget. As I told you, I am, relatively speaking, a novice in the application of standards, but I can assure you that even the old hands in our Committee are still deeply affected by these stories.

There is also another side to our work, a most rewarding side. From time to time you also see the direct result of the work that is being done by the Committee. I will give you just one example, but there are more.

Last year, we were visited by Mr. Pakpahan, a trade unionist who had very recently been released from jail and whose case had been on the agenda of our Committee for years. To be in the room at that time was a moment to cherish. Our report points to cases of progress, many of them in the area of human rights. With our usual modesty, we see these results as a tangible proof of the effectiveness of the supervisory system in which we participate.

Of course, our work in the Committee is, on the whole, being performed on a very professional basis, and emotions are kept out of it, although from time to time tension can be felt in the debate. We work using fixed procedures and working methods: this may have something to do with the image of the Committee, but I imagine that this is the correct way to deal with methods. In fact, this is the only way the system can work.

As I said, I began with some personal impressions; now I come to the more formal part of my role as a Reporter.

Our Committee is entrusted with item 3 on the Conference agenda -- information and reports on the application of Conventions and Recommendations. The basis for our work is the report of the Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations. This year once again, during the general debate, we were honoured with the presence of the Chairperson of the Committee of Experts, Sir William Douglas. We hope to see him again next year in his usual good form and in good health.

The Committee started its work with a general discussion, subdivided into two parts. The first part was, in general terms, on issues relating to the application of standards by Members, and the second part was devoted to the General Survey concerning migrant workers.

The first part of the general discussion dealt with subjects including forced labour, seafarers' identity documents, employment policy, indigenous and tribal peoples, and child labour. The application of standards in export processing zones also figured during that debate. During the discussions, we referred, among other things, to prison labour in privatized prisons or under contract to private contractors. We mentioned the World Employment report and its relevance to employment policy, and in the context of child labour we underlined the importance of the IPEC programme and the new Convention that this ILC has just produced unanimously. Of course, the 1998 ILO Declaration was regularly mentioned too.

In the relevant part of our report on the general discussion, you will also find information on the number of Conventions ratified up until now. We were pleased to find that four new Conventions will soon come into force -- the Home Work Convention, 1996 (No. 177), the Labour Inspection (Seafarers) Convention, 1996 (No. 178), the Recruitment and Placement of Seafarers Convention, 1996 (No. 179) and the Private Employment Agencies Convention, 1997 (No. 181). These Conventions date from the 1996 and 1997 sessions of the Conference.

This year was the second and last time that we had a discussion of a special report or so-called mini-survey produced under article 19 of the Constitution. These special reports deal with the seven core ILO Conventions. One of the main ideas behind this procedure is to find out where non-ratifying States found it difficult or impossible to ratify the particular Conventions, and from there to see where help may be given in order to enable these States to ratify.

This year we focused on the Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise Convention, 1948 (No. 87) and the Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining Convention, 1949 (No. 98). In this context, I should mention the campaign for the ratification of the seven fundamental Conventions launched by the former Director-General in 1995 and the urgent appeal for ratification by the Committee on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise Convention, 1948 (No. 87) in 1998.

In our report you will find the figures on the resulting encouraging growth in the number of ratifications. As I said, this was the last time we held the article 19 debate, since these special reports will no longer be requested, given the decision by the Governing Body to establish a follow-up mechanism for the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, adopted by last year's ILC.

Quite a number of speakers stated that the follow-up mechanism for the Declaration should not replace the regular monitoring system of the Committee. This is only a selection from part of one of the general discussions in our Committee.

The second part, on the basis of a General Survey, deals with the subject of migrant workers. The underlying ILO Conventions are the Migration for Employment Convention (Revised), 1949 (No. 97) and the Migrant Workers (Supplementary Provisions) Convention, 1975 (No. 143), and there are obvious links with the Recruitment and Placement of Seafarers Convention, 1996 (No. 179) and with the Private Employment Agencies Convention, 1997 (No. 181). One of the motives for the Governing Body to put the item on this year's agenda of the ILC was the low rate of ratification of the migration Conventions.

The Migration for Employment Convention (Revised), 1949 (No. 97) has been ratified by 41 States, and the Migrant Workers (Supplementary Provisions) Convention, 1975 (No. 143) by only 18; only 12 States have ratified both migration Conventions.

The outcome of the debate was that most speakers recognized the changing character of migration, and that for a number of reasons migration is on the increase. The ILO's continuing involvement with the subject-matter was undisputed. Opinions varied, however, on how to proceed from here: among the options mentioned were revision of existing standards, a new instrument, a tripartite meeting on migration, or a general discussion during the ILC.

The general discussion took the better part of the first week. By the end of that week, document D.5, as it is known to insiders, had been published. D.5 gives the selection by the Officers of the Committee of cases regarding which Government delegates might be invited to supply information to the Committee. Here you will find the so-called automatic cases as well as the list.

The first category, that of the automatic cases, names governments that have failed in their obligations to report, to reply to comments made by the experts, or to submit instruments to the competent authorities. The general impression is that in comparison to previous years, progress is being made with the automatic cases.

Most attention, and in fact most of our time, was devoted to discussion of the individual cases on the list. At this stage, I want to reiterate what I said before about the role of our Committee in this context. We examine measures taken by member States to give effect to Conventions to which they are party, and in doing so try to help them to progress in implementing their obligations concerning international labour standards.

This is a forum for critical and constructive dialogue and exchange of views. We are not a tribunal where governments are put on trial. Most of the work consists of discussions on the individual cases. This is an indication of the relative importance of this part of our work. You will find the individual cases in part two of our report.

At this stage, it is my duty to draw your attention to paragraphs 193-197 of the report. Here, mentioned in a special paragraph, you will find the cases where the application of ratified Conventions did not reach the set goal. Here our Committee uses strong words, such as "we deeply regret", "strongly urge", "express serious concern", "note with deep concern", "could not help but once again deplore", "extremely concerned", "as a matter of urgency".

The countries concerned in the special paragraphs are Cameroon, for the Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise Convention, 1948 (No. 87), and Myanmar, for the Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29), and again for the Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise Convention, 1948 (No. 87).

In the case of Myanmar, attention is also drawn to the fact that this is a case of continued failure to implement for both Convention No. 29 and Convention No. 87. Again, for full particulars of each case, I refer you to the second part of the report.

Now we come to the pleasant part, and also to the end of my address. I should like to pay tribute to Mr. Zenger and his most dedicated and professional team. Thank you all for doing an impossible job so well.

A group of workers not always mentioned are the interpreters. I could not check you out on all languages used, but for the few languages that I master, I could tell that perfection was in sight -- my compliments.

Then I realized that on occasions like this you always run the risk of forgetting people. I thank them as well. It was a pleasure to observe from my position in the room the two Vice-Chairpersons, Mr. Peirens and Mr. Wisskirchen, and their occasional substitutes as spokespersons for their groups, Messrs. Sibanda, Fishmen, Etty and Potter.

I am most impressed by their professionalism, and I realize that I have a long way to go to get to their level. You have set a very high standard, and I thank them.

This brings me to my last thank you, and that is to our Chairperson, Ms. Dimapilis-Baldoz. Sitting next to her, I could watch her work, and she managed to steer us through some very troubled waters at times. Once or twice I thought that she would have appreciated it if I had asked someone to leave the room for a while.

At more relaxed moments, I experienced her sense of humour, and I liked it. On the whole, I salute her for a job well done. And finally, I would request the Conference to adopt the report of the Committee on the Application of Standards. I highly recommend it.

Original German: Mr. WISSKIRCHEN (Employers' adviser; Employer Vice-Chairperson of the Committee) -- The Committee on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations, which has been in existence since 1926, is submitting to the Conference its report of its activities for this year. The important elements of the contents, thankfully, have already been given by the Reporter.

In spite of its considerable age and its unwavering aims, which are laid down in the Standing Orders, our Committee does not remain unaffected by change. In all areas of life we perceive the need to come up with new ways of thinking and acting. And this development has not spared the ILO.

There are also signs in the air that we are pointing in a new direction. And this was reflected in the Report of the Director-General this year; we are taking on board a new structure of the Office, based on four strategic objectives. Of particular significance is the realistic and impartial examination of the comprehensive body of standards. However, this has to take place more expeditiously and more boldly; otherwise we are going to witness denunciations -- in any event a lack of application -- and new standards, as we have already witnessed over the past 15 years, are going to be ratified very little, if at all.

More important than good intentions is the way in which we gear our action to the future. This will not involve preparing standards in the traditional sense of the term -- and even less the drafting of particularly complicated and detailed standards. Rather, the ILO has to react to the rapid change in a globalized world, in a flexible way with different kinds of measures. We can no longer hope to cope with reality by setting out to establish "eternal truths" cast in stone. What we need to do, to attain our objectives, is for example, to create careful "benchmarking". This does not imply a comparison of standards, but rather a comparison of solutions to problems which actually work.

In the reports to the Committee over the past few years we have continually seen examples of standards which urgently need to be revised. Thus, various Conventions on social security address almost exclusively state systems, because at the time they were drafted nobody thought of successful private systems -- or at least they did not want to think of them. Today, however, financial and capital markets have completely changed. Social insurance systems are constantly on the increase, either as an alternative or as a supplement to the current system. If a member State, by introducing a private system, violates Conventions which have already been ratified, this means that these Conventions have lost touch with reality.

I shall give a further example -- one of many. According to the Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29), the work carried out by prison inmates was not considered forced labour. Naturally, in 1930, nobody was thinking of the growing number of private prisons which we are witnessing today. If the work of prisoners in private prisons, which are naturally placed under state supervision, were to be declared as "forced labour", an increasing number of member States would be in breach of this Convention -- which has nevertheless been ratified by 145 member States. It goes without saying that the Committee of Experts, before reassessing this set of issues, will want to obtain the views of as many member States as possible, and is thus asking member States for the appropriate information. Examples of standards dating from an earlier period are numerous.

And this should teach us something. Standards should be limited to the essential and avoid details, even if these details still reflect the current practice. Outdated Conventions which, as a rule, were not limited to matters of principle, have to be modified rapidly in an appropriate manner. For the supervisory bodies -- above all, the Committee of Experts and the Conference Committee on the Application of Standards -- the moral of the story is that standards of general scope should not be over-interpreted. General principles should not be bogged down by over-detailed sub, subprovisions. Things which are possible in national legislation, prompted perhaps by dogma or the approach to a particular field of legislation, cannot automatically be transposed to international law. The principle of international law must be respected; in dubio mitius, i.e. in the case of doubt, the contracting State should benefit from the least stringent interpretation.

If national and international legislators limit themselves to the essential, and the supervisory bodies do not confuse the application of law with the process of law making, then there remains a margin for voluntary enterprise initiatives in the area of good corporate practice as, for example, is the case with the "codes of conduct".

This means that, above and beyond minimum standards, enterprises or entire branches can commit themselves voluntarily to certain forms of behaviour in the social, economic or environmental area. For that to be possible, restraint in standard setting is required.

The fact that the world is becoming more complex is also shown by the Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work adopted last year. On its contents and significance many positive things have been said, with justice. There may, however, be misunderstandings over some small elements raised by the Committee of Experts in paragraph 59 of the report. The Declaration is not the same thing as the provisions of the seven core Conventions. Thus we, unlike the experts, see no risk that the follow-up measures for the Declaration might hamper the existing supervisory and control mechanisms. Nor do we feel that further measures will be necessary to ensure that in the case of existing standards a uniform and coherent approach will be taken.

Before producing new standards, there has to be an exact assessment of the probable consequences. In particular, we need to have an analysis of the effects on productivity and competitivity, as well as on investment and employment.

Employment policy in the context of the Employment Policy Convention, 1964 (No. 122) always plays an important role in our general debate. This year the experts have basically been just sketching some developments which have taken place in certain parts of the world.

An important cause of the Asian crisis, in our view, was the lack of market transparency. In the case of Europe, the experts refer to the endeavours to coordinate employment strategy. This, however, should not deflect attention from the fact that the specific problems of the labour market ultimately have to be solved in areas of national competence and responsibility. We fully endorse what has been said by the experts, that there is no better way of promoting employment than by supporting private initiatives. In a free society, ultimately, it is the decisions of many individuals and the right framework conditions for enterprises which help to create jobs or destroy them. And the creation of jobs must remain an important concern of the ILO.

Between the Committee of Experts and the Conference Committee there is growing cooperation. This report has already referred to what was said by Sir William Douglas in our general debate and this has been happening for a number of years now. This cooperation is no longer merely a one-way street, as appeared to be the case earlier and was also perhaps what many people wanted. In the meantime, the experts are no longer just taking note of what is said by the Conference Committee, as they often do, but also occasionally modify the views that they have themselves hitherto held.

The experts also refer to the Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention, 1989 (No. 169). This Convention sets far-reaching aims for the protection of about 300 million people. However, the experts also recognize that the implementation of this Convention is highly complex and may have profound consequences for the core area of constitutional order of the ratifying States. Under these circumstances it is not surprising that there is such a small number of ratifications.

A small General Survey, that is practically a "mini survey", was carried out this year, on Conventions Nos. 87 and 98. States which had not ratified these core Conventions were asked for reports. Only about half of the member States who had been requested to reply did so; this is an unacceptable breach of their constitutional obligations. The official ratification figures -- 124 for Convention No. 87 and 141 for Convention No. 98 -- at first glance do not look too bad. However, you have to be aware that approximately half of all workers and all employers in the world live in the non-ratifying countries. Understandably, in the country reports barriers to ratification play a dominant role. Here we are talking about a broad range of reasons for not ratifying. The success of the continuing campaign to promote ratifications in the future cannot be predicted. Experience leaves us sceptical. The fact that if, for example, only two States expressly refer to their national strike regulations as an obstacle to ratification, may not be the whole story. We only need to look at the very many comments made over many years by the experts on the implementation of Convention No. 87 in individual countries where limitations of the right to strike continue to play a significant role.

On the general debate in our Committee we also have the major General Survey under article 19 on Conventions Nos. 97 and 143 on migrant workers. This is a very comprehensive piece of work. Nevertheless, the basic data remain scanty. In some countries, there is no collection of statistical data, and some member States submitted reports which were lacking in detail. Finally, only a little more than half of member States participated.

Nobody denies the importance of the topic. If, however, the General Survey has made one thing clear then it is this -- that all the most significant circumstances relating to the phenomenon of migrant workers have changed since this Convention was adopted.

Let me just mention some key facts in this respect. In a globalized world economy, there are various reasons for seeking employment outside one's own home country. Immigration because of poverty is now only one reason among many. Nowadays, highly qualified workers also go abroad, are in demand and are welcome. There are new donor and recipient countries, and some of them have exchanged their roles. Now more than in the past, there are also bilateral agreements between States on migrant work issues. Travel and medical care no longer pose great problems. On the other hand, many countries do not fully accept the principle of equal treatment, particularly with regard to illegal migrant workers. In other words, the level of protection prescribed in the Convention for migrant workers is considered by many States to be excessive. This is shown by the low number of ratifications: Convention No. 97 has been ratified by 41 States; Convention No. 143 by only 16. Since 1985, no new ratification has been registered.

In the light of this analysis, the experts could not fail to reflect on the need for fundamental changes. They suggest an addition to the existing instruments, to bring them into line with current needs, or alternatively, their replacement by a completely new instrument.

We, the Employers, would make a strong plea for the second alternative. The Convention which, in the view of the experts, is largely out of date, should not be reworked but replaced by completely new instruments which would take into account today's thinking.

If briefly we turn to the core task of our Committee, that is, the examination of individual cases, I cannot and should not go into detail because details of all the cases are given in the second part of our report. The very differing contents and evaluations could not be done justice if I were to describe them in only a few words. Naturally, we would have liked to have invited more member States for discussion but this always comes up against the time constraints. Our Committee in any event has the longest working time. Evening and Saturday work by the Committee would indeed be somewhat reduced if people did not also often act according to the principle "Everything has been said, but not everybody has yet said it." Nevertheless, the Committee is obliged on occasions to work during evenings and on Saturdays.

The fact that two countries on the list of the Committee did not take part in the discussion because they were not represented at the Conference is indeed to be regretted. However, it is even less acceptable that there should be non-appearance by countries which are present at the Conference. We experienced this on a number of occasions in the discussions on so-called "automatic cases". Generally speaking, the fulfilment of the reporting obligation still leaves much to be desired. Without a systematic fulfilment of the various reporting duties, the supervisory system cannot be maintained at a serious level. The somewhat altered reporting cycles have made the work of governments easier, but so far it has scarcely improved their reporting conduct. However, without the changes I have referred to, the results would have been still worse.

In the general part of our report, we had to take up three very complex cases in special paragraphs. These were the grave violations by Myanmar against the fundamental Conventions Nos. 29 (on the prohibition of forced labour) and 87 (on freedom of association). Because we have witnessed these unacceptable conditions for several years, the special paragraphs are contained under the heading of "Continued failure to implement".

For years we have also condemned violations by Cameroon of Convention No. 87, but nevertheless, the promised changes have not been undertaken. Thus, Cameroon has also been mentioned in a special paragraph in the general part of our report.

This year, the Committee has continued the cooperative work among all its members. This is part of the Committee's role -- to build a bridge, through social dialogue, between new thinking and future-oriented action and fundamental principles and rights at work.

I am grateful for our continued successful and businesslike cooperation with the Workers' group and particularly the spokesperson, Mr. Peirens. Our Chairperson, who was new to our Committee, coped very well with her difficult task thanks to her high degree of personal dedication. She deserves our respect and recognition for this. The secretariat supplied us promptly with reports, summary records and, as always, worked in a very professional manner. I would like once again to reiterate my thanks to all staff members under the leadership of Mr. Zenger.

As always, in conclusion, I would like to thank the whole Employers' group on whose behalf I was able to speak. They all supported me, particularly my long-standing friend, Ed Potter and our young colleague, Andres Yuren. I thank you for your attention and commend the report of the Committee for your attentive study.

Original French: Mr. PEIRENS (Workers' adviser, Belgium; Vice-Chairperson of the Committee on the Application of Standards) -- As has already been pointed out by our Reporter, the Committee on the Application of Standards works according to working methods that are somewhat different from those of the other technical committees of the Conference. We essentially deal with the application of international labour Conventions in national legislation and in the practice of the authorities and enterprises.

Without any supervision of application, the elaboration of new international standards, which is vital in order to strengthen the social framework of a more and more globalized economy, would run the risk of becoming an empty shell.

The strong points of the ILO and its supervisory machinery unquestionably derive from the fact that it has open and democratic discussions between the groups of Workers, Employers and Governments on specific issues.

Bipartite and tripartite social dialogue based on freedom of association and collective bargaining at all levels should allow us everywhere in the world to elaborate and apply an effective and fair social policy that can take account of people without employment, such as the unemployed, the disabled and retirees, as well as the men and women workers in the formal and informal sectors.

Our Committee paid tribute to the Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining Convention, 1949 (No. 98), as we celebrated this instrument's 50th anniversary.

The ILO should maintain its efforts to increase the effectiveness of its supervisory system. The Workers' group, the Employers' group and the great majority of Governments for some years now have been calling for a strengthening of the supervisory system and for a better application of Conventions.

We are convinced that our work has real consequences for millions of workers throughout the world and will, provided we maintain a consensus between the Employers' and Workers' groups and as big a majority as possible among Governments on a number of important questions.

We have noted that the Employers' group confirmed its agreement with the great majority of the positions adopted by the Committee of Experts regarding the interpretation and application of the Conventions, including such sensitive Conventions as the Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise Convention, 1948 (No. 87), and the Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining Convention, 1949 (No. 98).

Naturally, diverging points of view still exist between the two groups, such as on the right to strike.

For a number of years now the Workers' group has steadfastly supported the position adopted by the Committee of Experts and the tripartite Committee on Freedom of Association on procedures governing the right to strike. We have put forward our views and have based them solidly and in a well-documented manner. I particularly refer to the discussion concerning the General Survey on freedom of association and collective bargaining which is included in the 1994 report of our Committee. We therefore do not agree with the point of view of the Employers' group, which believes the Committee of Experts has adopted too broad an interpretation concerning the methods used to exercise the right to strike.

We hope that our Committee will continue to present useful conclusions during the discussion of individual cases, including conclusions on the right to strike and collective bargaining in both industrialized countries and developing countries.

The Employer and Worker members should, if necessary, also carry out discussions in the Governing Body of the International Labour Office in order to clarify the situation and lighten the work of the Committee on the Application of Standards.

You will find the Workers' points of view concerning the relationship between the Committee of Experts and the Committee on the Application of Standards in paragraph 24 of our report.

The Committee on the Application of Standards provides the analysis, the position and the testimony of people who are close to the realities in the field, and the Committee of Experts for its part supplements that contribution with a legal, technical and impartial analysis. The two Committees are therefore mutually complementary.

The methods of work of the Committee on the Application of Standards as regards the discussion of individual cases have not changed.

We share the opinion of the Employers' group that the ILO should adopt an integrated approach in order to produce effective and appropriate solutions within the context of globalization. In this respect, the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work and its Follow-up, adopted last year, is an extremely important development.

I should like to refer you to paragraphs 54 and 55 of our report.

For us, it is important that the Declaration should become a reference point for technical cooperation, and give direction for the various ILO programmes, as well as for the international financial institutions such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and also the World Trade Organization.

The Declaration should assist in the promotion of ratification of the core Conventions by all member States. The ILO also has to promote the ratification of other Conventions that are more technical but nevertheless are important for workers. We are thinking particularly of Conventions on conditions of work, minimum wages, health and safety at work, social security and employment.

We have emphasized three concerns with respect to the Declaration and international labour standards. Firstly, the Declaration should not try to replace the existing supervisory procedures or prevent them from operating. Secondly, consistency must be maintained in the application of the fundamental principles and rights. And thirdly, the campaign to promote the ratification of the seven core Conventions has got to be pursued.

We feel the position adopted by the Employers' spokesperson of our Committee in paragraph 52 of the report is somewhat ambiguous, in so far as he calls into question the complementary nature of the Declaration and its follow-up machinery on the one hand and the core Conventions and the existing supervisory mechanisms on the other. The Worker and Employer members should urgently clarify this issue in the Governing Body in order to ensure that the discussion on the overall report concerning freedom of association and collective bargaining does not interfere with the discussion in the Committee on the Application of Standards.

When discussing certain individual cases during this and previous sessions of the Conference, we noted that the interventions and advice of the international financial institutions such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund had a negative impact with respect to the application of Conventions in many countries. We are referring particularly to Bangladesh, Pakistan, Kenya, Chad and countries of West Africa and Latin America.

We believe this runs counter to the integrated approach supported by the Employers, Workers and many Governments.

Fortunately, we have since learned that the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund are now elaborating a code of principles and good practices for social policy in order to bring their own programmes and activities in line with the commitments accepted at the Copenhagen Social Summit. We hope that this code will finally be adopted and applied in practice.

The upcoming Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization in Seattle too should take account of the role of international labour standards in trade and international investment.

During the discussion on the special reports on the Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise Convention, 1948 (No. 87), and the Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining Convention, 1949 (No. 98), it was announced that a number of countries were intending to ratify these Conventions. I refer to paragraphs 115 and those which follow in our report. The ILO, through the multidisciplinary teams and through its technical assistance, should very closely monitor how these intentions are put into practice. We agree with the position of the Employers' group that is reflected in paragraph 114, that these are not unrealistic or faulty instruments.

The Office and the member States should work for universal ratification, including ratification by major countries such as the United States, China and India.

We had a good general discussion on the application of a number of specific Conventions, and firstly on the Employment Policy Convention, 1964 (No. 122). There was a consensus between the Employers' and Workers' groups that full employment requires proper coordination between macroeconomic policy, international monetary policy and social policy. You cannot confine yourself to a policy directed at the labour market. The financial crisis requires a structural response which also aims at strengthening democratic institutions, particularly via the development of social dialogue, better application of labour standards and the setting up of a network of social protection and assistance for workers who are laid off or threatened with redundancy.

Governments should also respond to the general observation by the Committee of Experts on forced labour and work in prison, which is set out on page 106 of its report.

Since last year we have held an in-depth discussion on work in prisons, and particularly in private prisons or for private enterprises. In our view, too many governments confine themselves to budgetary considerations when defending the privatization of prisons or defending productive labour in workshops managed by private enterprises.

The governments seem to have lost sight of the consequences for employment in SMEs and other enterprises which suffer from unfair competition because of the lower wages paid to prisoners. Governments should take account of the Job Creation in Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises Recommendation, 1998 (No. 189).

In the view of the Committee of Experts, work by sentenced prisoners in private prisons and workshops would only be compatible with the Convention if the prisoners concerned freely consented to do the work and there were guarantees regarding the payment of a normal wage. Furthermore, the Convention does not allow the total delegation of supervision or monitoring to a private enterprise.

We have also been discussing the Seafarers' Identity Documents Convention, 1958 (No. 108). These identity documents aim to guarantee seafarers permission to leave the ship temporarily during their stay in port. Some countries are hardening their regulations on immigration without taking account of the specific situation of seafarers. In fact, we discussed the application of Convention No. 108 in the case of the Russian Federation.

The application of Conventions in export processing enterprises or zones has become a priority for the Committee of Experts, the ILO, and for our Committee.

We also discussed this when dealing with the individual cases of Bangladesh, for the Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise Convention, 1948 (No. 87); Costa Rica, for the Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining Convention, 1949 (No. 98); and Sri Lanka, for the Labour Inspection Convention, 1947 [and Protocol, 1955] (No. 81).

We insist that governments and multinational enterprises guarantee in practice the application of international and national standards. The ILO has formulated recommendations and conclusions on these priorities and conditions of work, in particular on those of women in the export processing zones. The codes of conduct and social labels introduced by multinational enterprises and international distributors, drafted in conformity with international labour standards and applied effectively, might also contribute to a better application in the export processing zones.

Our Committee has noted that in the general discussion, as well as in the discussion of individual cases, the technical assistance of the ILO does effectively contribute to the restrengthening of the application of these standards.

Technical assistance, particularly through multidisciplinary teams, should also contribute to strengthening the workers' organizations, particularly in situations where these organizations are still weak.

The ILO should, in point of fact, reinforce tripartism on a priority basis and involve the organizations -- workers and employers -- in the implementation of technical programmes such as IPEC and others, rather than having immediate recourse to advisers.

Technical assistance should also aid governments better to fulfil their constitutional obligations concerning the submission of reports to the Committee of Experts, in particular those in countries facing problems of a technical and administrative nature. The Committee of Experts should soon evaluate the applicable provisions concerning the submission of such reports.

The discussion of the study concerning the Migration for Employment Convention (Revised), 1949 (No. 97), the Migrant Workers (Supplementary Provisions) Convention, 1975 (No. 143), the Migration for Employment Recommendation (Revised), 1949 (No. 86), and the Labour Relations (Public Service) Recommendation, 1978 (No. 151), has demonstrated that there is a consensus among the Workers' and Employers' groups on the importance of this topic and that it should be placed on the agenda of the next session of the International Labour Conference for general discussion.

This general discussion should, in particular, include important topics such as the feminization of migration, the exploitation of migrant workers, the denial of fundamental rights with regard to work carried out by clandestine workers, etc.

For us, the general discussion should also enable us to set guidelines for complementary standard-setting activities, in order to protect migrant workers against exploitation. To that end, the general discussion should review all possible options for a standard-setting activity in the near future.

Several countries have announced that they envisage the ratification of Conventions Nos. 97 and 143. The ILO should actively follow up these prospective ratifications. The legal issues, unless they are resolved by the Committee of Experts, could be tackled by means of an additional protocol, but at the same time the ILO should begin complementary standard-setting activity.

Our Committeee had an in-depth discussion on individual cases. We discussed 23 cases for 21 countries. The list contained 25 cases for 23 countries, but Afghanistan and Djibouti did not appear before our Committee as they were absent from the Conference itself.

The Workers' group would have preferred to have covered a larger number of cases but, due to lack of time, our Committee was not able to deal with some situations. In paragraphs 6 to 11, you will find the explanations concerning the choice of the individual cases and the considerable efforts deployed to reconcile time constraints on the one hand, in view of the shortening of the Conference period, and the absolute necessity to discuss a sufficient number of cases on the other. The Workers' group will give thought to the modalities necessary to accelerate the work of our Committee at the beginning of the second week, that is to say the beginning of the discussion of individual cases, because we must avoid our losing an entire day because of late registration by the governments concerned in the list of individual cases.

I would draw your attention to paragraphs 8 to 10 which contain the enumeration of cases that our Committee was unable to discuss for various reasons, but to which the Workers wish to return in the future if there is no real progress in the countries concerned.

First and foremost is the case of Japan, under the Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29), concerning the forced labour of women who were held prisoner during the Second World War in military garrisons which were called "comfort stations". The Committee of Experts formulated detailed observations and insisted that the Government rapidly take concrete measures.

The second country concerned was Turkey, under Convention No. 98. I have asked the Committee of Experts to review this case once again in its report of the coming year in order for our Committee to see whether any real progress has been made.

The third case concerned Colombia, under Convention No. 87. Our Committee did not take up this case, in view of the decision of the Governing Body in March of this year in the context of a complaint under article 26 of the Constitution.

The Governing Body is called upon to decide next November whether commissions of inquiries will be established or not. The Governing Body will certainly decide that such commissions should be set up if there is no progress in the meantime.

The Employers' group of our Committee agrees with us to place Colombia on the list of the forthcoming session if a commission of inquiry is not established.

The decision of our Committee not to have Colombia on the list of individual cases should not serve as an argument in the Governing Body to prevent the establishment of a commission of inquiry.

Conclusions concerning Myanmar under Conventions Nos. 29 and 87 are contained in paragraphs 194 and 195 which consist of a special paragraph for a continuous failure of application. Forced labour is used on a very broad scale, and the Government has not given evidence of wishing to cooperate with the ILO and has not implemented the recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry.

In this context, the Workers' group is pleased that the resolution concerning Myanmar was adopted this morning. The conclusion concerning Myanmar was not superfluous; it was absolutely necessary after all these years of no dialogue and no progress.

The conclusion concerning Cameroon, under Convention No. 87, is contained in paragraph 193, a special paragraph being devoted to it since there was no real progress and no report has been submitted by the Government.

We have had in-depth discussions, and reached good conclusions, on several cases concerning both core Conventions and Conventions that are rather technical in nature. This can be seen in the application of the Labour Inspectorates (Non-Metropolitan Territories) Convention, 1947 (No. 85), in Ecuador and Costa Rica; No. 87 in Ethiopia, Guatemala, Swaziland and Canada; the Protection of Wages Convention, 1949 (No. 95), and the dramatic situation in the Russian Federation; the Night Work (Women) Convention (Revised), 1948 [and Protocol, 1990] (No. 89), for Peru and Pakistan. There is also the Social Security (Minimum Standards) Convention, 1952 (No. 102), for Mexico, which is a case important not only for Mexico but also for several countries in view of the reforms that have been undertaken or are ongoing in several countries concerning the social security system, and also Convention No. 81 for Sri Lanka.

The Government of Iran has finally accepted a mission of the ILO under the Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Convention, 1958 (No. 111), which should enable us to gather, verify and compare data, which will form the basis for the report of the Committee of Experts. The Committee will therefore be in a position to follow the case on the basis of more objective data. For other cases, I refer you to our report.

In conclusion, on behalf of the Workers' group, I wish to express thanks to our President, Ms. Dimapilis-Baldoz, who has convinced us of her enormous capacities for adaptation and learning as she had had no prior experience in our Committee.

We also wish to thank our Reporter, Mr. van de Ree, and we want to thank the Chairperson of the Committee of Experts, Sir William Douglas, who attended the general discussion and the General Survey as an observer.

We want to thank the representative of the Director-General, Mr. Zenger, and Mr. Swepston, Mr. Gernignon, Ms. Cloutier and the whole team of the International Labour Standards Department and, of course, the interpreters.

I want to include in this expression of thanks all members of our Committee, Mr. Wisskirchen, spokesperson for the Employers, for his spirit of cooperation and dialogue and, in particular, the members of the Workers' group and the Officers in our group, that is Mr. Ahmed of Pakistan, Mr. Sibanda of Zimbabwe, Mr. Crivelli of Brazil, as well as Mr. Fishman of the United States and Mr. Etty of the Netherlands.

Our report was unanimously adopted by our Committee, and I request the Conference to do the same.

Ms. DIMAPILIS-BALDOZ (Government delegate, Philippines; Chairperson of the Committee on the Application of Standards) -- It is indeed a distinct honour for my country, the Philippines, and a privilege for me to be associated with the Committee on the Application of Standards as its Chairperson, for the 87th Session of the International Labour Conference.

As I noted in my closing statement before the Committee, this Conference comes at a time, at the end of the millennium, when the world of work is being altered drastically by the changes brought about by globalization and rapid technological advances and innovations.

These changes are not expected to diminish, but rather bring more focused attention to the critical and sensitive role of the ILO and international labour standards in ensuring universal lasting peace based on social justice.

These changes should be able to add more dynamism and more collaborative efforts among the social partners to enhance the values of tripartism, transparency and social dialogue in improving terms and conditions of employment and quality of work and life of all people.

In the words of the Director-General of the ILO, "decent work" is for men and women everywhere, and is both a means and an end for the ILO during this period of global transition.

It is in these exciting times, in challenging environments, that the Committee on the Application of Standards finds its perfect role as the equilibrium that balances economic with social progress in the life of any nation and its peoples.

I expressly hope that we will continue to see the work of the Committee advance and move in pace with the goals and priorities of the ILO in the twenty-first century in giving a human face to the global economy.

The successful conclusion of the work of our Committee would not have been possible without the highly competent and credible leadership of the two Vice-Chairpersons, Mr. Peirens for the Workers, and Mr. Wisskirchen for the Employers. Also, for the able and reliable support of the secretariat, under the guidance and direction of Mr. Zenger, as well as the Committee Reporter, Mr. van de Ree, the interpreters, and the social partners, the Worker, Employer and Government members of the Committee.

What we have witnessed in the Committee during its deliberations is the unequivocal articulation and the strong advocacy and commitment of the social partners to the cause of universal and lasting peace, based on social justice.

They have expressed their ideas, in the spirit of long-cherished traditions of mutual respect, through tripartism and transparency, which have earned, for the Committee on the Application of Standards, the distinction and honours as one of the ILO's supervisory bodies of international renown and reputation.

Being a newcomer and a beginner, having attended the Committee for the first time, chairing its deliberations has been a life-transforming experience for me, which I will never forget for the rest of my life. I thank God for making the impossible possible.

The PRESIDENT -- Since there are no speakers on the list for the general discussion, we shall now move on to the adoption of the report.

If there are no objections, I take it that the report is adopted.

(The report -- paragraphs 1 to 206 -- is adopted.)

I wish, then, to thank the Officers and the members of the Committee, as well as the staff of the secretariat, for the excellent work that they have done.

Updated by HK. Approved by RH. Last update: 26 January 2000.