Report of the Committee on the Application of Standards
Submission, discussion and adoption
Original Spanish: The PRESIDENT — Let us move on now to the review and adoption of the report of the Committee on the Application of Standards, which is in Provisional Record No. 23. Since the Committee's Reporter, Ms. Misner, Government delegate, United States, had to return to her country this morning, I call on Mr. Van Der Heijden, Government delegate, Netherlands, Chairperson of the Committee, to submit the report.
Mr. VAN DER HEIJDEN (Government delegate, the Netherlands; Chairperson of the Committee on the Application of Standards) — The person standing here on the rostrum before you is obviously not a woman. If you look into the report of the Committee on Application of Standards you will notice that our Reporter is a woman. Unfortunately, our excellent and outstanding Reporter, Mrs. Julie Misner, Government representative of the United States, had to return to her country this morning. That is the reason why the Chairperson of the Committee will read her report.
It was an honour and a particular pleasure to have served as the Reporter of the Conference Committee on the Application of Standards. Having participated as a Government representative in the Committee for over 15 years, I found that I had quite a lot to learn in witnessing the Committee's deliberations from a different perspective. But, as always, I found the level of constructive, open and highly professional debate in the Committee to be unparalleled.
I will not tax you with a detailed summary of our discussions. I will only briefly suggest a number of subjects that you may wish to look for in the report. The Conference Committee on the Application of Standards is an essential actor in the regular supervisory system set up by the Organization to ensure that standards adopted by the Conference are fully applied. But it is also an important source of information and experience for the debates on the setting and revision of standards in which the Governing Body is engaged at present. I recommend that all delegates read the report with care.
The Committee was established in accordance with article 7 of the Standing Orders of the Conference, with the purpose of examining agenda item 3, information and reports on the application of Conventions and Recommendations.
You will note that our report is in two parts: Part One is the General Report of the Committee, Part Two is a record of the discussion of all the cases examined by the Committee. The basis for our work was the report of the ILO Committee of Experts — an institution whose independence, objectivity and impartiality we once again applauded. In keeping with the recent tradition, the Committee was honoured with the presence of Sir William Douglas, Chair of the Committee of Experts, during the first days of our work. His participation was a signal of the mutual respect, cooperation and responsibility that exists between two committees with complementary roles.
Our Committee began its deliberations with a discussion of general questions relating to international labour standards — that is, issues of concern to governments, employers and workers both in the ILO's supervisory procedures and in its overall policy relating to standards, including the setting and revision of standards. The Committee also made observation of a general nature, on the application of particular Conventions relating to forced labour, child labour and employment policy. It was noted that an emerging issue with respect to the Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29), that of prison labour in the context of privately managed prisons, will be examined in detail by the Committee of Experts next year.
In the second phase of our general discussion, the Committee considered the Committee of Experts' General Survey on the application of the Tripartite Consultation (International Labour Standards) Convention, 1976 (No. 144), in the context of international labour standards, along with its companion Recommendation No. 152. As usual, the survey was a compilation of information received from governments that have ratified the Convention and those that have not yet done so, as well as a number of comments from employers' and workers' organizations. The survey provided an historical background to the fundamental principle of tripartism, explained what Convention No. 144 requires and the various methods by which it may be implemented, and examined difficulties experienced by some governments in ratifying the Convention. We welcomed the ever-increasing number of ratifications of Convention No. 144, and we trust that the General Survey, as well as our discussion, will contribute to promoting the further ratification and application of this priority Convention.
The bulk of the Committee's work and, indeed, our essential task, was concerned with the examination of individual cases. The Committee is an important forum for dialogue and exchange of views, the purpose of which is to encourage governments to meet their obligations under the ILO Constitution, and to apply fully in both law and practice the Conventions which they have freely ratified.
We began with a half-day discussion of what we call “automatic cases”. These are cases where governments have had difficulties in complying with fundamental reporting obligations under the ILO Constitution, including failure to submit to the competent authorities within the required time frame newly adopted Conventions and Recommendations, failure to supply reports and information on application of ratified Conventions, and failure to supply reports on unratified Conventions and Recommendations. We discuss these cases automatically because without the necessary information and reports, the ILO supervisory mechanism simply cannot function.
In view of the short time available to the Committee, it decided this year to invite only 24 governments to engage in a dialogue concerning their law and practice relating to a particular ratified Convention, with a view to finding a solution to the problems and difficulties identified by the Committee of Experts. Twenty-two of those governments did, in fact, appear before the Committee; the two that did not were not represented at the Conference this year. It was striking how many of these discussions resulted in requests, either initiated by the government, or accepted by the government at the urging of the Committee, for ILO technical assistance. Poverty and other social and economic factors, and sometimes even political factors, can create or exacerbate difficulties, but these cannot excuse the non-application of ratified Conventions; particularly those that are considered fundamental. It is important to note that most governments that engaged in dialogue with the Committee promised to pursue with increased vigour their efforts to bring their law and practice into conformity with ratified Conventions.
As I noted, the details of their dialogue may be found in Part Two of our report. However, I must bring to your attention three cases which the Committee decided should be highlighted in special paragraphs of our general report.
As regards the application by Sudan of the Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29), paragraph 167 of the report reflects the Committee's deep concern at continuing reports of abduction and slavery in that country. The Committee noted the positive measures which have been taken by the Government in this regard, and urged it to continue to pursue these efforts vigorously. It further urged the Government to accept an ILO direct contact mission.
Paragraph 168 relates to the application by Cameroon of the Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise Convention, 1948 (No. 87). The Committee deeply regretted that no progress had been achieved. However, it welcomed the Government's invitation for an ILO mission.
Paragraph 169 of the report indicates the Committee's continuing concern regarding Venezuela's application in law and practice of Convention No. 87.
These paragraphs demonstrate the Committee's serious concern, as well as its expectation for continued and open dialogue between the Committee and the countries concerned.
My formative experience in the Conference Committee on the Application of Standards took place during the mid-eighties, at the height of a vicious and long-standing attack on the ILO's supervisory system. Today the challenges, while different, are no less daunting. So I salute those, both delegates and members of the Office, who collectively ensure that the Committee remains the conscience of the International Labour Organization.
I also salute Ed Hickey, my friend and my mentor, whose tireless and feisty dedication as the United States Worker representative in the Committee was an inspiration to all of us, and whose passing greatly saddens us.
I will leave to others the task of thanking the many people who made our work productive, interesting and enjoyable. I leave it to the Conference delegates to adopt and to make full use of this report of the Committee on the Application of Standards.
(Mr. Agyei takes the Chair.)
Original German: Mr. WISSKIRCHEN (Employers' adviser and substitute delegate, Germany; Employer Vice-Chairperson of the Committee on the Application of Standards) — The Conference Committee on the Application of Standards presents its report to you in the 74th year of its existence. The Chairperson of the Committee, Mr. van der Heijden, has already talked about important issues raised in this report. We hope that the report is well received, and we are particularly glad that you are interested in its contents. As is often said, the report does not have to be adopted by the Conference. It has already been adopted by the Committee without any votes against, and according to the Standing Orders of the Conference, it is to be put before you only in the plenary.
I would like to draw your attention to a number of points contained in this rather voluminous report. In the general discussion in our Committee, we always deal with important questions concerning the standard-setting system of the ILO. That is, we look at standard setting, ratification, interpretation and practical application, as well as different elements of the supervisory machinery. These are subjects which are also dealt with in the report of the Committee of Experts, which is therefore always an important basis for discussion in our Conference Committee.
This year, the report of the Committee of Experts contains many innovations, both in its physical appearance and in terms of its structure. These are positive changes and they make the report more user friendly.
Now I would like to turn to the most important questions contained in the report. Although paragraph 13 of the report of the Committee of Experts deals with basic “policy on standards”, there are only four sentences in that paragraph concerned, despite the fact that this whole complex of questions was of central significance in the discussion in the Committee. We believe that the whole future effectiveness of this Organization depends on finding appropriate solutions to these questions. To anticipate the outcome of our discussions, we believe it is a fact that nobody believes that we should continue with the old standard-setting policy that we have pursued over the last few decades. The Employers, however, do not want to leave matters with this rather vague indication. We have, in fact, put forward a whole range of specific proposals.
First of all, we think there are many undeniable arguments in favour of fundamental change of policy. I will note a few of them. A number of Conventions (11) have not entered into force at all. A particularly large number of Conventions have received very few ratifications. This is especially true in respect of Conventions adopted during the last 20 to 25 years. The often-quoted argument concerning the rise in the overall number of ratifications does not tell us a great deal, because this rise in overall ratifications is the result of the growing number of member States in the ILO and of the dismantling of large States into several smaller independent States, as well as massive ratification campaigns concerning core Conventions, which no one would call into question.
Another argument in favour of urgent reform of standard-setting policy is the growing number of denunciations, although as you know this is only possible at long intervals. Even more often, we see discreet or silent denunciation by member States. What this means is that member States no longer even bother about compliance with ILO standards. We see this in the critical comments on hundreds of individual cases in the annual reports of the Committee of Experts. Occasionally, the blatant refusal of countries to fulfil their reporting obligations conceals dissatisfaction with the contents of standards. Finally, I must draw your attention to the most recent interim report, adopted by the Governing Body, from the Working Party on Policy regarding the Revision of Standards. Until now, of the total number of 182 Conventions considered there, 76 have been classified as obsolete and only 68 are still considered relevant. This means that even at this stage, more Conventions are seen as outdated than the number which could still be sensibly applied. If we were to review all Conventions, we would possibly find that more than 50 per cent of all Conventions would be in this category of “outdated” or “in need of revision”. Under these circumstances, it is no exaggeration to say that the body of ILO standards is no longer keeping pace with our times.
However, as we know, there is still no possibility of doing away even with completely obsolete standards. A very complicated procedure provided for under the Constitution has not yet entered into force. This means that the standards of this Organization are still made for eternity, which was of course understandable at the beginning of the previous century when the ILO was founded. But 80 years later, in the twenty-first century, this is an almost unique anachronism. We therefore think that it is even more important to try to establish timely and appropriate measures and standards for the future. Of course, in order to do this, very careful analyses have to be carried out, now and in the foreseeable future. Apart from careful sounding out of the intentions of Member States, we also have to take into account major trends in the world. One of these of course is globalization. In this connection, in the discussions in the Committee, emphasis was often placed on the risks of globalization, and less emphasis was placed on opportunities and positive developments connected with globalization. Regardless of this rather unsophisticated across-the-board assessment of globalization, actual developments have shown that there is also an inherent countervailing trend to be taken into account.
We have seen the clear signs of increasing individualization linked with scepticism or even a retreat from a form of collectivization which is too powerful and too all-embracing.
Before enacting new worldwide ILO standards, it is now therefore more important than ever to be sure what new standards should be elaborated, if any. We are firmly convinced that we can only deal with fundamentally important questions in new instruments. Detailed problems which are subject to fast change no longer belong in the body of standards. We must deal with fundamental needs which are of importance both for enterprises and for workers. Instruments must, above all, have a positive impact on both sides, in particular in terms of jobs and employment.
This expectation can only be fulfilled if there is a wide-ranging consensus on contents and on the approach to be taken. If such common goals are to be found, then we must agree on the specific steps to be taken and then we must consider the many other possible solutions which exist apart from Conventions.
Generally speaking, we need to have better, more up-to-date instruments. It is therefore also important to take into consideration what we have been advocating for years, that is that there has to be very careful assessment of the legal consequences of an instrument, and it is also essential to have a very accurate assessment of its effects in practice. Therefore, it might be possible to consider the possibility of experimental standards of time-limited validity which would then have to be subject to stringent testing in practice.
We think it goes without saying, when we are considering revision and modernization of the ILO, to examine the procedures concerning representations and complaints which come before the Committee on Freedom of Association. We have seen a considerable increase in the use made of all these procedures. By way of comparison, in the first 40 years of the ILO's existence of the Constitution no use was made of the procedure for complaints under article 26. Until the middle of the nineties we had fewer than 20 such procedures pending. In procedures which have hitherto not allowed counter representations by employers' organizations, employers' associations of a country which has come in for criticism should be given an opportunity to state their views so that a complete picture of the situation in the country is obtained.
Our Committee for some years has been discussing employment policy in the context of Convention No. 122, and I would like to draw your attention to the following point: it is not possible for an isolated labour market policy to be successful in the long run. Every social policy should take into account the principle of subsidiarity, and above all, it should provide help for “self-help”. There is simply no point in trying to extend social security systems to all strata of the population, as the experts have recommended. Applying social benefits too liberally and indiscriminately or too generously, will make inordinate demands on even the best social safety net. Social security must be targeted as closely as possible.
The experts, quite rightly, call for the promotion of independent self-employment. Self-employment is a key to job creation. For this to happen, a number of framework criteria, including a reliable legal system, a reliable tax system and improved education and training. It is also necessary to create an overall climate which is conducive to entrepreneurial activities.
In the second part of our general discussion we dealt with the General Survey on the Tripartite Consultation Convention, 1976 (No. 144) and the associated Recommendation. This Convention is one of the most successful of the ILO's instruments. This is not just manifested in the number of ratifications (more than 90 at the present time); member States also have very little to say about difficulties in application. Where clarification is required the study has tried to meet these needs. The success of the Convention is due not least in part to the fact that tripartism is one of the basic principles of this Organization, and member States are thus very familiar with the principle. Even more important than this is the fact that the Convention is very flexibly worded; it does not lay down many details but it leaves details up to the individual custom and practice of the country.
The Convention requires effective consultations, and a distinction has to be drawn between the mere passing on of information and advanced forms of consultations. What is decisive is that consultations must be carried out with employers' and workers' organizations which enjoy freedom of association. The circle of essential participants in such consultations is thus clearly delineated. It is a question of consultations amongst the three parties which play a leading role, a decisive role, in the ILO.
Of course, it is up to governments to consult and listen to other groups. For example, they may wish to consult with the growing number of non-governmental organizations. The NGOs, however, do not enjoy freedom of association and therefore do not carry the responsibility which is inherent in this. An NGO may represent very different lobbies and different interests, and sometimes represents the interests of the government which supports it or even, in some cases, has founded it and funds it.
This last aspect goes far beyond Convention No. 144. If the ILO has very close contacts with a large number of NGOs and fosters these contacts then it should still remain very cautious about the fact that there is an important difference between these NGOs and the constitutional partners in tripartism.
This is particularly true in the case of complaints and the information which is sent in by NGOs concerning alleged violations of Conventions by member States. Such indications should not be processed as a matter of routine without an opportunity being given to the employers' and workers' organizations of the country in questions to state their position. In bold terms it is a question of the reinforcement of tripartism or the weakening thereof. The ILO should adopt a very clear approach to this and should not operate according to obscure criteria and try only to pick out the cherries from the big NGO cake.
The much praised supervisory system of the ILO begins with the fulfilment of reporting obligations by member States. If they do not report correctly then no verification of the application of standards can take place. Unfortunately, the number of violations of these reporting obligations is growing. Very often we are dealing with the same countries. Perhaps we should consider very carefully whether long-term persistent violations of reporting obligations should not be dealt with on the same footing as the non-payment of contributions to the Organization. That would be a justifiable establishment of parity between material and non-material contributions to this Organization.
The most important task of our Committee, taking up most of our time, as the Chairman has already said, is the examination of individual cases. Unfortunately, there is no absolutely convincing and just yardstick for selecting about two dozen cases from the hundreds of comments and observations made by the Experts.
Therefore, we have to regret the fact that we must confine ourselves to a list of about 24 individual cases each year. It really is not acceptable that some of the countries which are invited to discuss their case with us do not appear to carry out such discussions even when they are represented at the Conference.
Usually, individual cases are violations of freedom of association. We have also discussed different forms of forced labour, discrimination, the late payment of wages, labour inspection, the treatment of indigenous people, and employment policy.
The details of these discussions are very accurately recorded in the second part of the report of the Committee which you have before you. We would recommend that you pay particular attention to this part of our report. We had to place three countries, as the Chairman has already said, in a special paragraph in the general part of our report. We were dealing here with serious deviations from ratified Conventions. These are the cases of Comoros and Venezuela concerning Convention No. 87, and Sudan in connection with Convention No. 29.
In addition to this, we had interesting discussions about the question of the appropriate promotion of voluntary collective bargaining, as well as the application of Convention No. 29 on the prohibition of forced labour, in connection with the privatization of work performed by prisoners. On this particular point, I would like to draw your attention to three aspects. First of all, prisoners can be obliged to work under the supervision and control of the authorities. Next, there is a prohibition in the Convention from hiring out prisoners to private companies, but this prohibition cannot apply to private prisons as they are today, because when the Convention was drawn up in 1930 such prisons did not yet exist. And thirdly, from all points of view, it does seem sensible, or even necessary, to employ prisoners in useful work. Such employment should only, however, be carried out in very close cooperation with private enterprises.
To conclude, we recommend the whole report of the Committee to you. This year, we continued our very good cooperation with the Workers' group and their new spokesperson, Mr. Luc Cortebeeck. We would like to thank Mr. Zenger and his whole team for the very good work they have done, and we had an excellent Chairperson, Mr. Van der Heijden, who led the Committee very skilfully through the considerable volume of work before us. I would also like to thank the Reporter, although she is not with us today. Thank you too to the Employers' group for their trust in me, the trust they have been placing in me for the last 18 years. And lastly, I wish to thank Mr. Potter, Ms. Roiland, Mr. Lamprecht and Mr. Yuren for their very special support.
Original French: Mr. CORTEBEECK (Workers' delegate, Belgium; Worker Vice-Chairperson of the Committee on the Application of Standards) —I have the honour of presenting to you the report of our Committee as spokesperson of the Workers' group. The report shows that we have had good discussions, not only on the development of international standards in general but also on the effective application of these standards in law and in practice.
As you know, and as the Committee of Experts says in its report, the Committee on the Application of Standards and has slightly different working methods from those of the so-called technical committees of the Conference. Our Committee's essential role is to supervise the effective application, in both law and practice, of international labour standards by countries that have ratified them. We have noted, once again, that this supervision is not only necessary but a prerequisite to guarantee a social framework for the world economy and the credibility of the ILO. Social globalization, of which the ILO is the precursor, is for us the essential corollary of economic globalization. Our Committee is the guarantor that this social globalization is implemented through appropriate instruments, that is tripartism and the universality of the ILO and its instruments.
The strengths of the ILO and its supervisory machinery lie in its open, frank and democratic discussion between the Workers' and Employers' groups and the Governments. Dialogue between the social partners and with governments, based on the principles of freedom of association, the right to collective bargaining and tripartism, should provide a social dimension to the economy at all levels, both at national, regional and global levels. The fruits of this dialogue should benefit all people everywhere, whatever their status, whether they are working men and women, unemployed, disabled, retired, and irrespective of the sector they are active in, including the formal sector.
If we were able to have such a dialogue, this was largely due to the General Report and the observations provided to our
Committee by the Committee of Experts, which once again has done excellent work and has produced a report with a
slightly updated form, though without losing its depth and its integrity.
We stress the importance of the complementarity between the tripartite Committee on the Application of Standards, on the one hand, and the Committee of Experts on the other. The legal and objective analysis provided by of the independent experts is the basis of the ILO's supervisory system. The comments of the experts serve as a basis for the discussions of our Committee which in turn focuses on analyses, positions and testimonies of people who are closer to the grass roots.
We have expressed our appreciation to the Committee of Experts which took the initiative of inviting the Workers' and Employers' spokespersons to its November meeting, and to its President, Sir William Douglas, who attended our tripartite Committee. We believe these opportunities to be very important because they are an occasion to get together and to exchange our reciprocal preoccupations and concerns.
The first part of our work, this year as every year, concerned the discussion of the Committee of Experts' General Report.
As part of this discussion, we talked about the future of the ILO's standard-setting system. The statements made by the
Employers to the effect that the complexity of the world does not allow new universal standards and that we should confine
ourselves to framework Conventions disappointed us, and we firmly opposed that view. This was for two fundamental
reasons. For one thing, the ILO, particularly in June 1998, found a universal consensus once again on social development,
with the adoption of the Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work. This universal consensus shows how, in
all countries in the world, social regulation is a necessity. For another thing, it shows that this social consensus is a tripartite
one, which means that on both sides we share not only the benefits but also the constraints.
We might dream about a world without social regulation, of a global economy guided by the invisible hand of Adam Smith, but we have to make a choice — either we assert in good faith the benefits of globalization, or we advocate the elimination of universal standards. We cannot do both. Workers' organizations are not against globalization, but they are against unbridled globalization based only on economic criteria. Economic globalization must go hand in hand with social globalization. For us, social globalization is a treasured heritage that has been developed on the basis of the ILO's principles, Conventions, Recommendations and supervisory system, of which we in the Committee on the Application of Standards are the custodians.
Another subject that we discussed during the general part of the discussion concerned the importance of ILO standards for other international organizations such as the WTO, the IMF and the World Bank. Indeed, the Workers' group considers that fundamental labour standards should, as a whole, be part and parcel of the working and the programmes of these organizations.
In the framework of the general discussion, we also had an interesting debate on the application of a number of specific Conventions. For a number of years now, in the discussion on individual cases, the Committee has dealt with the application of the Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29), in connection with prisons, and we noted with interest that the Committee of Experts will examine the question of prisoners hired out or made available to individuals, companies or private entities. We will find the results of this examination in its next report which will enable us to come back to the subject.
We also stressed the importance of the Conventions concerning child labour. We welcomed the fact that 28 member States have already ratified the Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999 (No. 182), which is an important step forward towards totally abolishing child labour. Important tools in this struggle are the Statistical Information and Monitoring Programme on Child Labour (SIMPOC) and the Labour Inspection Convention, 1947 (No. 81).
The last Convention on which we had a general discussion was the Employment Policy Convention, 1964 (No.122). We recalled that this Convention is a priority Convention because employment policy is one of the cornerstones of a sound political and economic policy.
The second part of our work was devoted to a discussion of the General Survey. The Committee of Experts had produced an excellent General Survey on the application of the Tripartite Consultation (International Labour Standards) Convention, 1976 (No. 144). The survey dealt with all aspects of Convention No. 144 and of Recommendation No. 152, which gives us a general overview of how the principles of tripartism are applied, both in countries who have ratified the Convention and in those who have not or have not yet ratified it.
The discussion on this General Survey was very rich in content, which will surprise no one, as tripartism is a lynchpin of our social system both at the ILO and in our countries. For us a fundamental aspect of the discussion was the intrinsic link between the fundamental Conventions, on the one hand, and the priority and technical Conventions on the other. In addition to reflecting universal values, as do the Conventions referred to in the Declaration, these so-called priority Conventions also provide us with a working method. They are the tools which enable us together to build coherent standards, and they indicate how we can apply them to best effect. These same Conventions also enable us to set up an efficient supervisory system. A case in point is the Labour Inspection Convention, 1947 (No. 81), which the experts have often said plays a fundamental role in ascertaining any specific problems which might arise in the field. The priority Conventions and the fundamental Conventions are thus inextricably linked. Ratifying a Convention without social dialogue is a contradiction in terms.
One of the essential points in our discussions of the General Survey concerned the right to freedom of association. The Tripartite Consultation (International Labour Standards) Convention, 1976 (No. 144), provides that organizations that take part in tripartite consultations must enjoy freedom of association. The discussions on the effective application at national level as part of the examination of the so-called individual cases have shown that freedom of association is certainly not afforded to all workers and that serious breaches of this right occur every day. Clearly, the Workers' group deplores such a situation and insists that this right be recognized in practice as it has been recognized in verbal statements over the years.
Representativeness is another prerequisite for participation in tripartite consultations. It is necessary to have guarantees that the representatives of workers do indeed represent workers and preferably a large number of them. The Workers' group stressed that there must be clear and precise criteria on this at the national level. Such criteria are essential not only for the application of Convention No. 144, but also to determine which organizations should participate in social dialogue at all levels and on all subjects relating to employment and work in the broadest sense.
The third part of our work is devoted to consideration of individual cases. This year, our discussions covered the nine following Conventions: the Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29), in India, the United Kingdom and Sudan; the Labour Inspection Convention, 1947 (No. 81), in Mauritania; the Freedom of Association and the Protection of the Right to Organise Convention, 1948 (No. 87), in Cameroon, Colombia, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Kuwait, Swaziland and Venezuela; the Protection o
f Wages Convention, 1949 (No. 95), in Ukraine; the Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining Convention, 1949 (No. 98), in Australia, Panama, Saint Lucia and Turkey; the Abolition of Forced Labour Convention, 1957 (No. 105), in Pakistan and the United Republic of Tanzania; the Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Convention, 1958 (No. 111), in Afghanistan, Brazil and the Islamic Republic of Iran; the Employment Policy Convention, 1964 (No. 122), in Hungary; and the Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention, 1989 (No. 169), in Mexico.
This list therefore contained 24 cases. However, we were unable to discuss the cases of Afghanistan for the Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Convention, 1958 (No. 111), or Saint Lucia for the Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining Convention, 1949 (No. 98), because no representatives of those Governments attended our Committee, which is much to be regretted.
Owing to lack of time, our Committee was unable to deal with all the cases that warranted an examination. Choosing priority cases for tripartite discussion is always a very difficult exercise, given the large number of problems of application in all regions of the world and also the time constraints on the Committee for examining individual cases.
Paragraph 7 of the report gives explanations for the criteria used for making this difficult choice. The Workers' group appreciated the imitative of discussing the so-called automatic cases on Monday of the second week. This enabled us to save time. We will think about other possibilities to further improve and accelerate the work of our Committee at the beginning of the second week, when discussion of individual cases begins. We have asked to look at the possibility of inviting the governments concerned for those cases for which there are footnotes to register as a priority and we have also asked to have the list approved earlier — in other words, on the Tuesday or Wednesday of the first week. This would facilitate the registration of cases by Government representatives who hesitate to talk about their cases early on in the week, although of course the texts are available long ahead of the Conference.
I should also like to draw your attention to paragraph 8 of the report, which lists eight cases that our Committee was unable to discuss for a number of reasons, and because a choice has to be made — the Workers' group will come back to those cases next year if no real progress has been made.
Indonesia, in regard to Convention No. 98, is the first of these. We find it particularly worrying that there are acts of anti-trade union discrimination and military intervention in labour disputes and anti-subversive legislation. We note with interest that the Government is preparing laws for the purpose of bringing legislation into line with Conventions Nos. 87 and 98 and we hope that these new regulations will really have the effect desired.
The second case we would like to come back to concerns the application of the Old-Age Insurance (Industry, etc.) Convention, 1933 (No. 35), in Chile. Chile has adopted a private old-age insurance system, whereas the amount of the debt for social security remains very high. We will undoubtedly come back to this case if the comments of the Committee of Experts show that there has been no improvement in the situation. Old-age insurance is one of the major social security safety nets to ensure a dignified life to all those who are no longer in a position to work.
The application of the Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise Convention, 1948 (No. 87), by Pakistan is another case on which the Workers' group would have liked to have had a discussion with the Government.
In Pakistan, certain categories of workers are excluded from freedom of association on the basis of their workplace or of their function, which is clearly in breach of Convention No. 87, which fully guarantees trade union rights to all workers without distinction whatsoever.
The fourth case concerns Peru in regard to the Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining Convention, 1949 (No. 98). The criteria that the Peruvian Government uses to decide whether a trade union can conclude collective agreements are much too strict. Another problem of non-observance of Convention No. 98 consists of legislation which provides that an employer may unilaterally change the content of collective agreements.
The Committee of Experts has asked the Government to submit a detailed report in the year 2000 and we shall examine it with much interest. The Workers' group also wishes to come back to the case of Costa Rica concerning anti-union discrimination and the denial of collective bargaining to public servants which clearly contradicts Convention No. 98.
As regards the application of the Equal Remuneration Convention, 1951 (No. 100), in Japan, we have learnt that new laws concerning equality have been promulgated only a few months ago. We are prepared to wait and see how the situation develops in the hope that the Committee of Experts will be able to note progress in its next Report.
The seventh case concerns Kenya and Convention No. 98. The Workers' group is closely monitoring the right to collective bargaining of public servants and the Government's refusal to register a number of trade union organizations.
My next point concerns cases which we have discussed, but which have proved to be so serious that the Committee has
decided to put them in a special paragraph. These are Sudan, for Convention No. 29, Venezuela, for Convention No. 87,
and Cameroon, also for Convention No. 87.
The breaches of Convention No. 29 by Sudan examined by the Committee of Experts concern practices of abduction and trafficking of women and children, subjection to slavery and the forced enrolment of children in rebel armed forces.
Since the Committee has had to note that, apart from a few tentative initiatives, real progress has still not been made by the
Government of Sudan in the abolition of forced labour and slavery, the conclusion of this case has therefore been put in a
special paragraph, which you will find in paragraph 167 of the report.
As regards the application of Convention No. 87 in Venezuela, the Committee has had to note that no progress has been made on issues on which the Committee of Experts has been commenting for many years. On the contrary, we have had to note that the change of government seems to have aggravated the situation through the adoption of new decrees which in fact run counter to the desired objective regarding the alignment of national law and practice with Convention No. 87. Nor can we hide our concern at the recent threats against the trade union movement, expressed openly by high-placed government officials. All this has brought us to mention Venezuela in paragraph 169 of our report.
Concerning Convention No. 87 once again, we have noted that Cameroon has refused for many years to align its legislation with the terms of the Convention. This ongoing failure to act has obliged us to put our conclusions in paragraph 168 of our report.
We also had in-depth discussions on the other cases, for which I would refer you to the report. We managed to reach a consensus for most of our conclusions, particularly with regard to the special paragraphs, whose purpose, in our view, is to underline the gravity of the case and the lack of cooperation and political will shown by the government in question. We regret, however, that we were not able to reach a consensus on the case of Colombia. It is regrettable that this extremely serious case, which concerns the fundamental rights of workers, has not been taken up in a special paragraph. Persistent murders of trade union members — we believe — deserve priority attention by the ILO. What is at stake here is the life and death of approximately 120 workers per year, one quarter of whom are trade union leaders, and this is something that has occurred systematically for over ten years now.
In conclusion, I should like to express my thanks to a number of people. First, I should like to extend my thanks to Mr. van der Heijden, the Chairperson of our Committee, for the way in which he guided our work. He led us through discussions which were not always easy, consistently respecting the right to speak of all members of the Committee who wished to make a constructive contribution to the debate.
Our thanks also go to our Reporter, Ms. Misner, Government member of the United States. We also thank the Chairperson of the Committee of Experts, Sir William Douglas, for having attended our discussion of the General Report and the General Survey. I should also like to thank Mr. Zenger, Director ad interim of the International Labour Standards Department, as well as Mr. Swepston and Mr. Gernigon. Ms. Monique Cloutier from ACTRAV, and the whole team from the International Labour Standards Department, and the interpreters also of course deserve our thanks.
The Workers' group also thanks Mr. Wisskirchen, the spokesperson of the Employers' group, who, despite a number of differences of opinion, showed his usual spirit of cooperation and dialogue, and also Mr. Potter, who presented some of the cases.
Last, but not least, I should like to thank the members of the Workers' group for their excellent cooperation and their
relevant statements, the Officers of our group, that is Mr. Ahmed, Ms. Yacob and Mr. Crivelli, and those who helped me
this year in presenting some of the cases — Tom Etty and Phil Fishman.
The thoughts of our Committee also turned to Ed Hickey, who died a few months ago. Ed Hickey was a respected member of the Workers' group in our Committee for many years. His work was greatly appreciated.
Our report was approved unanimously by the Committee, and I would ask the Conference to do likewise.
Original Spanish: The PRESIDENT — I will now open the general discussion on the report of the Committee on the Application of Standards.
Original French: Mr. TSHISUAKA KABANDA (Government delegate, Democratic Republic of the Congo) —The Government delegation of the Democratic Republic would like to thank you for giving it the floor.
At this precise time, we would also like to extend our thanks to the Committee on the Application of Standards for the
quality of the report it has produced and the noble role it has played within the framework of the supervisory and follow-up
machinery for the application of Conventions adopted by our Organization.
The purpose of our intervention is to correct paragraph 179 of the French text of the Committee's report, which is contained in Provisional Record No. 23. In that paragraph, the Democratic Republic of the Congo is considered as not having been represented at the Conference. We would like to correct this and confirm that the Government of National Salvation of the Democratic Republic of the Congo is represented by a tripartite delegation.
However, it should be noted that because of difficulties mainly arising from the war of aggression being waged against our country, the Government delegation of the Democratic Republic of the Congo did not receive authorization to leave the country in sufficient time to participate in the work of the Conference.
This explains the absence of a Government delegate from the work of the Committee on the Application of Standards.
Having said that, we would ask it to be put on record that the Government of the Democratic Republic of Congo was in fact duly represented tonight at the 88th Session of the International Labour Conference. Furthermore, our delegation would like to confirm the commitment of the Government of National Salvation of the Democratic Republic of Congo to meet its constitutional obligations in its capacity as a Member of the ILO.
Original Spanish: The PRESIDENT — If there are no further delegates who wish to speak, we will now proceed to the adoption of the report of the Committee on the Application of Standards. The Conference has to adopt this report as a whole.
If there are no objections, may I take it that the report of the Committee on the Application of Standards is adopted.
(The report is adopted.)
Original Spanish: The PRESIDENT — We must thank the Committee for its excellent work.
Updated by HK. Approved by RH. Last update: 14 June 2000.