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88th Session
Geneva, 30 May - 15 June 2000

Report of the Resolutions Committee

Committee report
Resolution adopted by the Conference

Submission, discussion and adoption

Original Spanish: The PRESIDENT — The first item on the agenda of this sitting is the examination and adoption of the report of the Resolutions Committee, which is to be found in Provisional Record No. 19. I call on Mr. Öry, Government delegate, Hungary, Chairperson and Reporter of the Resolutions Committee, to present the report.

Original French: Mr. ÖRY (Government delegate, Hungary; Chairperson and Reporter of the Resolutions Committee) — It is my pleasure to present to you and commend for adoption the resolution adopted by our Committee concerning HIV/AIDS and the world of work. The Committee had 16 draft resolutions before it, but for reasons of time this is the only one we were able to examine in our plenary meetings.

The Resolutions Committee produced an excellent document. The ILO now has before it a resolution concerning HIV/AIDS and the world of work which recognizes the important contributions that employers' and workers' organizations and governments can make in combating this universal pandemic.

The general discussion on the effects of HIV/AIDS and the world of work clearly highlighted the way this subject affects the objectives of the Organization.

The ILO has to consider this pandemic as being a threat to economic and social progress, and not only as a health problem. The propagation of the disease leads to the social exclusion of the people who contract it and has a number of other negative effects on the working population, such as discrimination in employment, increased inequality between men and women and the fact that the children of the workers concerned become orphans and very often join the ranks of child labour. Old people, too, are very affected by this pandemic.

I have the pleasure of being able to inform you that this resolution, which was originally presented by the Employers' group, enjoyed broad support from the Workers' group. It is thus able to meet the requirements of the workplace. Governments, too, supported it because they see in it an important instrument which will allow us to create a partnership between enterprises and unions with a view to preventing the disease.

The discussion took place according to a very pragmatic approach. On the one hand, enterprises are invited to take practical measures. There are plans for the dissemination of information on best practices and occupational safety and health systems will be adapted to protect the groups at risk.

On the other hand, we have to strengthen capacity in order to develop social and labour policies that can attenuate the disastrous effects of the pandemic on the active population, enterprises and, particularly, the sector of small enterprises.

Developing countries particularly welcomed the adoption of this resolution, which recognizes that widespread poverty and other constraints aggravate the propagation of HIV/AIDS still further on their territory.

I would like to draw your attention to a paragraph of the resolution which requests the Director-General to propose a meeting of experts to draw up international guidelines regarding the measures to be taken in the workplace as regards HIV/AIDS. We hope that thanks to this resolution the ILO will expand its work concerning the control of HIV/AIDS at the workplace and that it will intensify its cooperation with other international organizations concerned with the problem.

I therefore very sincerely would like to thank the representatives of Governments, employers and workers, for having helped me to carry out my mission. In particular I would like to record the understanding between Ms. Patricia O'Donovan and Mr. Bokkie Botha and the desire they shared to ensure that control of HIV/AIDS should progress in the world of work. Their positive attitudes attest to the fact that when faced with serious problems the groups are able, jointly with Governments, to find mutually acceptable solutions.

Mr. BOTHA (Employers' delegate, South Africa; Employer Vice-Chairperson of the Resolutions Committee) — The Employers' group proposed two resolutions to the year 2000 International Labour Conference. One concerns international labour standards, the other concerns HIV/AIDS. Both were, for us, important and necessary resolutions. We cannot hide the fact that we were disappointed that our resolution on international labour standards was not better supported. We know that a sensible, modern, comprehensive review of the International Labour Organization's standards-related activities requires strong support and that it is both timely and appropriate. Even though the proposed resolution did not receive sufficient support, we would commend it for the attention of the tripartite partners.

On the other hand, we were and are delighted that the draft resolution on HIV/AIDS received such strong support. This resolution demonstrated the support which can be afforded by the First World in what is still sometimes perceived to be a Third World problem. It demonstrated that Workers, Governments and Employers can work on an Employers' text to produce tripartite improvement of the text. And it demonstrated the concern the world has for this universal pandemic, which affects all people, but particularly singles out groups such as women, children, homosexuals, the poor and the elderly to wreak its havoc.

This pandemic not only kills people in a short period, it devastates countries, communities and families and leaves it mark on the infected and those otherwise affected by it, both weak and strong, poor and rich.

Much of our discussion revolved around where to put the emphasis, for example, ensuring that sufficient concern was noted for the particular effect on developing countries and on economically and socially disadvantaged and excluded groups.

The debate was focused, with little “point scoring”. The factors which complicate the pandemic received serious attention, with little attempt to speed up or hold up the debate.

We noted at an early stage in the proceedings that this was a unique opportunity for the International Labour Conference to make a highest-level statement for the first time on an issue which has the most devastating effects imaginable in the workplace. We noted, too, that the pandemic has been raging for close to two decades. It was and remains our view that international action in the world of work will play a significant role in reducing the culture of denial and could develop ground-breaking, credible guidelines to assist managers, workers, trade unions, employers' organizations and governments to deal with its complexities.

The Employers are of the view that this is everybody's problem and that it must be approached through concerted action by all. Outside the Committee, it was often expressed to me that this was a Third World problem only, that it had been solved by the First World which had dealt with it in time, that multinational enterprises had solved their problem by developing guidelines, and that it was not the International Labour Organization's problem but one which UNAIDS and the World Health Organization should deal with.

I want to say to those who gave this advice that HIV/AIDS needs to be attacked on all fronts, by all institutions and in an all-encompassing sense. And we in the ILO have a particular role to play in the world of work. Our institutions individually and on a tripartite basis can and should eliminate the stigma and discrimination which accompany HIV/AIDS. We should mobilize resources, continue research on actions to be taken and cooperate with other international organizations.

We believe that we should concentrate on our area of expertise, the world of work, but we should also support wider efforts to focus technical and financial assistance, to reduce the cost of drugs and to redirect international assistance.

We would wish to commend the International Labour Organization for arranging a special sitting on HIV/AIDS and for signing a cooperation agreement with UNAIDS. Some of us could not attend the session because our Committee was working, but I recommend that everyone should read the Record of Proceedings.

We look forward to the implementation of the resolution and will particularly focus attention on its effects.

Finally, I would like to pay tribute to the Worker Vice-Chairperson, Ms. O'Donovan, and the Workers' group. I believe we were able to work together to achieve a better result than we could have achieved each on our own. Also, we worked well with those Governments who wanted a constructive outcome. We are particularly thankful to the African and IMEC groups in this regard. We were fortunate to have a well-experienced and proactive secretariat working for a positive result. We thank our Chairperson, who had to move the discussion along when it sometimes appeared to become bogged down over the same issues. He did a good job. And I thank my own group, whose members have been experienced, helpful and always dedicated.

Ms. O'DONOVAN (Workers' delegate, Ireland; Worker Vice-Chairperson of the Resolutions Committee) —When the Director-General, Mr. Somavia, presented his Report to the Conference last Monday, on 5 June, he said that the ILO “is about being able to address the real problems of today and to call them by their real name and at the same time to be able to work together so that we can find solutions”.

The resolution on HIV/AIDS and the world of work adopted by the Resolutions Committee is a particularly good example of the link between the real lives of millions of people affected by HIV/AIDS and the contribution which governments and employers' and workers' organizations, working together on a tripartite basis, can make to finding solutions to this global human tragedy.

The resolution focuses on the world of work and tries to identify the added value which the ILO as an organization and its tripartite constituents can bring to the fight against HIV/AIDS. The Workers' group gave a priority to this resolution because we believe that the workplace provides a unique opportunity to address important aspects of prevention and treatment and care for those living with HIV/AIDS. In many of our countries, trade unions are already actively engaged in developing and negotiating workplace programmes around these issues.

But we believe that much more can be done, and we hope that this resolution will provide a new stimulus to achieve more through workplace initiatives.

The resolution highlights the fact that 95 per cent of people currently living with HIV/AIDS are in developing countries, therefore any realistic effort to tackle the challenges presented by HIV/AIDS must focus on the capacity of developing countries to respond. The resolution quite rightly draws attention to the impact of some structural adjustment programmes on public health systems, on education and on social protection systems in developing countries. It also recognizes that the spread of HIV/AIDS in developing countries has been accentuated by the non-availability and limited access to drugs and treatments at affordable costs.

But it would be a mistake to see HIV/AIDS as a problem primarily for developing countries. While acknowledging and indeed emphasizing its disproportionate impact on developing countries, the resolution puts it into a global context, and calls for an integrated, coordinated and sustained international response. In developed countries, as well as in developing countries, it is poor people and other economically and socially disadvantaged groups who are disproportionately affected. In all our countries, these people are denied the resources and access to health and care services which would enable them to cope better with the economic, social and human consequences of HIV/AIDS. Through the workplace, we can target resources at workers and reach out to their families and communities. Indeed, for millions of people, the workplace may be the only place where they can access the necessary information and education which could help them to meet the challenges posed by HIV/AIDS.

The Workers' group is disappointed that the resolution does not contain more guidance for workers' and employers' organizations as to the elements which could constitute effective workplace programmes. Unfortunately, due to time and other constraints, the Committee did not have an opportunity to consider an important proposal from the Workers' group which provided more specific guidance on this matter. But it is clear that effective workplace programmes should be developed on a partnership basis, involving workers' representatives at the level of the enterprise, and should include some or all of the following elements.

There should be a prohibition on direct and indirect discrimination.

There should be protection of occupational benefits.

Working time and conditions of employment should be adapted to facilitate necessary medical treatment.

Education and information programmes should be provided.

There should be free distribution and availability of condoms through the workplace.

There should be protection of the right to privacy and confidentiality about the health status of workers.

There should be free testing and counselling services.

These elements, of course, are not put forward as a prescriptive list, but as an indicative list as to what should comprise an effective workplace programme.

The preamble of the resolution refers to the additional distortion of gender inequalities brought about by HIV/AIDS. This points to the need for more efforts and measures to be taken to overcome existing cultural barriers, ignorance and inequality.

The Workers' group believes that the ILO should now follow up this resolution by becoming a co-sponsor of UNAIDS, developing a strategy that will incorporate HIV/AIDS as a cross-cutting issue and integrating it into appropriate technical cooperation projects and programmes in all the regions.

The Workers' group in the Resolutions Committee believes that it was both desirable and possible for us to have achieved more during this session of the Conference. In particular, we were disappointed that the Committee failed to discuss and adopt the second priority resolution which would have provided a clear statement on the ILO's role and social development in the twenty-first century.

It is important, we believe, that the opportunity should now be taken by the Office, between now and the next Resolutions Committee in 2002, to review the working methods and procedures which govern the work of this Committee. The Resolutions Committee is a valuable mechanism which should be used to bring forward new ideas and to promote new policy initiatives for the ILO. We should also work together to enable it to fulfil this role more effectively and efficiently.

I should like to express my sincere thanks to the Employer Vice-Chairperson, Mr. Botha, who worked with us in a true spirit of social partnership.

My thanks also go to those Government members of the Committee who demonstrated, not just by their words, but also by their actions, their real commitment to this issue. We sincerely hope that this commitment will translate into effective tripartite action in each of our countries.

Our appreciation is also due to Mr. Öry, our Committee Chairperson. He facilitated the work of the Committee in a quiet and calm way, which enabled us to complete our work on this resolution.

Finally, our work was greatly facilitated by the expert and professional ILO staff who assisted us. We thank them, not just for their professionalism, but also for their capacity to retain a sense of humour and good will even when the going got tough.

Original Spanish: THE PRESIDENT — The general discussion on the report of the Resolutions Committee is now open.

Mr. ZAINAL (Workers' delegate, Malaysia) — I am very pleased to speak on behalf of the Asian and Pacific Group at this 88th Session of the International Labour Conference in support of the adoption of the report of the Resolutions Committee.

The report contained a single, but very significant resolution covering HIV/AIDS.

The damage done by HIV/AIDS is well documented in many ILO reports and publications. All of us who heard our sister from South Africa, Ms. Makhalemele, Founder of the National Women's Alive AIDS Network of South Africa, speak at the special high-level meeting in this Assembly Hall on 8 June 2000, will remember the vivid detail in which she described the destructive effects of HIV/AIDS on individual human beings, society as a whole, the world of work and the social and economic development of countries.

She reminded us, through her painful experience in both the personal realm and the world of work that HIV/AIDS-related problems need to be addressed and overcome through the combined efforts of workers, employers and governments.

The resolution concerning HIV/AIDS and the world of work, submitted for adoption by the Resolutions Committee, is the result of consensus achieved following deliberations and consultations between the tripartite members of the Committee.

Having closely followed the Committee's work, I am convinced that this joint effort by workers, employers and governments provides us with an excellent guide as to ways and means of combating HIV/AIDS.

The operative part of the resolution provides us with clear guidelines as to how workers, employers and governments can undertake measures individually and collectively to eliminate and overcome the many problems and challenges arising from HIV/AIDS.

The resolution provides clear instruction to the International Labour Office on how it should mobilize its expertise and resources to combat HIV/AIDS in ILO member States.

The Asia and Pacific region, like Africa, Latin America and Europe, continues its struggle to find ways and means of alleviating the burden that HIV/AIDS places on workers and their families.

I conclude that while there is positive effort, much more needs to be done through joint collaboration and cooperation between workers, employers and governments. The adoption of this significant resolution in the year 2000 will encourage and motivate us all, namely workers, employers and governments, to work together to defeat HIV/AIDS which brings destruction to our society.

I also do hope this resolution will not remain a mere resolution. The resolution clearly indicates the enormous potential of employers' and workers' organizations as well as States to contribute to the fight against the spread of HIV/AIDS in our society.

Again, speaking on behalf of the workers, the organizations of the Asia and Pacific region strongly recommend the adoption of the report of the Resolutions Committee by the 88th Session of the International Labour Conference.

Original French: Mr. SOW (Workers' adviser and substitute delegate, Senegal) — The 88th Session of the International Labour Conference is an historic event because it is the last session of the millennium, but also because it will examine, and I believe will adopt, a resolution on a subject of great importance for the future of humanity. The AIDS pandemic today affects different people to different degrees, men or women, rich or poor, developed or developing countries. On my continent, Africa, we are very seriously affected. Africa is also affected because it is losing the most productive part of its labour force and is seeing its meagre health-care resources dwindle by the day. Our resolution will concern the world of work, our families, the whole of humanity.

I was very pessimistic the other day and I was afraid when I heard a sister from South Africa speaking, but today I am a little more optimistic with this resolution on HIV/AIDS proposed by the Committee in which I worked. I would call on all workers and all employers and governments to adopt this resolution, and I pray to God to help humanity in its fight against this plague, as he has done with other plagues.

Original Spanish: The PRESIDENT — We will now move on to the adoption of the report and the resolution presented by the Committee. We will begin first by adopting the body of the report. Can I take it that the report, paragraphs 1-216, is adopted?

(The report — paragraphs 1 to 216 — is adopted.)

Resolution concerning HIV/AIDS and the world of work: Adoption

Original Spanish: The PRESIDENT — We shall now proceed with the adoption of the resolution. If there are no objections, may I take it that the resolution concerning HIV/AIDS and the world of work is adopted?

(The resolution is adopted.)

We have now concluded the examination of the report of the Resolutions Committee and the resolution contained in the report . I would like to thank the Chairperson and the Vice-Chairpersons and all members of the Committee, as well as its secretariat, for the excellent work that they have done.

Resolution concerning HIV/AIDS and the world of work

 Updated by HK. Approved by RH. Last update: 14 June 2000.