Committee on the Application of Standards
Submission, discussion and adoption
The PRESIDENT — We shall now consider the report of the Committee on the Application of Standards. Three documents have been submitted under this item, Provisional Record No. 19, Parts one, two and three.
I now give the floor to Ms. Wiklund, Reporter of the Committee, to submit the report to the Conference.
Ms. WIKLUND (Government delegate, Sweden; Reporter of the Committee on the Application of Standards) — It is an honour for me to present to this session of the Conference the report of the Committee on the Application of Standards which appears as Provisional Record No. 19.
This Committee is an essential part of the regular supervisory system set up by the Organization to ensure that constitutional obligations are observed and that Conventions adopted by the Conference and voluntarily ratified are fully applied. It is also an important source of information and experience, not least 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.
You will note that this year our report is in three parts: Part one is the general report of the Committee, Part two is a record of 24 individual cases examined by the Committee, and Part three, exceptionally this year, is the report of the special sitting concerning Myanmar.
The basis for our work was, as always, the report of the ILO Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations, an institution of recognized independence, objectivity and impartiality.
Both Committees were created 75 years ago by the Eighth Session of the Conference in 1926 to play roles that complement each other, so next year we will celebrate the 75th anniversary of their first sittings. The Conference Committee was once again honoured with the presence of Sir William Douglas, Chairperson of the Committee of Experts, during the general part of the debate. His participation was a sign of the mutual respect, cooperation and responsibility that exists between these two indispensable Committees. The Committee also welcomed the new Director of the International Standards Department, Mr. Jean-Claude Javillier.
Our Committee started with the simple but moving and heartfelt tribute to the memory of Mr. André Zenger, former Swiss Government delegate to the Conference and representative to the Committee, three times Chairperson of the Committee and after years of highly appreciated work in the Office, Director ad interim of the International Labour Standards Department. We feel deep sorrow and we shall miss André Zenger — a distinguished ILO official who also was both a friend and a mentor to many of us. We honour the memory of André Zenger.
It was appropriate this year, when the Global Report under the Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work focuses on forced labour, that the application of the ILO core instrument on this issue, the Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29), was especially dealt with in the Committee on the Application of Standards.
In the general debate there was thus a devoted discussion on two matters, namely trafficking in persons and prison labour. The discussion showed that trafficking in persons is growing and taking on new forms and is a problem that developing and developed countries share, because most nations in the world fit into one of the three categories of sending countries, transit countries or receiving countries.
Ms. Bendixen from Denmark also pointed out the risk that people who are actually victims of trafficking are, in reality, treated as illegal migrants. The discussion demonstrated absolute unanimity among the members of the Committee on the need to fight this evil.
Many interventions concerned the implications of the growth of privatized prisons for the application of the Convention, based on the Committee of Experts’ report on this subject. This, in turn, was the response to earlier discussions in our Committee on this issue.
The Committee of Experts clarified that, when the Convention was adopted, the Conference also had taken into account the situation of privatized prison labour and that Convention No. 29 was fully applicable to this situation.
A certain number of Government members in particular stated, however, that the way the Committee of Experts understood the requirements of the Convention in this regard, was causing them some problems in the administration of privatized prisons which are being established more frequently in certain countries, and the Employers’ members expressed some concerns about the experts’ view. Other Government members agreed with the experts, while the Workers’ members re-emphasized their concern over the possible danger of abuse if private employers had full discretion over the conditions of work of these prisoners. This subject will require continuing examination and discussion, because prisoners also have rights.
The Committee noted the 50th anniversary of the adoption of one of the ILO’s fundamental instruments, the Equal Remuneration Convention, 1951 (No. 100). Many members of the Committee, like Ms. Theodorsen from Norway, highlighted the importance of this Convention and, above all, the responsibility to continue efforts to ensure that men and women workers receive equal remuneration for work of equal value. It is crystal clear that this equality does not yet exist, and that it will continue to be a dream for us women in the developed world, and even more so for all our sisters in the poor countries.
In the second phase of our general discussion, the Committee considered the Committee of Experts’ General Survey on the application of the Conventions on night work for women. Covering the Night Work (Women) Convention, 1919 (No. 4), the Night Work (Women) Convention (Revised), 1934 (No. 41), the Night Work (Women) Convention (Revised), 1948 (No. 89), and the 1990 Protocol to Convention No. 89. This General Survey was carried out at the request of the Governing Body Working Party on Policy regarding Revision of Standards in the context of the general review of the ILO standards and the policy relating to them. The well-documented survey provided the Committee with the opportunity to examine the relationship between the principles of equality and protection, and to note that many States considered that they had to denounce these Conventions, or risk prolonging discrimination masked as protection. The report of the Committee of Experts and the discussion in our Committee will no doubt provide useful information for the Governing Body Working Party in considering how to handle these instruments.
An aspect also of relevance was the discussion on the application of these Conventions in export processing zones. ILO Conventions do, of course, also apply in these special areas, though often the national legislation does not extend fully to them. A number of us in the Committee felt that greater attention should be paid to the subject in the future, both by the Committee of Experts and by the Conference Committee.
It is perhaps worth recalling that last year’s General Survey was on the Tripartite Consultation (International Labour Standards) Convention, 1976 (No. 144). Since then another four ratifications have been noted, and the 100 mark in number of ratifications of this important Convention is now passed. Perhaps this is a sign of the usefulness of the general surveys.
Every three years the Committee discusses the report of the Joint ILO/UNESCO Committee of Experts on the Application of the Recommendation concerning the Status of Teachers. This year we discussed the report of the Seventh Session. A record of this discussion is to be found in the report.
At the end of the general debate, members of the secretariat answered questions put to them from the floor. Thus, Mr. Javillier and the Legal Adviser, Mr. Picard, explained the implications of the constitutional amendment adopted by the Conference in 1997. I draw your attention to paragraphs 60 and 61 of the report, and would like to take this opportunity to appeal to those governments which have not already done so, now to consider ratifying the 1997 Instrument of Amendment, in order to enable it to enter into force.
The largest part of the Committee’s work, and its most essential task, was concerned with the examination of individual cases. The purpose 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. The Committee is an important forum for dialogue and exchange of views on such matters.
The discussion started with cases concerning the fulfilment of certain obligations, or so-called automatic cases. These are cases where governments have had difficulties in complying with obligations under articles 19, 22 and 35 of the ILO Constitution, including failure to submit instruments adopted by the Conference to the competent national authorities, failure to supply reports and information on the application of ratified Conventions, and failure to supply reports on unratified Conventions and Recommendations.
The first obligation I mentioned implies that governments have to inform the legislative authorities of all Conventions and Recommendations adopted by the International Labour Conference, regardless of the issue of ratification. To my knowledge, this is unique in the international system.
A number of governments explained their difficulties in supplying reports and asked for or were encouraged to receive the ILO’s technical assistance to overcome their problems in this respect. This is vital, because without the necessary information and reports, the ILO supervisory mechanism simply cannot function. I should like to emphasize that it is important that governments reply both to the “observations” of the Committee of Experts — those published in what is now the red book — and to the “direct requests” which are not published but which are equally important. Without full and responsible reporting, the ILO’s whole supervisory system, based on dialogue and uniquely successful in the United Nations family, will break down.
Following last year’s exceptional resolution adopted by the Conference under article 33 of the Constitution, the Committee held a special sitting to consider the application by the Government of Myanmar of the Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29). The Committee welcomed the resumption of cooperation by the Government and found that the understanding reached last month, that an objective assessment of the situation be carried out by representatives of the Director-General, was a positive sign. Yet the Committee also noted that the steps so far taken by the Government had been insufficient, and that information available to the Governing Body in March this year and to the Committee itself indicated that forced labour was still being imposed.
The Committee discussed 24 individual cases in addition to the special sitting. One country — Afghanistan — failed to appear because it was not fully present at the Conference. These were very serious discussions and explicitly or implicitly several members referred to the issues of and relations with, on the one hand, rights, and on the other hand, power — or lack of power. Therefore permit me to remind you of Ms. Yacob from Singapore, who referred to the words of Mahatma Gandhi: “All that we are acting for is that these values be upheld for some of the weakest and most vulnerable members of the society.”
The Committee was obliged to call the attention of the Conference to six cases in special paragraphs of its report: Belarus, Colombia, Ethiopia, Myanmar and Venezuela on the Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise Convention, 1948 (No. 87), and Sudan on the Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29). You will find these reflected in paragraphs 231 to 236 of the report. The Committee decided that two of these countries had to be cited for continued failure to eliminate discrepancies in the application of ratified Conventions: Myanmar for Convention No. 87 and Sudan for Convention No. 29.
The cases discussed focused on fundamental Conventions but also covered several so-called “technical” Conventions. It should be stressed that these Conventions are also of great importance as they affect the lives and livelihoods of all workers in very direct ways.
I should like to make one comment here. A number of governments indicated that they were discussing with the social partners how to implement fully the Conventions they had ratified and that this sometimes entailed delays in taking concrete action. Tripartite consultation is indeed fundamental to the ILO way of working, but reference to such consultations should not be allowed to be an excuse for failing to take any further action.
Please allow me to take this opportunity, on behalf of the entire Committee, to thank all those Government delegates — often Ministers, which is a sign of respect for this institution — who appeared before the Committee to inform it of the problems encountered by their countries, and to discuss solutions with the Conference. This participation in the Committee’s work is indeed invaluable, and indispensable.
I want finally also to thank the Chairperson of the Committee, Mr. Sappia, as well as the Employer and Worker Vice-Chairpersons, Mr. Wisskirchen and Mr. Cortebeeck, for the competence and efficiency with which they made sure that the Committee could complete such a large volume of work and discharge the heavy responsibilities which the Conference placed on it. May I also, through you, thank Mr. Javillier for his valuable support and also all his staff for their dedicated work, whether they were seen in the room or not.
I commend this report for adoption by the Conference.
Original German: Mr. WISSKIRCHEN (Employers’ adviser and substitute delegate, Germany; Employer Vice-Chairperson of the Committee on the Application of Standards) — You have before you the comprehensive and full report of the Conference Committee on the Application of Standards. As our Reporter has explained, this Conference Committee was set up by the Conference 75 years ago, in 1926.
Such a long-standing institution, of course, has accumulated much wisdom. Nonetheless, since there is nothing in this world that is beyond improvement, a critical look at its work is only proper. We should first of all examine the entire body of international labour standards produced by our Organization.
Since 1995, these standards have been systematically reviewed and categorized into the following groups: standards appropriate for the demands of our times; those which can be revised; and those which are totally outdated. This work should soon draw to a close. We do not believe that it is appropriate to exclude from this revision all the standards adopted since 1985. The sometimes appallingly low ratification rates of the newer Conventions disproves the theory that any standard adopted in the past 15 or 16 years must necessarily be valuable and suitable for the present and the future.
It would be advisable to ensure the entry into force of the amendments to the ILO Constitution adopted four years ago, which would allow for outdated standards effectively to be scrapped. The ILO, which has campaigned successfully for ratification of certain instruments, could launch a ratification campaign for these amendments, especially considering the few ratifications they have so far attracted.
It is not worthwhile for our Committee to spend time and effort discussing whether a country should be urged to observe a Convention that the Governing Body considers to be totally outdated, and that is no longer open to ratification. In our Committee, this is precisely what happened in respect of the Old-Age Insurance (Industry, etc.) Convention, 1933 (No. 35). Yet as early as 1995, our Committee had stated in its conclusions that this Convention should be revised.
Modernizing labour standards is of even greater importance for the future. After much intensive discussion, we have taken some steps in the right direction. All we can do is hope that these good intentions will be followed up with acts. Instead of producing instruments for mass consumption, we can develop better and more valuable standards. Obviously, the supervisory system, including the Committee of Experts, must be included in this renewal process. The mandate of the Committee of Experts remains unchanged: to consider the reports of the member States in the light of international labour standards, prior to the session of the Conference. However, that body should not develop jurisprudence, and it should certainly not assume responsibility for issuing binding interpretations of standards. Under article 37 of the ILO Constitution, that is a power reserved for the International Court of Justice. The report of the Committee of Experts should concentrate more on the comments of its members. This year’s report was the longest in the history of the Committee. The “General Report” was twice as long as the previous year’s.
The credibility of the Committee of Experts is diminished when it urgently calls on member States to ratify the Termination of Employment Convention, 1982 (No. 158), while the Governing Body, having discussed the topic, had already decided not to make such a recommendation. By issuing such a political statement in those circumstances, the experts have gone beyond their mandate.
The ILO has on its agenda the strengthening and streamlining of the supervisory machinery. Efforts should be intensified in this sense.
Before addressing the individual topics, I would like to speak of the special meeting we held to pay tribute to Mr. André Zenger, who passed away recently. He was a very competent member of this Organization, and a fair and friendly person whom we all got to know over many years, and we are saddened by his early passing. I am sure we will remember this honourable man for many years to come.
This being the 50th anniversary of the adoption of the Equal Remuneration Convention, 1951 (No. 100), our Committee considered the question of gender equality in remuneration. While the basic principle of equality and the prohibition of gender-based discrimination was not in dispute and was acknowledged quiet simply as an obligation to respect human dignity, we believed it was unacceptable to consider differences in pay on the sole basis of statistical averages. The experts too recognized that these gaps very often resulted from differences in training and skill levels. This is a difficult question, precisely because there is no single recognized system for establishing a definition of equal work. That has been left up to evaluations and re-evaluations. Agreements on these points between the social partners would be decisive.
The Committee held a detailed discussion of the Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29), as the experts devoted nearly a third of the “General Report” to this Convention. This was particularly surprising since the experts on many occasions noted that very few reports had been received from member States and that they had thus often been unable to obtain a general picture of the national law and practice in this area.
This means that the experts made their comments without sufficient substantiation, producing a purely abstract, theoretical work. Essentially, the intention was to challenge the stance taken by the Employers in the past. In our report, we refer to the scope of the discussion, which reflected the basic elements of this debate. One facet on which all agree is that the main objective of the Convention — to halt and prohibit all forced labour — warrants unqualified support. In the discussion, the experts concentrated exclusively on old news, concerning the use by several member States of partially or totally privatized penitentiary services. The experts’ statements do not always hold up to examination, though. Because this phenomenon did not exist in practice when the Convention was adopted in 1930, it is not covered in the instrument. The wording of the Convention is perfectly valid, even if it does not take this phenomenon into consideration.
The experts glossed over the fact that a State has the right to oblige an individual to carry out work as part of an imposed penalty. This is for the State alone to decide. Therefore, we cannot agree with the experts that work by prisoners in privatized institutions is acceptable only if it is done on a purely voluntary basis. The experts contend that the working conditions should be commensurate with those on the open labour market. In practice, this idealistic aim is not even achieved outside of penitentiaries. Outside of such institutions too, a refusal to accept work entails numerous disadvantages. The argument according to which competition must be fair is still less convincing. The purpose of Convention No. 29 is to protect individuals.
The report indicates, moreover, that competition is not undermined. If that were the case then enterprises would clamour to use exclusively this type of work, but experience has shown that not to be the case. There are very few companies which hire this kind of labour, as productivity among prisoners is too low and the cost and risks are too high.
In the Conference Committee, one point was beyond dispute. It was recognized by all that sensible employment of prisoners was decisive in rehabilitating them and finding them a place in society. Employing prisoners is thus in the interests of all society. And unquestionably, this sort of work can only be organized in close cooperation with private enterprise. In such circumstances, Convention No. 29 must be interpreted liberally, and the interpretation of the experts is open to scrutiny.
One of the subjects of the general discussion was the Employment Policy Convention, 1964 (No. 122). For years we have maintained that it is a tautology to say that no employment policy is successful in its own right, and that a successful employment policy must be formulated in harmony with numerous other policy lines. This year the experts have advocated social benefits to stabilize internal market demand by fuelling private consumption, thus mitigating job losses. This leaves aside too many other factors. In the developed economies, employers fund much of the social benefits. Higher social benefits would represent a burden on the investment capacities of enterprises. Investment is a precondition for growth and employment.
Our position concerning the details of this question is set out in the general part of the Conference Committee’s report. This also applies to the discussion on social security. The experts have much praise for the Convention on social security, and consider that it is a very flexible instrument. They do not argue against the clear worldwide trend, under which the States’ heretofore exclusive responsibilities in this field are being transferred to the private sector. Yet they hold fast to the organizational and management principles in the Convention, according to which the State must administer, and workers must take part in, social security schemes. We feel that this attitude is somewhat in contradiction with the market economy.
In the second part of the general discussion, we considered a study on three Conventions on the ban on night work for women in industry; the first of these Conventions dates from the year the ILO was founded, in 1919, and the most recent, from 1948. All three contain a complete ban on work by women at night.
In 1990, a protocol was adopted to Night Work (Women) Convention (Revised), 1948 (No. 89), which provides for a few exceptions. Above all, the overall study shows the historical background and reasons for these regulations. The most important point is that, at the time, the idea was accepted that night work was more damaging for women than it was for men, which is now refuted. Night work can be unhealthy for everybody, but many workers can do it without any particular problems.
An intelligent system of work in shifts can reduce the burden considerably, irrespective of gender. Night work in different degrees is generally recognized to be unavoidable. Apart from in providing traditional social services to the population, night work in the field of entertainment and the use of free time is becoming more and more important. Besides the medical considerations, we are getting a clear idea about the impact of the prohibition of night work for women in the labour market. Figures demonstrate that the ban is clearly detrimental to women.
From the legal point of view, it is contrary to many international and national instruments, such as those which prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender. In particular, I am thinking of the relevant Conventions of the United Nations and the European Community, which leave States no other choice than to remove their national bans on night work and, if necessary, to give notice of withdrawal from the ILO standards that are contrary to this. Therefore it will be necessary to abolish these three Conventions.
The double burden of work, including housework and raising children, cannot be applied to all women. It is based on old traditions and behavioural patterns which cannot be required by law. Such definitions are inconsistent with legislation on discrimination and the right to equal treatment. Under these circumstances, the attempt to maintain simultaneously the special protection against night work for women, and the avoidance of discrimination is, in fact, impossible and intellectually unacceptable.
The ILO should, as quickly as possible, abolish all forms of discrimination against women. The longer it waits, the less credible it will be, from the point of view of these Conventions.
In part three of the general discussion, we dealt with the report of the Joint ILO/UNESCO Committee of Experts on the Application of the Recommendation concerning the Status of Teachers. We think that the teaching profession is of the utmost importance, and we understand fully the need for teachers to have an appropriate status in society. Working conditions have got to be appropriate; although they cannot be identical throughout the world, within each country, teachers should not be at the bottom end of the social ladder. It is equally clear to us that the training of teachers has got to be in accordance with what they have to perform, and this should inevitably lead to lifelong learning. Therefore, we have to provide for advanced training and continuous training, and this of course means that we can expect initiative on the part of the teachers themselves.
I will just say a few words now on the question of the right to strike, since Mr. Cortebeeck will be talking about that later.
The right to fight and therefore the right to strike is something that exists in practically every country in the world, but it varies very considerably from one place to another. Thus, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights recognizes the right to strike only, and I quote, “provided that it is exercised in conformity with the laws of the particular country”. This distinction was the basis for this question not being considered in the Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise Convention, 1948 (No. 87). The right to strike was not forgotten, but during the preparation and later the adoption of Convention No. 87, it was expressly excluded from these regulations, which can be confirmed in a number of different documents. We referred to these documents on many an occasion this year when we were considering the case of Ethiopia, which can be seen in the report of our Committee. In a more thorough and detailed manner we dealt with the same matter in the Committee’s report of 1994, Provisional Record No. 25, in which details can be read in paragraphs 115 to 134. That is why I will be relatively brief today.
Before we consider individual cases, I would like us to have a glance at the figures in the report of the Committee of Experts concerning the way in which reporting requirements have not always been fulfilled. Even if there have been some positive developments in individual cases, the general trend remains disappointing. There continue to be too many member States that fail to meet their reporting obligations year after year. In paragraph 193 of the report, in response to our request, a list is given of countries which systematically submit their reports between the end of the meeting of the Committee of Experts and the beginning of the Conference. This will be something we will be paying particular attention to in the next few years.
The main objective of our Committee is the study of individual cases, and we had 26 States this year on our list, of which we considered 24. In addition, at the request of last year’s session of the Conference and on the basis of decisions taken by the Governing Body, we had a special meeting where we dealt with the resolution against Myanmar in connection with the Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29). This is a particularly serious instance of forced labour, which has been monitored for a long time, with the involvement of military and civil authorities. All the supervisory machinery of ILO, including a special mission of enquiry, are therefore demanding a radical change in the corresponding legislation, particularly the practical implementation of the prohibition of forced labour. As to whether the regulations adopted by Myanmar in the last two years are going to be sufficient, and whether in fact they are going to be put into effect, a high-level, independent team will be giving the matter consideration in autumn this year. The Committee has drawn up a detailed list of conditions to be met in order for the high-level mission to be able to make an objective study, unhindered, throughout the country. The exhaustive discussion in our Committee, referred to in the general and third parts of our report, is recorded very precisely.
I will now draw your attention to other individual cases. There are positive and negative developments, for instance in the case of Colombia, which our Committee has referred to in a special paragraph in the general part of the report. There are special sections with critical remarks concerning Belarus, Myanmar, Ethiopia and Venezuela, with regard to the Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise Convention, 1948 (No. 87) .
Myanmar appears in the list of countries with a long-term history of violations, which is also true of Sudan, with regard to the Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29). We recommend the entire report of the Committee for adoption, and we hope it will be given the attention it deserves.
This year, we think we have seen a high level of cooperation in the Committee, particularly with the Workers’ group under their spokesman, Mr. Cortebeeck. We thank Professor Javillier, the new director of the Standards Department, and his whole team, for the tremendous amount of work that they have done before and during the Conference. Our Chairperson, Mr. Jorge Sappia, guided the work of the Committee objectively, and without his efforts, we would surely have had even more night sessions.
In conclusion, I would like to express my particular thanks again for the confidence shown in me by the Employers’ group. They have continued to support me as spokesperson for 19 years now.
This year, there were many new, young members, who showed remarkable commitment, and they gave us an example of the growing interest of employers in the work of this Committee.
I recommend this report for adoption by the Conference.
Original French: Mr. CORTEBEECK (Workers’ adviser and substitute delegate, Belgium; Worker Vice-Chairperson of the Committee on the Application of Standards) — It is an honour for me to submit the report of the Committee on the Application of Standards as spokesperson for the Workers’ group of this Committee.
Before presenting the content of our work, I should like to inform the Conference of the tribute paid by our Committee to Mr. André Zenger. We held a special service to commemorate his passing during which once again we recalled the fact that André Zenger and his work were both greatly appreciated by the Committee’s three groups. The Workers’ group described him as a man of commitment and a civil servant dedicated to the cause of justice and the common good.
Now to the content of our work. The report of our Committee, submitted by Ms. Wiklund, demonstrates that we had fruitful discussions concerning both developments in international standards in general, and their effective implementation both in law and in practice.
As a supervisory body, the Committee on the Application of Standards uses different working methods to the other Conference committees. The essential role of our Committee is to supervise the effective implementation in law and in practice of international labour Conventions by the member States that have ratified them. We have noted yet again that such supervision is necessary, and indeed indispensable, in order to guarantee both the social supervision of the global economy and the credibility of the ILO. Social globalization, of which the ILO is the precursor, is a necessary corollary of economic globalization. Our Committee provides the guarantee that this social globalization is implemented with the appropriate instruments — tripartism on the one hand and the ILO’s universalism and its instruments on the other. The strength of the ILO and its supervisory machinery undeniably lies in the open, frank and democratic discussions between the Workers’, Employers’ and Government groups. If such dialogue has been possible, this is largely due to the General Report and the observations made available to our Committee by the Committee of Experts which, once again, has provided us with a top quality report.
I wish to reiterate that, more than ever before, we are convinced that the complementary nature of the two committees is one of the reasons for the success of the supervisory system. Our tripartite Committee provides the analyses and the positions and the testimonies of the people in touch with the true situation. The Committee of Experts makes its contribution in the framework of legal, technical and impartial analysis.
We have expressed our appreciation to the Committee of Experts for having once again, taken the initiative of inviting the Worker and Employer spokespersons to its meeting last November. The presence of Sir William Douglas, Chairperson of the Committee of Experts, in our Committee, as well as of the social partners from the Committee of Experts, provided the opportunity for strengthened dialogue, enabling us to meet and discuss our various concerns.
The first part of our work concerned, as is the case each year, the discussion of the General Report of the Committee of Experts. The discussion involves an exchange of views on various themes relating to developments in and the implementation of international labour standards. A number of particularly interesting issues were on the agenda of the session. As in previous years, a large part of the general discussion concerned the future of ILO standards-related activities. This subject has already been on the agenda of the Governing Body for some time. The discussions in our Committee must be seen as part and parcel of a broader discussion which concerns the International Labour Organization as a whole.
Indeed, the Director-General, in his Report to the Conference, put forward approaches and ideas concerning future ILO standards-related activities. We acknowledge that an evaluation of standards-related policy is necessary, and support the initiatives taken by the Governing Body in this regard. However, the objective of such an evaluation should be to strengthen the system. Undermining or discrediting concrete and tangible achievements, in the name of hypothetical future progress, does not seem to us to be the best way forward.
We have once again expressed our satisfaction at the large number of ratifications of core Conventions following the promotional campaign carried out within the framework of the follow-up to the 1998 Declaration, we are, however, firmly opposed to the position of those who believe that the ILO should confine itself to fundamental standards alone. The ILO’s objective is to provide us with international, universal standards, applicable to all workers throughout the world, and this in order to promote social justice.
Social justice will not be achieved just by providing fundamental standards. Mechanisms to implement and monitor the application of such standards are indispensable. Similarly, social protection through social security, and occupational safety and health must be assured for workers and their families. In short, we must guarantee the quality of work, and this cannot be achieved through the core Conventions alone.
In the framework of the general discussion we also had an interesting debate concerning the implementation of several specific Conventions. We commemorated the 50th anniversary of the Equal Remuneration Convention, 1951 (No. 100), and we noted that disparities in the remuneration of men and women continue to exist, creating or maintaining inequitable situations between the sexes.
We also had a rich and interesting debate on the implementation of the Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29), concerning child labour. The first part of this debate related to trafficking in persons. This practice exists throughout the world and affects millions of people. These human beings are considered as a commodity. The second part of the debate related to forced labour carried out by prisoners. This subject has already been tackled on several occasions within our Committee in discussions on individual cases. This year the Committee of Experts provided us with an in-depth general study on this subject which was of top quality and which provided us with a good basis for our future discussions.
A few more specific points which we retained from that discussion were that the privatization of prisons and prison labour were nothing new since the existence of prison labour was already referred to during discussions held in the framework of the drafting of Convention No. 29 in 1930. Convention No. 29 does not prohibit member States from setting up a system of private prison labour, but it provides for conditions and monitoring systems to ensure that such labour is not forced or compulsory. Convention No. 29 is one of the core Conventions of the ILO. It is therefore essential for these principles to be applied fully and correctly in all circumstances.
We also exchanged viewpoints concerning the Conventions on social security. I shall not go into details of those discussions here because the Committee on Social Security has looked at this in more detail.
When we dealt with the question of the application of the Employment Policy Convention, 1964 (No. 122), we repeated that social protection and employment protection were closely interlinked. A well-developed employment policy has a positive impact on employment in general and provides a guarantee of decent income, thereby avoiding workers finding themselves in socially precarious situations and having to have recourse to the social security system for assistance and benefits. The Workers’ group therefore insisted that governments establish or strengthen the links between employment and social protection.
As is the case every three years, within the framework of the general discussion we had a debate this year on the report of the Joint ILO/UNESCO Committee of Experts on the Application of the Recommendation concerning the Status of Teachers of 1966 and of the 1997 UNESCO Recommendation concerning Higher Education Teaching Personnel.
Despite the strategic role of teaching in society, we have noted that the status and morale of teachers are very low. This is a structural problem of prime importance which has a great impact on teaching throughout the world. We have noted fundamental contradictions between the importance accorded to training as a function of social exclusion and poverty, in order to increase the skills and qualifications of the population on the one hand and the absolute priority accorded to financial structural adjustments on the other. In order to tackle the problems faced in the teaching sphere today, it is imperative to engage in social dialogue with teaching staff and their representative organizations. It is clear that this dialogue is an essential tool across the board, but above all within the framework of changes and restructuring. It will be easier to implement such changes if those involved know the reasons for the restructuring, understand them and feel involved in the measures taken.
One point we spoke of in this framework, and also during the general discussion, concerned the effects of AIDS on the world of work. The impact of this epidemic on teaching is considerable. The disease is affecting both teachers and students. It is essential for effective measures to be taken at several levels, and the ILO no doubt has an important role to play in providing information and advice to member States.
The second part of the work of our Committee involved a discussion of the General Survey, which this year concerns the Conventions on the night work of women. This was a difficult discussion, particularly with our Employer colleagues. Indeed, the subject of the General Survey itself is controversial because of the various aspects involved in the night work of women.
First of all, women are increasingly participating in the labour force, but nevertheless still account for the majority of household work and care of children and other family members. They therefore frequently have a double work day, which places an even heavier burden on women working at night.
Secondly, although we know that the Employers deny this, scientific evidence has confirmed that night work is harmful for all human beings. Exposure to the risks of night work, generally speaking, is the same for men and women, with the exception of specific risks linked to maternity. If we continue with this reasoning, we enter into the discussion of equality between men and women. It is precisely equality of opportunity that has led to identical requirements for men and women as regards night work. This was given concrete expression by the ILO in the Night Work Convention, 1990 (No. 171). Convention No. 171 was not the subject of this General Survey, something we regret deeply since it provides the answers to a large number of, if not to all, the difficulties which we addressed in this discussion. The approach of Convention No. 171, namely identical measures for the night work of men and women, with specific protection being granted to women under certain conditions is, in the view of the Workers’ group, the right approach.
For this reason, we consider that the ratification of this Convention should be promoted so that the principles concerning night work and the framework governing its implementation, are guaranteed for all women workers, and so that special protection for pregnant women, women who are breastfeeding, or women in other special circumstances is guaranteed at a global level.
The third part of our work concerned an examination of individual cases. This year we dealt with 25 cases, 24 of which involved the usual procedures, and one, the case of Burma (Myanmar), concerning the Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29), which was dealt with in a special sitting.
The list initially involved 26 cases. We were not able to discuss the difficulties of application by Afghanistan of the Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Convention, 1958 (No. 111), because, as has also been the case in the past few years, no representative of that Government came before our Committee. The Government has not handed in a report and is not open to dialogue, which prevents the supervisory system from functioning correctly, as regards standards.
Because of a lack of time the Committee accepted that it would not discuss the case of Qatar in connection with Convention No. 111 at this session, but the Workers’ group will come back to this, no doubt, if necessary.
Our Committee, furthermore, was unable to deal with all the cases worthy of consideration because the time to do so was simply not available.
The choice of priority cases, because of the need for tripartite discussion, is always a very difficult exercise, given the large number of problems with application in all regions of the world, on the one hand, and time constraints faced by the Committee for the examination of individual cases, on the other. You will find the explanations concerning the criteria used in order to make this difficult choice in paragraphs 8 and 9 of the report.
I should also like to draw your attention to paragraph 10 of the report, which takes up eight cases that we were not able to discuss in our Committee this year for a variety of reasons, and because a choice had to be made. However, the Workers’ group requests the Committee of Experts to look at the difficulties concerning application in order to enable us to come back to these cases when the time is right, if real progress is not made. These are the eight following cases:
First of all, Cameroon, in regard to the Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise Convention, 1948 (No. 87). We discussed this case in our Committee last year; the conclusion of the Committee was couched in very strong terms in a special paragraph. We shall come back, no doubt, to this case of non-compliance, if the Government continues to refuse to take the necessary measures in order to bring its legislation into line with Convention No. 87.
The second case to which we wish to return is the application of Convention No. 87 in Cuba. Violations of freedom of association, in the form of the refusal to recognize trade union organizations, have been observed by the Committee on Freedom of Association in three cases since 1996. We note that the Committee of Experts has asked for a detailed report for 2001. We are awaiting this report, as well as the observations of the experts, with interest, and we shall come back to this case if real progress is not made.
The application of the Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining Convention, 1949 (No. 98), for Indonesia, was another case on which the Workers’ group would have liked to have had a dialogue with the Government. The points that we consider to be particularly disturbing are acts of trade union discrimination, military intervention in the case of social conflict, and anti-subversive legislation. The Workers’ group welcomes the fact that Indonesia has ratified all the core Conventions. Nevertheless, we insist upon the fact that the Government should not stop at mere ratification, but also that it should apply all the ILO Conventions it has ratified.
A fourth case concerns Japan in regard to Convention No. 29. Discussions on this case were very difficult. A large majority of the Workers’ group considered that this case should be taken up again in our Committee. However, some acknowledged that efforts had been made to remedy the situation. We were not able to reach a consensus with the Employers on this case, and we regret this. Nevertheless, we remain very vigilant concerning this case, and shall no doubt come back to it, requesting the necessary measures to remedy the situation satisfactorily, if such measures are not taken.
We should also have wished to have had a discussion with the Government of Kenya concerning Convention No. 98, in particular in connection with the right to collective bargaining of those in the public service, and the registration of civil servants’ organizations, which was refused in 1990, as well as the refusal to register other trade union organizations.
The sixth case that we wish to mention here is Mauritania, in regard to Convention No. 29. In Mauritania, practices of slavery and forced labour continue to exist. Furthermore, the Government has not sent a report concerning the implementation of Convention No. 29. The Workers’ group insists that the Government inform the Committee of Experts on the measures taken to improve the situation and come back to this case if genuine progress is not made.
The case of the application of the Abolition of Forced Labour Convention, 1957 (No. 105), in Pakistan will also be followed closely by the Workers’ group. Forced labour continues in several sectors of the public service, where workers cannot resign or strike, as indeed it does in the merchant navy. Furthermore, there is a general problem concerning freedom of expression, which is punishable by imprisonment and can involve an obligation to work.
The last case to which we shall return if genuine progress is not made is that of Qatar in regard to Convention No. 111. This is, above all, a case of discrimination against women and foreigners in the areas of employment and occupation. This case should be examined in greater detail by the Committee of Experts.
My next point concerns the cases we discussed, that were considered so serious that the Committee decided to take them up in a special paragraph or even in a special report.
Special reports are something of a novelty in our Committee. The discussions on Burma (Myanmar) resulted in one. Unfortunately, there is a lengthy history to this subject in our Organization. This case has been taken up several times in a special paragraph; it has run the gamut of other bodies of the ILO. Missions were sent to the country, recourse was had to procedures under article 33 of the Constitution for the first time, and the case came back before the Conference Committee on the Application of Standards following a decision of the Conference at its previous session.
Practices of forced labour persist in various forms in all regions throughout the country. A large part of the Burmese population suffers from this situation. The consequences for social and economic life are disastrous. Debates on this case were extremely interesting and the results are relatively satisfactory: The Committee defined several additional conditions for the high-level mission which will be going to Burma (Myanmar) in the autumn. The Government stated its readiness and goodwill and the time has now come for this to be reflected in specific measures.
The cases taken up in a special paragraph are contained in paragraphs 230-237 of the report.
This year, six cases are dealt with in special paragraphs: five cases concerning Convention No. 87 and freedom of association, Belarus, Colombia, Ethiopia, Burma (Myanmar) and Venezuela, and one case concerning Convention No. 29 and forced labour, Sudan.
In the case of Belarus, we had to note the ongoing obstinacy of the Government in recognizing the various direct forms of interference in trade union activities.
With regard to Colombia, we had a very heated debate as a follow-up to years of perseverance on the part of Colombian workers to cope with a situation of violence and flagrant violations of the most basic human rights.
This year, the request before the Governing Body concerning the commission of inquiry came before the Committee, and consensus was reached on opening up spaces for dialogue and the need for reconciliation in order to put an end to the violence and the impunity of the perpetrators of crime against trade unions and, more broadly, against economic and social players.
In our conclusions, which were taken up in a special paragraph to emphasize their importance, we advocated respect for trade union activities, it being understood that this included the right to strike, in order to implement a process of social dialogue, greater protection against violence towards trade unionists against the kidnapping of economic and social players, and measures against impunity. We advocated in favour of an adequate mechanism to support the objectives we have agreed upon with our request for a commission of inquiry.
Finally, I should like to speak about Sudan. While acknowledging the situation of political instability, we cannot accept that once again this year we have been confronted with the same speeches, the same explanations and the same excuses which are, ultimately, the same refusal to cooperate.
Once again we have had to resort to a special paragraph and we have given our conclusions in the strongest terms. Given the current impasse, we ask the Director-General to take initiatives vis-à-vis the Government in order to check whether there is any real political will, and to see whether there is any possibility of progress between now and the next session.
As regards Conventions Nos. 87 and 98, two core Conventions concerning freedom of association and the right to organize and collective bargaining, discussions were often difficult, similar to previous years, particularly the right to strike.
The right to strike for workers is an essential element of Convention No. 87. It is an indispensable part of freedom of association and the right to organize. Some of the difficulties in the discussion were caused by different interpretations of the Conventions by the Employers’ group and the Workers’ group.
It was confirmed that an in-depth study was required with regard to certain aspects of Conventions Nos. 87 and 98 in order to enable us to continue with a dialogue in a more serene atmosphere, without undermining part of the standards-related activities of the ILO.
By way of conclusion, I should like to express my thanks to certain persons. First of all, I should like to thank Mr. Sappia, the Chairperson of our Committee, for the way in which he guided our work. He led us in discussions which were often tricky and wherein we sometimes had the impression that it would not be possible to reach a unanimous conclusion. He showed remarkable patience, even in difficult situations. Furthermore, his sense of humour was greatly appreciated by all.
Our thanks also go to our Reporter, Ms. Wiklund, Government member of Sweden. We thank the Chairperson of the Committee of Experts, Sir William Douglas, for having attended the discussions of the General Report and the General Survey.
I should also like to thank Mr. Javillier, the new Director of the International Labour Standards Department, and the heads of departments and their teams, for the wonderful effort they have made to come up with the conclusions that were welcomed by the Committee.
The Workers’ group also expresses its thanks to Mr. Wisskirchen, the spokesperson for the Employers, for his spirit of cooperation and dialogue, and Mr. Potter, who played an equally active role.
Last but not least, I should like to thank the members of the Workers’ group for their much appreciated cooperation and their pertinent statements. I would like to thank the Officers of our group, Mr. Ahmad, Ms Yacob, Mr. Sibanda and Mr. Crivelli and other colleagues, who presented cases and prepared the statements with us.
We thank ACTRAV and Ms. Monique Cloutier. Our thanks also go to the ICFTU for its cooperation in this field and the WCL of course. Our work was unanimously adopted by the Committee and I should like to ask the Conference to do the same.
Original Russian: Ms. KOLOS (Government delegate, Belarus) — The delegation of the Republic of Belarus regrets that the discussion of the case of Belarus reflected a lack of understanding of the measures taken by the Government to improve the situation and due account was not taken of the fact that this case was being considered by the Committee of the Conference for the first time and the comments of the Committee of Experts on the issues under discussion only reached our country in March of this year.
Taking into account the recommendations of the Committee of Experts, the Government managed, even in this short space of time, to prepare amendments to legislation on the most urgent issues concerning trade union activities. The Government provided the Committee of the Conference with detailed information on this.
The time period of two months given to the Government to implement changes to legislation was extremely short.
We also find it regrettable that no notice was taken of positive trends in the development of social dialogue in Belarus. An excellent example of these positive trends is the signing in May of this year of a General Agreement between the Government, employers’ associations and trade unions for the years 2001 to 2003.
The situation of post-Soviet States such as Belarus is unique, and so the approaches of other countries to the development of trade union legislation cannot, in our opinion, be automatically applied to our own legislative system.
Therefore, we sincerely expected that the discussion of Belarus in the Committee would be objective and would include an expert assessment of the legislative amendments that we have prepared and that joint tripartite discussions would enable us to find the best ways of resolving the legislative problems which need to work on.
However, the Government will continue its work to improve the national legislation drawing on the experience made available to it through the International Labour Organization.
Original Spanish: Mr. HANDS (Government adviser, Venezuela) — I refer to the specific case of my country, Venezuela. The Venezuelan Government wishes to emphasize that its acceptance of the contacts mission was related to technical cooperation and that the mission can provide technical assistance to our tripartite institutions in order to enhance trade union freedom and democracy in accordance with the provisions of our Constitution.
Venezuela has complied with the Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise Convention, 1948 (No. 87), and it is our Government’s wish that the given international standard, which is now enshrined in our Constitution, continue to be applied in a manner appropriate to the Venezuelan context and in accordance with its pure spirit, intention and motive.
This is why we agreed to a direct contacts mission to our country in accordance with the procedures laid down in the handbook on the Application of International Labour Standards. In this way we can sense some of the difficulties raised by the Venezuelan Workers’ Confederation in relation to Case No. 2067, which has been examined by the Committee on Freedom of Association. We invite you to refer to the handbook, paragraph 86.
The Venezuelan Government also wishes to indicate that, during the afternoon session of the Committee on 13 June 2001 (pages 12-18 of the Provisional Record), the Government delegate accepted the proposal by the Workers’ group to the effect that technical assistance should be accepted, and that the direct contacts mission should prepare, specifically, recommendations. The Committee has replaced the previous term “recommendations”, by the very restrictive term “amendments”, which is certainly not what our Government envisaged.
The same situation occurred with the draft report of the Committee in paragraph 236, in which a conclusion was approved by the Committee acting alone, without the Government’s consent. The Government takes this opportunity to reiterate its willingness to receive a direct contacts mission and agrees on the steps to be taken. We are totally open to dialogue within the framework of assistance and technical cooperation, as I have said.
We request that this position be included very clearly in the record of this session.
Mr. AHMAD (Workers’ delegate, Pakistan) — In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate! On behalf of the Workers’ delegation of Pakistan and myself, I should like to convey my deep appreciation and gratitude to this Committee for presenting this comprehensive report on the application of the ILO Conventions and Recommendations.
Before this august assembly, we welcome the positive conclusion of this report, and we also highly value the work of the ILO Director-General and his able team of experts, led by Professor Javillier, as well as the contribution from the Government group, the Employers’ group and, in particular, the Workers’ group, led by Mr. Cortebeeck. We are grateful to Ms. Wiklund, Government member of Sweden and Reporter of the Committee, which was chaired by the ebullient Mr. Sappia, representative of the Government of Argentina, and we appreciate the assistance of all our other distinguished colleagues.
The ILO is regarded as the world “Parliament of labour”, not only with respect to the formulation of new ILO standards for improving the quality of life of workers and promoting and discerning their fundamental rights, but also as regards the social conscience of the world and the promotion of universal peace, based upon social justice achieved through the elimination of inequities in the world of work against men, women and children, against young and old, against workers employed outside their own country.
That is why this Committee is seen as the heart of the Conference, promoting and strengthening the ideals and objectives of the ILO.
This year’s report outlined the condition of workers’ fundamental rights and core labour standards in the various member States. The ILO Committee on Freedom of Association is also celebrating its 50th anniversary. We highly commend their work. At the beginning of the twenty-first century, there are still flagrant violations of basic workers’ rights being committed in various parts of the world, with regard to freedom of association, forced labour, discrimination in employment, and child labour, as has been pointed out by other distinguished speakers, including our distinguished spokesperson.
Innocent trade unionists in various parts of the world are being victimized and even murdered, as can be seen in the case of Colombia. Similarly, the incidence of forced labour in the form of bonded labour, child labour, prison labour and migrant workers, and illegal trafficking of women and children, is also prevalent in many parts of the world. That is why the Government of Burma (Myanmar) has been specially asked to appear in the special sitting. Forced labour is a continuing evil, and we abhor these violations of the fundamental rights of workers.
The Committee also discussed the situation of employment in the member States, globalization of the economy, the role of the Bretton Woods institutions, such as the IMF and the World Bank, and the need for a social dimension in globalization. Attention was also given to the effective role of the ILO in influencing these institutions in the shaping of their policies for eradicating poverty, respecting the objective of decent work, and observing the fundamental ILO Employment Policy Convention, 1964 (No. 122), particularly in connection with the effects of privatization, in many developing countries, including my own, where poverty and redundancies in the labour force have been increasing.
The Committee stressed the need to develop technical assistance programmes for building infrastructure in the member States, particularly the Third World countries, and involve the social partners in the work of our Organization to raise awareness, devise education and training programmes, and publish ILO basic standards and relevant subject matter in the national language of the country concerned.
In its conclusion, the Committee also urged my country, Pakistan, to remove the contradiction between laws and practice vis-à-vis the Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise Convention, 1948 (No. 87), in the area of banking, railways and airlines, and in connection with the largest public utility. The undermining of fundamental trade union rights runs counter to the international obligations undertaken by the Government in ratifying the core labour Conventions Nos. 87 and 98 (the Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining Convention, 1949 (No. 98)).
We do not agree with the assertion made by the Employers’ spokesperson on the subject of prison labour, the right to strike and social security benefits in employment policy, since the recommendations made by the Committee of Experts are fully in line with the Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29), and we fully support them.
The assertions made by the distinguished representatives of the Governments of Belarus and Venezuela on the subject are not up to the mark, in my opinion. We think the Committee has reached its conclusions with regard to these countries because of the possibility of violation of fundamental trade union rights in the area of freedom of association. We look forward to those countries redressing the situation by taking early action.
We fully support the conclusion of the report and call for its adoption and publication by this august assembly. We also fully appreciate the work done by the distinguished members of the Committee and by our representative. I should also like to convey my deep appreciation to the President, who has ably led the Conference to a positive conclusion. We hope that all the distinguished delegates who have contributed to this work, even working until late at night and at weekends, will return to their respective countries secure in the knowledge that they are building a better future for the working man and woman, and we wish them a safe journey.
Mr. STEYNE (Workers’ adviser and substitute delegate, United Kingdom) — I apologize for taking the floor, particularly at this late hour. I had not intended to intervene in today’s debate at all though I do wish to support the comments both of Brothers Cortebeeck and Ahmad and to thank all the Officers and staff of the Committee, and of the Workers’ group and, in particular, Mr. Sappia for his kind and generous chairing.
I have asked for the floor to apprise delegates of an urgent matter which we raised in the Committee, and which relates to the application of the Minimum Age Convention, 1973 (No. 138).
Many colleagues present today took part in the development, adoption and, marvellously, in 82 member States already, the ratification of the Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999 (No. 182).
In 1973, the constituents adopted the Minimum Age Convention, 1973 (No. 138), now ratified by 109 member States. Those which have ratified Convention No. 182 have treaty obligations to eliminate the worst forms of child labour as part of the struggle against all child labour.
Convention No. 182 explicitly states that it is complementary to Convention No. 138, it does not replace it, and Convention No. 138 itself imposes treaty obligations on ratifying Members to set a minimum age for entry into employment.
The principles of both these Conventions are embodied in the 1998 ILO Declaration, a constitutional instrument which places clear obligations on all member States to pursue the effective elimination of child labour.
The Government colleagues who contributed to the development of those Conventions will have come mainly from labour ministries and from missions in Geneva. In working on those Conventions, they will have developed, I am sure, considerable understanding of the problem of child labour, and the challenge we all face in addressing it.
So, I regret to have to inform the Conference that delegates of the Governments of several member States, currently in New York attending the Preparatory Committee for the United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on Children and, one assumes, from other ministries less conversant with our work in this house, are pressing for language in the UNGASS text which would be in direct contradiction to their obligations to promote the effective elimination of child labour and would undermine the world’s normative framework on the question, namely ILO Conventions Nos. 138 and 182.
The ILO has been emphasizing that the Outcome Document of UNGASS, which will set an international framework for action on behalf of children in the coming years, needs to place at the top of the agenda the fight against child labour, with its worst forms as a priority, and countries’ growing commitments to establish comprehensive time-bound programmes for its elimination.
However, the third revised draft Outcome Document refers to improving the living and working conditions of children who work.
To commit to improving the working conditions of children who work could send out the wrong message that, if working conditions are improved, there is no need to eliminate child labour. That would amount to challenging the internationally agreed goal of the elimination of child labour.
Children who work, or working children, comprise several categories — children in the worst forms of child labour, children who are in child labour contrary to accepted international standards other than the worst forms, and children whose work is not contrary to accepted international standards, that is, those who have reached the applicable minimum age, those who carry out work as a part of genuine vocation or vocational training and those whose work is permitted by other exceptions in the two Conventions.
The improvement of working conditions should be promoted as a goal only, I repeat only, in relation to this third category because other children should not be at work.
We have no objection at all to the language promoting quality education, or to the social and economic policies aimed at poverty reduction to provide the families of working children with employment- and income-generating opportunities, that is, to help them gain decent work.
These are measures which both the ILO and the international trade union movement should support as part of the struggle to arrive at the effective elimination of child labour.
After years of work to put in place real commitments, to get all the 250 million child labourers in the world out of work and into school, some governments seem bent on turning back the clock. We are told by our trade union colleagues in New York that, outrageously, these governments have insisted that expert ILO officials be excluded from the informal meetings negotiating the text.
The global community cannot betray the trust that the world’s children have placed in us by simply accepting that real and effective action can be replaced by so-called measures that history has shown will never work.
When we adopted Convention No. 182 there was much talk of political will and of a great global social alliance to eliminate child labour. Where is that will now? This is a plea for joined up government and joined up international governance. I call on all Government delegates present to take action today, and it must be today because of the state of negotiations in New York, to ensure that their representatives there are made to understand the obligations they have as ILO Members.
I remind member States which have ratified Conventions Nos. 138 and 182 of their solemn treaty obligations. I urge you to ensure that your delegations in New York do not destroy the great work we have done together here, in this house, but instead are given clear instructions to support both the ILO Declaration and the ILO’s normative framework on child labour by including in the UNGASS text a clear reference to the ILO Declaration and to Conventions Nos. 182 and 138 and the fundamental issue of a minimum age for entry into employment.
Remember the children of the Global March who galvanized our will to act in 1998 and 1999. We beg you, do not forget them and do not betray them.
Mr. THAN (Government delegate, Myanmar) — Allow me to begin by expressing my deep appreciation for the skilful and effective manner in which the President conducted the proceedings of this Conference. I am confident that under her able leadership, the 89th Session of the International Labour Conference will come to a successful conclusion.
The report of the Committee on the Application of Standards contained in document Provisional Record No. 19, Part three, is before the plenary of the Conference. The report of the Committee on the Application of Standards reflects the discussions held by the Committee on 11 June 2001.
On the whole, the discussions in the Committee on the question of Myanmar were positive. We would like to express the profound gratitude of the Myanmar delegation to the member States of Asia and the Pacific region for their important joint statements, respectively, which welcomed and supported the steps taken by the Myanmar Government and the agreement between the Myanmar Government and the ILO on the modalities of an ILO objective assessment.
We are also highly appreciative of the supportive comments made by individual delegations and delegates.
The agreement between the Myanmar Government and the ILO on the modalities of an ILO objective assessment is a breakthrough. We believe that it will constitute an important major step towards resolving the issue.
The Myanmar Government, for its part, is willing to cooperate with a high-level team and facilitate its work when it comes to Myanmar on an objective assessment mission in September this year.
We believe that all parties concerned wish to ensure the success of the objective assessment mission of the high-level team, within the parameters of the agreed modalities. In this context, I would like to emphasize the importance of the conclusions of the ILO Committee of Experts.
The Committee of Experts, in paragraph 7 of its report, concludes, and I quote, “Order No. 1/99 as supplemented by the Order of 27 October 2000 could provide a statutory basis for ensuring compliance with the Convention in practice, if given effect bona fide not only by the local authorities empowered to requisition labour under the Village and Towns Acts, but also by civilian and military officers entitled to call on the assistance of local authorities under the Acts.”
This conclusion of the Committee of Experts is recognized by all of the ILO’s constituents as the most credible and authoritative objective assessment. I therefore commend the interpretative declaration of the Chairperson, following his summing up, as reflected in the report of the Committee on the Application of Standards, which is contained in document Provisional Record No. 19, Part three.
We believe that if the bodies concerned implement the objective assessment in good faith, in all sincerity, without any politicization, within the parameters of the agreed modalities, we will have a successful mission.
In this spirit, let us do our utmost to ensure that this process will advance surely and speedily and soon lead to the resolution of the issue.
Original Russian: Mr. PIROGOV (Government delegate, Russian Federation) — The Government of the Russian Federation considers unfounded the inclusion in the report of the Committee on the Application of Standards of a separate paragraph on the situation of trade unions in Belarus.
The situation does obviously not require this. The decision taken does not take into account the positive trends in the development of the situation and the serious measures, taking into account ILO Recommendations, which have been undertaken by the Government of Belarus over a very short period of time since the first discussion of this issue at the end of March 1997.
I would be grateful if this position could be reflected in the documents of the Conference.
The PRESIDENT — We shall now move on to the adoption of the report of the Committee on the Application of Standards. If there are no objections, may I take it that the report is adopted as a whole?
(The report is adopted as a whole.)
We would like to offer our warm thanks to the Officers and members of the Committee, as well as the staff of the secretariat who accomplished an extraordinary task within the restricted time limits.
Updated by HK. Approved by RH. Last update: 25 June 2001.