Report of the Committee on the Application of Standards
Observations and information concerning particular countries
Special sitting (contd.)
Submission, discussion and adoption
Original French: The PRESIDENT — Let us now proceed to the examination of the report of the Committee on the Application of Standards, which is contained in Provisional Record No. 28, Parts 1-3. [First part, second part, third part (contd.)]
I give the floor to Mr. Paixão Pardo (Government, Brazil), the Reporter of the Committee, to submit the report.
Original Portuguese: Mr. PAIXÃO PARDO (Government adviser and substitute delegate, Brazil; Reporter of the Committee on the Application of Standards) — This year Brazil was honoured to be appointed Reporter for the Conference Committee on the Application of Standards. This is a standing committee, appointed each year to examine, in accordance with article 7 of the Standing Orders of the International Labour Conference, item 3 on the agenda of the Conference entitled “information and reports on the application of Conventions and Recommendations”.
I am not going to give a summary of these discussions. I am just going to touch upon the salient points of what you will find in the report. The Committee on the Application of Standards is an essential component in the regular supervisory system established by the International Labour Organization to guarantee that the standards adopted by the Conference are fully applied. It is also an important source of information and experience for discussions on the extensive reform of standards currently being undertaken by the Governing Body. I would therefore recommend that delegates should read this report with all due attention.
They will note that the report this year is in three parts: Part One is the general report of the Committee, Part Two is a record of all the individual cases examined by the Committee, and Part Three, the last part, is the record of a special sitting on observance by Myanmar of the Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29).
The report of the Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations, an institution of recognized independence, objectivity and impartiality, once again constituted the basis for our work.
Maintaining a recently established tradition, during the first few days of its work the Committee was honoured to receive Ms. Robyn Layton, recently elected to chair the Committee of Experts. Her presence was a clear sign of the mutual respect, cooperation and responsibility that exists between the two Committees, which play roles that complement each other, making it possible to maintain a productive discussion on the interaction between the two Committees.
The Committee began its discussions with a review of general questions relating to international labour standards, namely issues which concern governments, employers and workers, both in respect of supervisory procedures, such as those of the ILO, and of general standards policy, which includes the drafting and revision of those standards. This year the general discussion was shorter than it is usually, which surprised the Committee but, at the same time, it allowed time for an informal discussion on the Committee’s working methods, which I would like to touch on in a few minutes.
During the second phase of the general discussion the Committee considered the General Survey by the Committee of Experts on the application of the Dock Work Convention (No. 137), and Recommendation (No. 145), 1973, concerning the social repercussions of new methods of cargo handling in ports. According to usual practice, the report consisted of a summary of information sent in by governments that have ratified the Convention as well as by those that have not yet ratified it, together with a certain number of comments from employers’ and workers’ organizations. The study was analysed following a request by the Governing Body for more information on difficulties encountered by member States in ratifying and implementing the Convention. The Committee discussion showed that there were divergent opinions as to the current validity of the issues raised. The Worker and Government members who referred to the subject considered these standards to still be valid.
The essential function of the Committee is to examine individual cases concerning the application of ratified Conventions Committee discussions are to invite governments to respect the obligations established under the Constitution of the ILO and to apply fully, in law and in practice, those Conventions they have freely ratified. In the Committee we participated in frank, critical tripartite dialogue — constructive nevertheless — the only ultimate objective being to help member States to progress in the application of their obligations relating to international labour standards.
We began with a half-day discussion of automatic cases. These are cases where governments have had difficulties in complying with their obligations under the Constitution, including the failure to submit recently adopted Conventions and Recommendations to the competent authorities within the fixed deadlines. These cases are discussed automatically because without the necessary information and without reports the ILO supervisory machinery simply cannot work.
The Committee this year invited 23 governments, apart from the special sitting on Myanmar, to discuss their legislation and practice in respect of specific ratified Convention, so as to find solutions to the problems and difficulties identified by the Committee of Experts. Twenty-two of the governments accepted the Committee’s invitation. The Committee regretted that Belarus, recently elected to the Governing Body, did not respond to the Committee’s invitation.
Many discussions led to requests from governments, or acceptances by them, for ILO technical assistance. Most governments which discussed their cases with the Committee committed themselves to renewing their efforts to bring their legislation into line with those standards they have ratified.
Most of the cases involved fundamental questions of freedom of association and collective bargaining, the elimination of child labour, forced labour and discrimination. Other cases related to employment policy, labour inspection, protection of wages and social security. The details of these discussions can be found in Part II of the report.
Nevertheless, the Committee considered it necessary to include in special paragraphs of its report cases relating to: Ethiopia on the Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise Convention, 1948 (No. 87) (paragraph 174), Sudan on the Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29) (paragraph 175), and Venezuela on the Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise Convention, 1948 (No. 87) (paragraph 176). These paragraphs demonstrate the profound concern of the Committee and its hope for ongoing and open dialogue between the Committee and the countries mentioned.
I would not like you to think that our discussions dealt only with serious problems, although they did occupy most of our time. We also noted cases of progress as well as the conviction of Members that the proper functioning of the supervisory machinery is of prime importance for the ILO. In this regard, the Committee asks the ILO to carry out a wide series of consultations and as its next session to submit a report for examination by the committee proposing a number of different options to improve its working methods.
Original German: Mr. WISSKIRCHEN (Employers’ adviser and substitute delegate, Germany; Employer Vice-Chairperson of the Committee on the Application of Standards) — We commend the report of our Conference Committee to you for consideration. This is the 75th year that the Committee has drawn up this report in accordance with article 7 of the Standing Orders.
Our Reporter has already referred to and explained parts of this report. An important but not exclusive basis for the work of our Committee is the report by the Committee of Experts. The Committee of Experts is also celebrating its 75th anniversary this year.
In many paragraphs in its report, the Committee of Experts describes highlights of its own history, and this has been referred to a number of times in the discussion. We, the Employers, thought it would be appropriate for the Conference Committee to consider its history, too, which we did in the presence of the new Chairperson of the Committee of Experts, Ms. Robyn Layton. Ms. Layton, I am glad to say, was kind enough to accept our invitation to be present during the general discussion.
Looking at the history of the Conference Committee, we noted that it goes back to Article 408 of the 1919 Versailles Treaty, from which the ILO emerged. Both the Committee on the Application of Standards and the Committee of Experts were created by the Eighth Session of the International Labour Conference in 1926.
The Committee of Experts was initially set up for a trial period of one to three years. It was the Conference Committee that first advocated an extension of the mandate of the Committee of Experts.
The numerous founding documents all stipulate that the Committee of Experts should have a technical, legal function but should in no case act as a sort of court. Above all, it was given no authority to interpret Conventions. According to mandate, “The functions of the Committee would be entirely technical and in no sense judicial.”
The experts’ independent and objective draft of the report was not supposed to relieve the Conference of its supervisory role. Rather, it was meant to be the first step of the supervisory process. Hence, the experts are still called upon to make comments on the reports by member States.
Their initial attempt to have paragraphs headed with the word “criticisms” was changed by the Governing Body to “comments” as early as 1928.
The purpose and the principles of the Committee have remained the same until this very day, as the Committee of Experts has repeatedly emphasized itself. The same is true for the mandate of our Conference Committee, which is precisely described in article 7 of the Standing Orders.
However, the functions of both committees have expanded from time to time. For example, on the initiative of the Conference Committee, article 19, paragraph 5(e), was inserted into the Constitution in 1946. As you know, this provision is the basis for drawing up the General Surveys.
The Committee of Experts’ mandate does not extend to recommending — or even strongly advising — member States to ratify Conventions, however. The Committee of Experts is therefore not an all-purpose instrument.
In its 75-year history, the Conference Committee has not remained untouched by important developments outside the ILO. During the great global tensions of the Cold War, there were also major disagreements within the Conference Committee. But in the final stages of these global disputes, the Committee was able to make a small contribution to many countries’ transition to democracy and political pluralism.
As regards the relationship between the Conference Committee and the Committee of Experts, we agree with the assertion in paragraph 15 of the experts’ report that the two bodies, particularly in recent years, have built a relationship based on a solid cooperation and that each one depends on the other’s work.
Indeed, 12 years ago a crisis was overcome very quickly. It was not caused by the fact that the Committee of Experts interprets the law to a certain extent since it is impossible to determine whether a State is meeting its international obligations according to ILO standards without applying a legal yardstick.
The bone of contention in 1990 was simply whether these unavoidable interpretations were binding, as the Committee of Experts initially claimed. The Committee of Experts quite rightly corrected its opinion on this point in the report the following year, namely 1991. The consensus that was reached then, which has not been questioned since, means there are no more obstacles to further fruitful cooperation between the Conference Committee and the Committee of Experts.
The principles of objectivity, impartiality and independence, to which the experts lay claim each year, were not always observed during the East-West conflict. A small number of members frequently issued “dissenting opinions” on some basic issues in important Conventions.
The trauma left by this period may have led to the almost apodictic and dogmatic wording of paragraph 103 of their report, which says: “Decisions on comments shall be adopted by consensus.” A permanent consensus is extremely unusual among 20 jurists. But a consensus should result from the way the Committee has chosen to operate. Each expert, together with a technical adviser from the Office, is solely responsible for the first “draft findings”. The Committee as a whole then approves the results submitted by all of its members. This procedure regularly — and virtually automatically — leads to unanimity throughout the entire report.
We are pleased that there is now a broad consensus on the need to critically examine — and perhaps even overhaul — the entire system of standards. Furthermore, future measures by the ILO should be considered only after careful examination using all instruments. There must be clear principles, advantages for all sides, and a consensus. The fact that less than half of all the Conventions passed are still considered up to date means that in the future we must proceed with the utmost caution.
The Committee on Freedom of Association is also 50 years old this year. This Committee was originally envisaged as an auxiliary body to the Fact-finding and Conciliation Commission. The primary purpose of both bodies is to clarify facts relative to freedom of association and to try to find solutions and agreement. In this regard, the Committee on Freedom of Association has performed valuable services.
Developing an entire code on labour litigation based on the many individual Recommendations is not among its tasks.
As has frequently been said in the Conference Committee and here in the plenary, neither the Committee on Freedom of Association nor the Committee of Experts has a viable basis for this.
The history of the ILO’s supervisory system, which I have roughly outlined, can also be described as a constant struggle to keep on top of a flood of information and paper, and also as a struggle with the overwork that results. The Conference Committee’s manner of working is also affected by this problem. Consequently, at the beginning of our work we discussed a few ideas that could at least lead to a technical improvement — simplifying the daily records, for instance. Unfortunately, however, there was not even a consensus on that. These problems of overwork have existed for years. We meet every day, including Saturday, in the morning and the afternoon. Usually, this has not been enough, so we have regularly had to have long night meetings as well. Late at night, there are only a few delegates left from each of the three groups in the room. Those present have regularly had eight or ten hours of meetings behind them, including various meetings in their various groups. These are hardly ideal prerequisites for serious work on a responsible matter.
Since the final list of individual cases to be considered can only be decided in the Conference, preparations for the discussions have to be made on a day-to-day basis and virtually only at night. The overall situation is not really acceptable, and it damages the reputation of the supervisory system, which is quite rightly praised highly. Probably no-one would hesitate to say that the Committee of Experts frequently adopts its comments with only 5 or 10 per cent of its members present. And so the Employers’ group has demanded that the number of individual cases be reduced to a realistic number so that they can be handled with the necessary care in the short time available.
To further ensure that the manner of work is more reasonable, we have asked for and received approval from the Committee that we shall not extend the Committee’s daily deliberations beyond 8 p.m. — or beyond 1 p.m. on Saturdays. We were able to adhere to this procedure to a degree.
Drawing up the list of the individual cases to be considered is at least as important as the Committee’s manner of work. For a long time now, many questions have been asked about this and many demands have been made. Particularly at issue are the criteria according to which the list is drawn up. The Workers, who always submit an initial draft, have named a number of criteria, many of which seem reasonable. But the problem is that ten, 20 or 30 different lists could be drawn up using exactly the same criteria. This shows that the criteria named are in fact random and ostensible. So to temporarily improve the situation, we have named three auxiliary criteria.
Firstly, there should not be constant repetitions whereby the same country keeps cropping up on our list each year of after short intervals. If it does, serious reasons must be given, and they must be convincingly argued.
Secondly, a numerical limit is necessary and would be simpler. The Employers, therefore, do not want future lists to exceed 20 cases. Years and decades of experience argue in favour of this.
Thirdly, as a first emergency criterion, which we have already practised this year, the limitation on daily working hours has been introduced, and this is something that we have to maintain next year.
The experts’ annual comments on the promotional Convention, the Employment Policy Convention, 1964 (No. 122), are always of interest. As this is a Convention that is intended to encourage, no specific methods can be demanded from the member States. Generally speaking the experts recommend an active labour market policy. In this respect a great deal is possible in the wider context which individually can have positive but sometimes also counterproductive effects. We believe in targeted incentives for taking up job offers instead of social benefits, so as to achieve the broadest possible spread.
We would also stress the importance of education and training. This subject that could become the social issue of the century. Rigid concepts of working hours have proved to be damaging to the labour market and in our view this also applies to sweeping reductions in working hours for everyone. Behind this idea is the planned-economy belief that there is only a fixed volume of work which just has to be correctly distributed. In reality, we need a high degree of flexibility in all issues connected with working hours. With the exception of upper limits for essential health reasons, we feel that rigid regulations on working hours are damaging. They are of no help either to the enterprise or to the workers.
For years we have seen in the Committee of Experts’ report that the experts carefully note the Conference Committee’s advice as a whole and also in relation to individual issues. We hope therefore that the experts also will include the following suggestions in their considerations. Sometimes in the Committee of Experts’ report there are extensive presentations of one-sided allegations on which the government concerned has been unable to express a position. This inevitably leads to an imbalanced presentation. These one-sided allegations are something that you remember, although in some cases they may be totally unjustified. In the same connection I would name another example. The Committee of Experts report contains many details of a possible violation of a Convention. These allegations go into great detail but in the final analysis the experts say that the Convention is not even applicable in the area concerned and this is something that remains totally unchallenged in the Committee’s discussions. We have considerable doubts as to whether in a case like this, these one-sided allegations should be presented in such detail in the Committee of Expert’s report.
Last year the experts devoted roughly half of the general part of their report to the circumstances under which work by prisoners violated the Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29). Although according to the experts themselves were only a very small number of reports received from member States, they nevertheless drew up a very broad legal opinion on this subject.
We contradicted many of the points in it but only a few of our comments are taken up by the experts in their report and then only partially and selectively. On the whole, the experts adopt a general position within the context of the individual comments on Convention No. 29.
As was the case last year, the experts concentrate very much on the theoretical arguments discussed at the time the Convention was drafted. At that time it was still in dispute as to whether work by prisoners should be considered as an additional punishment and was therefore necessary or whether work by prisoners contributed to their social rehabilitation and later reintegration into society. For a long time now, this second concept of social rehabilitation and reintegration has been seen as the right one. This implies that we agree it is important and, in fact necessary, for prisoners to have meaningful work. However, it is a fact that the different member States cannot offer meaningful work in their penitentiaries, only private employers that can do this. However, they cannot provide working conditions to prisoners like those offered in a free market economy. Yet the experts consider this to be a precondition for authorized activity. This narrow interpretation of the Convention means that it is more and more difficult to provide sensible employment to prisoners. This reminds me of the wicked legal epithet “Fat justitia, pereat mundus” a free translation of which would be “let justice be done, though the world be destroyed.”
This year’s General Survey; in accordance with article 19 of the Constitution, goes into depth on Convention No. 137 and Recommendation No. 145 on dock work. In our view this instrument is out of date for various reasons. Work in docks has changed even more dramatically and quickly than work in many other fields. This includes, on the one hand, the technical side of dock work which is now entirely different to what it was 30 years ago and the economic conditions which have totally changed. In particular, international and sometimes even global competition has come into play. On the other hand, questions of social security, occupational safety and health, working hours, freedom of association and many other aspects are covered by the general standards of the International Labour Organization. Therefore, special regulations for dockworkers are no longer necessary. Convention No. 137 attempts to stop the total transformation that has been taking place since the 1960s in dock work, at least in the social field, and to prevent it from being applied. Examples are the provisions on registration of dock workers and maintaining an employment situation which is as stable as possible despite variations in the amount of work. Such regulations have little chance of success when faced with the reality that is developing, as is demonstrated by the small number of ratifications. Moreover, the possibilities for future ratification are not looking good. Employers see Convention No. 137 as having been overtaken by time and it must be changed quickly.
In the final chapters of the report by the Committee of Experts, we find figures and statistics on how member States are meeting their reporting obligations. There is a slight downward trend and we regret this, just as the experts do. The same tendency can also be seen with the so-called automatic cases, where there have been a large number of failures to report.
A total of 24 member States were invited to discuss their application of standards. They all came except Belarus, although that country is present here at the Conference. We cannot understand this behaviour.
Every year in the Committee of Experts’ report there are examples of progress which is very pleasing. If we accept this, we should not contradict the idea by trying to refer the same country to the same Convention in a special paragraph, as was proposed this year.
Although the details vary very considerably from case to case, we would not be discussing the various substance properly, if we did not characterize it using a few key words. I would therefore refer you to Part II of our report which contains detailed documentation on the individual cases discussed. It should be noted that, because of the seriousness of the cases concerned, we did deal with three member States in a special paragraph in the general part of our report. In the first week we had a special meeting on the case of Myanmar, in connection with forced labour.
These exhaustive discussions are reflected in Part III of our report together with some important documents on the case.
In conclusion, we would like once again to thank the Workers’ group and their spokesperson Mr. Cortebeeck for their excellent cooperation. We would also like to thank Professor Javillier, the Head of the International Standards Department and his whole team for their work, before and during the Conference. In Michel Thierry we also had a Chairperson who steered the Committee smoothly and efficiently in its proceedings. My concluding remarks are as usual directed to my colleagues in the Employers’ group whom I would like to thank for their confidence and their support. This is not so obvious if you think that I have been carrying out this function for 20 years without interruption. I would also particularly like to thank my friend, Ed Potter, for his unstinting support and I would also like to thank a young dynamic colleague, André Yuren, from the IOE. We commend the Committee’s report to all of you, in the hope that you give it your best attention.
Original French: Mr. CORTEBEECK (Worker’s delegate, Belgium; Worker Vice-Chairperson of the Committee on the Application of Standards) — It is an honour for me to address you as the spokesperson for the Workers’ group of the Committee on the Application of Standards, and as such to introduce to you the report of our Committee.
The report of our Committee shows that we once again had very interesting discussions both on the evolution of international standards in general and on the effective application of standards in law and practice.
As a supervisory body, the Committee on the Application of Standards functions according to working methods that differ from other Conference committees. The essential role of our Committee is to supervise the effective application in law and practice of International Labour Conventions by member States who have ratified them. We once again noted that this supervision is both necessary and essential to ensuring both a social framework for the global economy and the credibility of the ILO.
Social globalization, for which the ILO is the precursor, is for us the mandatory corollary of economic globalization. It is our Committee that ensures that such social globalization will be implemented with the appropriate instruments — tripartism on the one hand, and the universality of the ILO and its instruments on the other. The strong points of the ILO and its supervisory machinery are clearly the open, frank and democratic discussions that take place between the Workers’ and Employers’ groups and the Governments. If we were able to have this dialogue, it was basically thanks to the general report and the observations provided to the Committee by the Committee of Experts, which once again presented us with a very high quality report.
It is essential that there be good interaction and close cooperation between the Committee of Experts and the Committee on the Application of Standards of the Conference. While the roles of the two Committees are very different, their objectives are quite similar. The legal, technical and impartial analysis of the experts is supplemented by the positions and testimony of individuals who are close to the reality on the ground. The complementarity of the two Committees is, we are convinced, one of the essential reasons for the success of the ILO’s supervisory system.
We were thus very happy to accept the invitation to attend the special session of the Committee of Experts at the end of last November, which was held to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Committee of Experts. On that occasion the spokespersons for the Employers’ and Workers’ groups had the opportunity to share their concerns and expectations regarding the supervisory system in general, and the operation of the Committee of Experts and the Committee on the Application of Standards in particular. The attendance at our Committee of Ms. Robyn Layton, the Chairperson of the Committee of Experts, provides another example of the vast opportunities for dialogue which make it possible for us to meet and have an exchange of views on our common concerns.
One final preliminary remark, concerning the essential role played by the International Labour Standards Department. As you can see in paragraph 35 of the Committee’s report, the Workers’ group paid tribute to the department for the work done by its staff members, because of the quality of the research and studies they had done and also because of the notes and other preparation done for the Committee on the Application of Standards. However, the importance of this Department is apparently not recognized by everyone. For years now we have been told that the department’s budget has been cut, but the volume of work continues to increase.
As is the case each year, the first part of our work consisted in discussing the general report of the Committee of Experts. In this discussion various topics related to the evolution and application of international labour standards give rise to an exchange of views.
One point that we discussed, which certainly deserves to be mentioned here, concerns the working methods of our Committee. The points on the table are set out in paragraphs 28 and 29. While the working methods may at first glance appear to be less important, we know from our experience that they are absolutely essential. The workers have realized that it is very difficult for some of the Government representatives to limit their speaking time. The Workers’ and Employers’ groups, on the other hand, have made an effort to limit both the speaking time of their members and the number of members who take the floor, but that did not prevent problems arising at the end of the second week, and we very nearly were unable to cover all our cases. Consultations on the future functioning of the Committee on the Application of Standards have begun, and the Workers’ group insists that a proposal setting out an approach to this issue should be submitted to the next session of our Committee. The important point is that the supervisory machinery should continue to function properly and in satisfactory conditions for all those involved.
To turn to the first point of the general discussion that took place in our Committee, I would like to recall the anniversary of the Committee on Freedom of Association. The Committee on Freedom of Association has had and still has considerable importance and influence on the life and respect for the rights of many workers and trade unionists throughout the world. The observations and recommendations made by the Committee on cases submitted to it regarding various aspects of freedom of association are of tremendous importance for various ILO bodies, in particular for the Governing Body, the Committee of Experts and the Committee on the Application of Standards.
In our Committee we have often examined individual cases in which difficulties in the application of the Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise Convention, 1948 (No. 87), and the Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining Convention, 1949 (No. 98), were evoked. These discussions are often very difficult, but the reports from the Committee on Freedom of Association are very useful to us when the cases are considered.
The conclusions of the Committee on Freedom of Association are particularly useful to us when they address recognition of the right to strike. The Workers’ group will continue to make use of these conclusions in the debate. In our Committee, the debate on the right to strike unfortunately appears to be endless. We are quite convinced that the decisions taken by a tripartite committee after an in-depth study and years of experience are of great importance for the other ILO bodies as well.
One of the other important points that arose during the general debate concerned obligations and expectations of governments in respect of standards.
This relates especially to the submission of new ILO instruments after their adoption, the ratification of Conventions, and the preparation and sending of reports on the application of standards, and of course the specific application of Recommendations and Conventions of the ILO.
While we once again expressed our satisfaction with the large number of ratifications of the core Conventions in the wake of the promotion campaign as part of the follow-up to the 1998 Declaration, we also firmly opposed the position according to which the ILO should limit itself to promoting core standards or framework standards.
The ILO’s objective is to put in place universal international standards that apply to all workers in the world, in order to bring about social justice. However, social justice of this nature does not rest only on fundamental standards. There must also be machinery for the implementation and supervision of the application of these standards. We must ensure social protection through social security and occupational safety and health. In short, we must ensure the quality of work, and this cannot be done solely on the basis of the core Conventions.
As in previous years, part of the general discussion concerned the future of the ILO’s standard-setting policy. This topic has been on the agenda of the Governing Body for some years now, and the discussions in our Committee should be viewed as part of a broader discussion that concerns the International Labour Organization as a whole. That is why the Workers’ group did not go any further into that topic.
We had an exchange of views on the integrated approach. The Workers’ group recognized the importance of this new impetus that the ILO wishes to give to its standards-related activities, and we await with interest the first discussion which will take place in 2003 on occupational safety and health. It is our hope that this initiative and those that will follow will have a positive impact on the standards system of the ILO. It should also be clear that the Workers’ group attaches a great deal of importance to the “traditional” supervisory system of the ILO. We feel that the follow-up mechanism for international standards with its different stages, which we are all familiar with, is essential to ensuring the application of Conventions and Recommendations at country level. Moreover, during our discussions this year we confirmed our faith in the Committee on the Application of Standards. We remain convinced that this Committee has a central task to accomplish today, as was the case in the past and as will be the case in the future.
Another topic which was discussed was the application of the Employment Policy Convention, 1964 (No. 122). This crucial Convention is essential for a social framework which we feel is required for each economy. It plays, or can play, an essential role in a global approach to workers with special difficulties in finding a job or secure, permanent work with good working conditions and decent wages.
We stressed the importance of education and training. The Workers’ group insisted on the need for access to basic education for everyone everywhere so as to ensure that workers have a chance on the labour market, not just to maintain their current jobs, but also to move forward in their chosen professions.
Obviously, education has a much broader role than just to prepare human beings for employment. Education is also essential to the full development of children, and it plays a primordial role in the campaign against child labour. It is for that reason that the Workers’ group deplores the increasing commercialization of education. This is the fruit of liberal policies adopted by international organizations such as the WTO, the IMF and the World Bank.
The final point in the discussion of the general report to which I would especially like to draw your attention concerns night work for women.
It is covered in paragraph 75 of our report.
Last year the General Survey that we discussed covered the Night Work (Women) Convention, 1919 (No. 4), and the Night Work (Women) Convention, (Revised), 1948 (and Protocol, 1990). At that time the Workers’ group expressed and explained its preference for the Night Work Convention, 1990 (No. 171), which called for accompanying measures and rules to be respected in cases of night work involving all workers, both men and women. We had argued that we felt night work was harmful to everyone, and it was therefore preferable to have a global and coherent approach, all the while taking into account special situations such as those of pregnant women or women who have just given birth, and young workers, be they male or female.
While we urged ratification of Convention No. 171, which has only been ratified to date by six member States, we also asked that States not denounce the other ILO Conventions on night work for women until Convention No. 171 had been ratified. We must at all costs avoid a legal vacuum or, what would be worse, taking a step backward. Unfortunately, we have seen that many member States have denounced Conventions Nos. 4 and/or 89, but with only a very few exceptions they have not yet ratified Convention No. 171. We deplore this, and express our hope that this state of affairs will change.
The second part of the work of our Committee was devoted to a discussion of the General Survey, which this year concerned Conventions on dock work. You will find the details of this discussion contained in paragraphs 118 to 149 of the Committee’s report. While this General Survey deals with a sectoral topic, that does not mean that it concerns only dockworkers. We have confirmed the crucial role of ports and the importance of their proper operation, not just for the specific environment of dockworkers but also for the social and economic development of their entire regions and even of their countries. The management and operation of ports is becoming increasingly internationalized, which means that we must discuss this subject at a global level.
I would like to recall the two main objectives of the instruments, which are to afford protection to dockworkers in their careers through many kinds of measures governing access to their profession, and the development of an appropriate training policy to reconcile employment with the needs of the enterprise, in particular in the light of technological developments. The Workers’ group sees a great advantage in this, which is to avoid massive lay-offs.
The port sector has undergone enormous changes, which also means major changes in employment and the working conditions of dockworkers. Among other factors, this involves technological changes with new high-technology terminals, as well as new types of cooperation and partnerships, a reduction in the participation of public authorities and privatization. Naturally these changes have major social implications. We would like to point out several of them here. The introduction of new technologies brings with it a requirement for more highly skilled workers. The volume of physical work has been reduced, and with this a growing fear of loss of employment. Increasingly, working conditions are more flexible in respect of both working time and the types of tasks that are entrusted to the dockers.
The wave of deregulation and privatization has also had a considerable impact, which is clearly negative in terms of safety levels and wages. We also regret the fact that, in the General Survey, the way in which various governments have wanted to unravel the status of workers in the ports by using the arguments of free competition and liberalization of markets — which, they say, would be to the benefit of all, enterprises, users and workers — has not been made clear. This is the argument put to us when we ask that guarantees for workers be included in the discussion of a new European Union directive on the port package. We are opposed to this because we know that such measures will have a negative impact on workers with respect to their status, their employment, their safety and their health.
Regulations designed to liberalize ports have always resulted, for the most part, in a loss of employment. With a little luck — and here I am being sarcastic — the workers may be able to keep their jobs but under different conditions. Their employment becomes more precarious, i.e. they no longer have any employment security and the rules of health and safety become less important to employers. It is for all these reasons that the trade unions do not view favourably, or even oppose outright, the way in which liberalization and privatization are taking place in the port sector. We therefore stress the importance of the social dimension in this entire process.
The Workers’ group has reaffirmed its support for Convention No. 137 and Recommendation No. 145. Convention No. 137 has been ratified by too few member States and we must remedy that situation. There must be more ratifications of an instrument of this nature. Moreover, the principles that are contained in Convention No. 137 and Recommendation No. 145 are still applicable and we strongly support them. We feel that they are even more important today, above all in regions that are facing waves of liberalization and privatization.
The Workers’ group therefore believes that Convention No. 137 should be maintained and that the Organization and the Office should undertake a campaign to encourage member States to ratify the Convention and to apply it. We have seen in the debate that some of the Governments support this position, but that the Employers’ group has a very different view of the matter. They want Convention No. 137 to be revised. We were therefore unable to reach an agreement on a common conclusion, and this is something that we very much regret. The discussion on the future of these instruments should continue so that a decision satisfactory to everyone can be adopted.
The third part of our work, and for a majority of the delegations the most important, was devoted to an examination of individual cases. This year we dealt with 23 cases, 22 using the standard procedure and one case in a special session — this was on Burma and the Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29).
Initially, the list included 24 cases, but we were unable to discuss the difficulties of application of Convention No. 87 in Belarus because the Government refused to engage in an open dialogue with the Committee. Our statement on that subject is set out in paragraph 182 of the Committee’s report. What most certainly astonished and even shocked a number of the members of our Committee was that the Government of Belarus, which was elected to the Governing Body of the ILO, should refuse to engage in a dialogue with the tripartite Committee on the Application of Standards on the application of a fundamental ILO Convention, which the Government has said it considers to be important. This attitude should be condemned along with that of other governments that sign up for their cases at the very last moment, thereby hoping that their case will not be dealt with. This creates a situation of injustice for those governments that do demonstrate their willingness to engage in dialogue.
In addition, our Committee was not able to deal with all of the cases that should have been examined, because of lack of time. The choice of priority cases for tripartite discussion is also a very difficult exercise given the extensive problems relating to application in all parts of the world and the time constraints to which the Committee is subjected for the examination of individual cases. The explanations regarding the criteria used to make this very difficult choice are taken up in paragraph 7 of the report.
I would also like to draw your attention to paragraph 8 of the report which lists the cases that we were unable to discuss in our Committee for a number of reasons. The Workers’ group requests the Committee of Experts to examine the difficulties of application for those countries so that we can come back to them at the appropriate time if no real progress is achieved. I am not going to repeat everything I said in the Committee but I would like to mention the essential points.
First, there is the case of Argentina with regard to Convention No. 87 and the Protection of Wages Convention, 1949 (No. 95). It is quite clear that much could be said about the current situation in the country. The economic and social crisis there affects thousands of workers who, with or without employment, have participated in demonstrations in order to express their discontent. Moreover, the Workers’ group is very much concerned by the criminalization of trade union action.
The application of the Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Convention, 1958 (No. 111), in Brazil is also of concern to us. This concerns various types of discrimination, in particular discrimination in employment and wage discrimination on the basis of gender or race.
Burma, on Convention No. 87 — last year we had a very difficult discussion with the Government of Burma on clear violations of freedom of association in Burma. The Committee’s conclusions are contained in a special paragraph and the case was also mentioned as a continued case of failure to comply. We will not forget this case and we will come back to it as soon as possible.
Another case that we will come back to if there is no real progress is the case of freedom of association in Cameroon. We note that there are some changes under way in the laws but there continue to be problems in a number of areas.
For quite a few years now we have been discussing serious problems of discrimination in the Islamic Republic of Iran, which affect women above all. The Workers’ group reaffirms its support for the Iranian people. We have explained that if we did not take up this case this year, it was not because we felt that the situation had been resolved. On the contrary, we are aware that it is anything but resolved. We are awaiting the report of the technical assistance mission that went to the Islamic Republic of Iran last spring to examine the situation and we have asked the experts to give their observations on any changes that may be reflected in the report.
One very difficult case that I would like to refer to briefly concerns Japan and Convention No. 29. This concerns very serious situations which date back several decades and for which we do not yet have a satisfactory solution involving all parties concerned. We deplore the fact that the Government has not yet taken the necessary measures. We thought that we had an agreement with the Employers’ group in order to place this case on the list of the next session of the Committee but, to our great surprise, the Employers then said that this would depend on an agreement between the Japanese social partners. This is set out in paragraph 11 of the report. Let it be clearly understood that the Workers’ group is opposed to the content of this statement. It is unacceptable to be required to have the agreement of the government in order to be able to discuss the difficulties concerning application of a Convention in one’s country. We need to underline this fact because it is an essential point for our work.
We would also have liked to have had a dialogue with the Government of Kenya on the right to collective bargaining, i.e. Convention No. 98.
The final case to which we would like to return in a future session, if the situation does not improve, concerns the protection of workers against radiation in Norway, i.e. the application of the Radiation Protection Convention, 1960 (No. 115).
My next point concerns cases which we did discuss and which were so serious that the Committee decided to include them in a special paragraph. One of these cases is even dealt with in a special report.
The special report is a result of the special session on forced labour in Burma (Myanmar) that our Committee held on Saturday, 8 June. Unfortunately, this case has a long history in the ILO and it is the second time that we have had this discussion in a special session of our Committee. While the Government may point to improvements and progress in the application of Convention No. 29, we would have to say that these largely entail mere changes of procedure. Practices of forced labour continue under various forms and in all parts of the country. A large part of the population of Burma suffers from this situation, and the consequences for social and economic life are very serious. The Committee has reaffirmed its request for an ILO permanent mission to be able to go to the country and carry out a systematic dialogue and to follow the situation very closely in Burma. The full report of the session on Burma is contained in the third part of the report of the Committee on the Application of Standards.
The cases included in a special paragraph can be found in paragraphs 174-176 of the report. This year three cases were contained in the special paragraph — two cases concerning freedom of association (Convention No. 87) with regard to Ethiopia and Venezuela, and one case concerning forced labour (Convention No. 29) with regard to Sudan.
Practices of forced labour and slavery continue in Sudan. For many years now, we have discussed this case, and we were forced to note once again that the Government denies the seriousness of the situation and does not demonstrate any political will to remedy it. The Workers’ and Employers’ groups jointly urged the Government to accept an ILO direct contacts mission but, unfortunately, without any result. It is for this reason that the Committee decided to include the conclusions of the case in a special paragraph in the first section of its report. As this also concerns systematic and longstanding violations, it was also decided to mention it as a case of continuing failure to apply, and this is set out in paragraph 178 of the report.
The dialogue with the Government of Ethiopia on the application of Convention No. 87 in the country was quite difficult. This case concerned grave violations of freedom of association in a number of sectors, but with particularly serious problems in the area of education. The case was, indeed, included in a special paragraph as a result of the gravity of the violations and the lack of progress in the area of freedom of association. Nonetheless, the Committee did welcome a statement made at the end by the Government representative of Ethiopia, according to which the Government would be willing to receive technical assistance from the ILO.
The discussion on violations of freedom of association in Venezuela was not easy. This is a case that we have discussed over a number of years in our Committee, concerning clear contradictions with the provisions of Convention No. 87. The Government representative made promises to amend the laws, and the Workers’ group very much hopes that these promises will be kept. The situation should be examined and an approach should be decided on through dialogue with workers’ organizations. The conclusions of this case were also included in a special paragraph in order to continue to urge the Government to improve the situation. As this is a case of violations of Conventions that has existed over a number of years, the case is also included under the heading of continuing cases of failure to apply.
We would have liked to include the conclusions of other cases in a special paragraph, cases which we felt were very serious, but we were unable to reach consensus with the Employers. This concerned the cases of Guatemala, Costa Rica and, above all, Colombia. The violations of Convention No. 87 in Colombia are known to everyone. Between June 2001 and May 2002, a total of 176 men and women who were active as trade union leaders were assassinated, without counting the many attacks on their integrity, and various situations of criminalization of trade union activity. Impunity continues in the vast majority of cases. The reality is that there will be no freedom of association left if we do not immediately take measures, and we very much deplore the fact that we were unable to reach consensus with the Employers on the subject of the special paragraph. We strongly hope that they will be more amenable in our future discussions on this case.
To conclude, I would like to express my appreciation to a number of individuals. I would like to begin by thanking the Chairperson, Mr. Thierry, for the way in which he conducted our work. He guided us in what were often very difficult discussions, which sometimes gave the impression that we would be unable to reach consensus conclusions.
We would then like to thank our Reporter, Mr. Paixão Pardo, the Government member from Brazil. Our thanks also go to the Chairperson of the Committee of Experts, Ms. Layton, for having been present in our Committee for the discussion on the General Report and the general survey. I would also like to thank Mr. Javillier, the Director of the Department of Standards, and Mr. Swepston, Mr. Gernigon and Ms. Ancel-Lenners of the same department, as well as their staff, for the outstanding efforts that they made to assist the Committee in reaching satisfactory conclusions.
The Workers’ group would also like to thank Mr. Wisskirchen, the Employer spokesperson, for his spirit of cooperation and dialogue, as well as Mr. Potter, who also played a very active role.
Last but not least, I would like to thank the members of the Workers’ group for their excellent cooperation and relevant interventions, the Officers of our group, namely Mr. Khurshid Ahmed, Ms. Halima Jacob, Mr. Ian Sithole and Mr. Ericson Crivelli and as those who assisted me in the presentation of a number of cases, Mr. Tom Etty, Mr. Phil Fishman, and Mr. Simon Steyne.
The Committee unanimously adopted our report, and I would ask the Conference to do the same.
Original French: Mr. THIERRY (Government delegate, France; Chairperson of the Committee on the Application of Standards) — Very simply, I would like to stress the spirit of responsibility and mutual respect which prevailed throughout the Committee’s work. The work of the Committee is difficult and we all worked hard. I think the report is very concrete and complete.
Also, I was able to initiate informal discussions in the Committee with regard to the working methods which I think will continue in the Committee and in other relevant bodies. Therefore, I am not going to add anything further to the discussion.
Original French: The PRESIDENT — The general discussion on the report is now open.
Original Spanish: Mr. DORADO CANO-MANUEL (Government delegate, Venezuela) — I will not be as short as the President who preceded me, but may I state that it is not the wish of my Government to open once again the discussion of our case in this plenary but, what I have to say here is for today’s record.
The Government delegation of Venezuela protests the way in which the Committee on the Application of Standards has dealt with our case, the way in which our points were not taken into account and the way in which a separate paragraph was allocated to our case.
This contradicts not only the most basic rules of due process but also established practice for the work of committees and other bodies of the International Labour Office.
The first procedural contradiction was the distribution of the report of the direct contacts mission only 48 hours before the subject was dealt with, and I have pointed this out in the past. I would like to state that we do not consider this as an insuperable obstacle to having this subject of Venezuela dealt with, which demonstrates clearly the goodwill and the political will of the Venezuelan Government.
The refusal by the Chair to rectify this situation properly, the lack of transparency and the bias with which the subject was dealt — and we would like to be very emphatic here — leads us to protest, once again, at the fact that the representatives of the Office did not make any comment about this. They, after all, should know more than anyone the rules and procedure, the practice of this house, which are all in the official documents of the Organization, the rules and practice which should be applied to the adoption of decisions by this Committee and the other bodies of the ILO.
A proper, objective and impartial management of the Committee should have allowed for full consultation, which was not the case. At the same time, it would have allowed for our country to express its opinion as per established practice, as corresponds to the use and customs of the Organization.
This irregularity should not be allowed to constitute a precedent for this Organization. This would endanger, in a very serious manner, the credibility of the Organization and the effectiveness which the member States expect from it.
The paragraph adopted does not take into consideration the arguments which have been raised by my delegation at the time when the case was discussed, quite the opposite, which also challenges the most elemental principles of due process.
As we have pointed out in a number of international organizations we do not think it is useful to allow for discretional powers which, far from enhancing internal democratic processes and social dialogue, erode them.
We reported upon this in the publication of the conclusions in regard to the direct contacts mission. Our experts, as a matter of fact, are now examining the recent report of the direct contacts mission which we think has gone beyond its terms of reference. Therefore, the report should be discussed at a later date, and thoroughly, on a basis of transparency so that a report of this nature can serve to strengthen and facilitate social dialogue.
However, we do wonder if a report which exceeds its terms of reference and which is distributed in a very incomplete manner in every way (some delegates got it, some delegates did not get it), can make any contribution to dialogue and to understanding.
The conclusions of bodies of this nature should lead to actions of cooperation and technical assistance which can solve conflict, if conflicts are present.
My country does not deny that conflicts can occur and we would like to see them being addressed by concrete action. If this unacceptable decision contributes to identifying and rejecting these actions which we deplore and to which I have just referred, actions which are not correct, but if this can contribute to corrective, ethical action to strengthen the Organization then we will consider that we have made our greatest possible contribution to improve the workings of the Organization.
We would like to express our trust that this may be the case and that this Organization can work to the benefit of all humanity.
Original Russian: Mr. MALEVICH (Government delegate, Belarus) — One cannot fail to be surprised and puzzled by the unprecedented decision of the Committee on the Application of Standards, included in paragraph 182, to refer to the Chairperson’s statement concerning the absence of the Government of Belarus and the Workers’ condemnation of Belarus on the grounds that it failed to implement fully Convention No. 87.
This contradicts not only the spirit of the ILO but also many years of practice of its work. The inclusion in the report of an unjustified opinion of one of the social partners, or one should really say, an opinion on behalf of one of our social partners is incomprehensible because, I emphasize, the delegation of the representatives of the Workers, just like the Employers and the Governments, unfortunately were not able to participate in the work of the 90th Session of the International Labour Conference.
This creates a dangerous precedent which not only undermines the very basis of tripartite social dialogue, creating precedents for individual, inappropriately empowered persons, having the possibility of speaking on behalf of all of the Workers. I am sure that not a single State would agree to this.
Should I recall in this auditorium that the Committee on the Application of Standards, like any other body of the ILO, has to express the interests of all parties to the social dialogue and is not entitled to give preference to the opinions of one of them, which, in addition in this particular case, cannot be considered as being well-founded or legal because it does not reflect the views of all Workers from Belarus, or even of the majority. I repeat, this was initiated in an incomprehensible way, we do not know by whom.
In this connection, we have to recall once more to the distinguished delegates that the delegates of the workers of Belarus did not participate in this forum.
In view of the above, I would call on you not to discredit the respected body nor the Organization itself by incorrect actions and calling for the inclusion of the reference to Belarus in paragraph 182, because this does not reflect the word of the workers, nor is it in accordance with the activities of the ILO. I am sure that it violates established principles and is intended simply to impose a view.
Secondly, Belarus is far from being the only country whose delegation was unable to participate in the work of the 90th Session of the International Labour Conference. And it was not the only country that had just been elected to the Governing Body that failed to attend.
Therefore, we wonder why there is such an inappropriate and exaggerated reaction to the non-participation of Belarus.
Thirdly, I would like to ask the representatives of the Workers what happens in other regions. In the entire history of Belarus, not only has not a single trade unionist lost his life, but not even a hair of his head.
Furthermore, trade union leaders are one of the most guaranteed and protected categories of workers in our country. Until recently, the Government even collected the trade union contributions for them, on a centralized basis. Can you think of any better conditions of work?
What is the situation when a significant number of workers are deprived of the possibility of earning a living, as is the case in many countries at the moment?
Only 2 per cent of the active population in Belarus are unemployed, and you know the indicators for other countries. We are therefore surprised at this unjustified attack on a particular country, which has a fairly high level of welfare. We should not allow the ILO to be turned into a place for settling accounts or into a politicized tribunal.
I must recall that this is a respected international organization based on its membership, which is called on to help governments to resolve social conflicts in order to establish best practices, and work standards, and it should not adopt the position of one of the parties, regardless of how well-defined that position is and how it is brought to the notice of the Committee. We must not allow this Organization to be discredited or allow its principles and noble ideas to be destroyed. Above all, we must consider the reputation of the ILO and its strengths and principles.
Fourthly, not only did the Government of Belarus not fail to inform the Committee that it would be unable to participate, but it said that it was ready duly to consider the comments of the Committee and to send in appropriate comments as established and according to procedure by 1 September this year at the latest. Does this not demonstrate the will of the Government to cooperate with the Committee on a series of outstanding questions? And that being the case, why was this readiness of Belarus to cooperate with the Committee not duly reflected in a single document of the Committee, instead of which we have a statement by the representative of the Workers. We think that this was done on purpose in order to record an opinion against Belarus, which was unfortunately unable to participate in the Conference. But it is not too late to put this right. In paragraph 182, instead of this entirely unjustified and legally inappropriate statement, we should insert a reference to the readiness of the Government of Belarus to duly consider the comments of the Committee and to submit its appropriate comments within the time limit. Then everything would be done correctly.
Finally, I would like to emphasize that the submission of an unjustified opinion on behalf of certain persons without authority to do so and without the permission or presence of Belarus is something we cannot understand and cannot accept if we are going to be guided by the noble principles and approaches of our Organization.
We must put this situation right; otherwise we will be discrediting this distinguished international organization, and not an individual country which is entitled to be proud of the levels of employment and social security of its citizens, namely Belarus.
Mr. AHMED (Workers’ delegate, Pakistan) — I shall be brief at this late hour of the Conference. I join with my distinguished colleagues in commending the good work which has been done by the distinguished members of the Committee, the Chairperson and the Vice-Chairpersons, including Brother Cortebeeck, our spokesperson who so ably led our group.
At this stage, I just want to place on record my views on some of the proposals made by the distinguished Employer member concerning a reduction in the number of cases to be dealt with at future sessions of the Conference as well as the introduction of time limits.
I am one of those who has been attending this Conference for a number of years and we greatly appreciate the Director-General for his successful campaign regarding the core Conventions which many member States have ratified. The number of State Members has risen and this, in turn, has increased the workload of this Committee. The work of this Committee is considered to be central to the Conference, because it fosters and develops dialogue, thus promoting the implementation of ratified Conventions. Ratification is a voluntary step on the part of member States. This Committee is likewise a source of technical assistance to those states. We who come from afar, particularly those of us from Third World countries, consider that the substantial amount of time we spend here promoting and defending the basic ideals of the ILO in this Committee is of value, because the ILO is considered to be the conscience of the world, when it comes to promoting and defending the rights of the workers. This Committee therefore provides the momentum for achieving those objectives. Other committees which have time limits hold night sessions, but I think that no such restrictions should be placed on this important Committee. I recall that, in 1980, back in the Cold War era, we used to have night sessions lasting to midnight and even beyond, in order to promote the implementation of these Conventions and foster that dialogue. In this new era of liberalism, when workers in many parts of the world find themselves socially excluded, these workers expect this important body to play a more effective role both in respect of technical assistance and of other measures to improve their lives through the concerted efforts of employers, workers and member States. Why should a time limit be introduced?
Secondly, I would submit that a reduction in the number of cases would also diminish the importance of this Committee, because with increased membership and increased ratification of Conventions, it would be unable to play a pivotal role by helping the member States and social partners. We would therefore strongly urge that the introduction of time limits and reduction in the number of cases should be rejected and that the Committee’s work should be strengthened and enlarged.
Thirdly, I wish to take issue with the statement of the delegate of the Government of Belarus. We all respect the Workers’ group and the distinguished delegate of this member State, but a country which now has the honour of being a titular member of the Governing Body should at least inform the Committee of the reasons preventing it from attending Committee meetings to hold a dialogue, even if the reasons are beyond its control. There is no ulterior motive behind such a meeting, its sole purpose is to discuss what is happening. We who come from far afield are here to contribute to the work of this august house, we are not for sightseeing. We workers are sometimes accused by governments and employers of not working hard enough but we, from the Workers’ group, are here to make our contribution. We are even prepared to attend late-night sittings in order to hold a dialogue with member States or employers in order to promote agreement.
I commend the work of the Office, the Director-General’s team and other departments. I strongly urge the adoption of this report, because it contains very important conclusions and also I commend the leadership of the President, Director-General and other Vice-Presidents who have brought this historic session of the Conference to a successful conclusion.
Mr. THAN (Government delegate, Myanmar) — I wish to express the deep gratification of the Myanmar delegation to the President for his smooth and skilful guidance of the proceedings of the 90th Session of the International Labour Conference, which is now coming to a successful conclusion.
Allow me to offer a few comments on the report of the Committee on the Application of Standards, contained in Provisional Record No. 28, Part III.
I had set out clearly the positions of the Myanmar Government on certain issues in my two statements at the meeting of the Committee on the Application of Standards on 8 June 2002. These positions remain the same. I shall refrain from reiterating them because of the time constraint.
On the whole, the main thrust of the summing up by the Chairperson of the Committee on the Application of Standards is positive. The Chairperson, in his summing up, calls upon the International Labour Office and the Director-General of the ILO to continue dialogue with the Myanmar Government in this respect. As a matter of fact, we have been carrying out this process of dialogue and cooperation with the ILO, and we shall continue to do so.
I must, however, note with regret that some sections of the summing up by the Chairperson contain some negative elements. These elements are negative, for they turn the time wheel back and go back to the past. You may recall that the Committee of Experts, in its 2001 report, recognized that Order No. 1/99 and Order Supplementing Order 1/99 “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 Act, but also by civilian and military officers entitled to call on the assistance of local authorities under the Act”.
This was reaffirmed and reinforced by the summing up by the Chairperson of the Committee on the Application of Standards on 11 June 2001. As such, questioning the effectiveness of Order 1/99 and Order Supplementing Order 1/99 only takes us backwards.
Likewise, the paragraphs referring to the lack of publicity of these Orders are backward-looking and negative, for they turn a blind eye to the fact that these Orders and the Directive of the State Peace and Development Council have been officially circulated to all state bodies and ministries, including the Ministry of Defence.
Furthermore, they ignore the effective publicity given through the official government gazettes, through announcements on the notice boards of local authorities at State Division, district, township, village and ward levels, through village criers and through one of the most popular media in Myanmar, the Myanmar Times. These are some examples of the negative elements in the summing up. I shall refrain from quoting all of them in consideration of the time constraint.
We do not believe that turning the time wheel back and dwelling too much on the past serves any useful purpose. Instead of taking such a negative approach, the Committee should have taken a forward-looking and positive approach.
We should, therefore, like to call upon the member States and other constituents of the ILO to take a forward-looking and positive approach instead of a negative one. We, on our part, shall seek to accentuate the positive and to carry forward the process of dialogue and cooperation with the ILO.
Original Spanish: Mr. GARZON (Government delegate, Colombia) — On behalf of the Government delegation of Colombia, present at this assembly along with the Interior Minister of Colombia, Mr. Armando Estrada and the Ambassador of Colombia, Mr. Camilo Reyes, and also on behalf of the State represented at this assembly, by the Attorney General of Colombia, I should like to take this opportunity to reiterate what we expressed yesterday to the spokesperson of the Workers’ group, Lord Brett, and to the spokesperson of the Employers’ group, Mr. Funes de Rioja, and in the presence of the ILO Director-General, Mr. Juan Somavia.
It was said, and we repeat now, that the conclusions reached by the Committee on the Application of Standards in respect of the serious and dramatic situation in Colombia are, to us, a mandate. Therefore, all those participating at this session of the International Labour Conference can be certain that not only will our Government, which will hand over power on 7 August this year, but also the State of Colombia, as stated by the Attorney General of Columbia, will ensure that the conclusions of the Committee on the Application of Standards will greatly help us make progress in our application of the Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise Convention, 1948 (No. 87), and, above all, in fighting against the scourge of impunity in Colombia, as well as to protect trade union activists and promote social dialogue. All this is part of rebuilding peace in our country.
We have, as part of this approach, proposed to the spokesperson of the Workers’ group, Lord Brett, and the spokesperson of the Employers’ group, Mr. Funes de Rioja, that the conclusions of the Committee on the Application of Standards should become a declaration or resolution to be adopted by the Governing Body. The aim of the Government of Colombia and the State of Colombia is not only to strengthen ongoing dialogue and cooperation between workers and employers, but also, and above all, to find a way to put an end to the insanity of murders and kidnappings of trade union activists and people from all sectors of the Colombian population. We hope that the ILO’s collaboration will help us to find a way of reaching an agreement in Columbia within the framework of international humanitarian law. We hope that with such help from the ILO, we will reach a peace agreement, an agreement which will strengthen Colombian democracy and, above all, to bring about reconciliation in our country.
We agree with the Employers’ and Workers’ groups, and various other groups within the Colombian population, as well as the international community, in saying that it is high time to bring an end to the violence and impunity in our country.
Before this Conference, we commit ourselves to trying to do this, I reiterate to the Chairperson of the Committee on the Application of Standards and the Workers’ and Employers’ spokespersons that the conclusions of this Committee concerning Colombia are a mandate for us.
Mr. POTTER (Employers’ delegate, United States) — I want to make just a few brief comments with regard to the comments that my friend, Mr. Ahmed made, regarding the hours of work for the Committee on the Application of Standards.
As everyone knows, the workload of this Committee is among the heaviest of the Conference, caused primarily by the number of cases that we consider. We all know that this Committee is the heart and soul of the ILO and the Employers’ group places a great emphasis on that.
Until this year, late evening sittings have been a regular feature of the Committee and have often extended to midnight, and sometimes later, and this circumstance has had two consequences. One has been that these late-night sittings create the appearance that the work of the Committee is not a serious activity; that at that late-night hour there are often more interpreters and secretariat in the Governing Body room than there are members of the various groups.
This is an important activity that deserves serious, sober treatment by all participants of the Committee on the Application of Standards. Another consequence of late-night sittings is inadequate time to prepare cases. The hours of work this year has led to a more realistic and serious consideration of cases.
The last time the working methods of our Committee were amended was in 1987. It is in our view time for a sombre, dispassionate, non-partisan review by men and women of goodwill, because there is room for improvement for everyone in this Committee and how we perform our work.
Original Spanish: Mr. CORELLA CALVO (Government delegate, Costa Rica) — My delegation deeply laments the reference made a few moments ago by Mr. Cortebeeck, the Worker Vice-Chairperson of the Committee, about our country. The Government of the Republic of Costa Rica has provided important information to this Conference on the improvements it has made in terms of labour legislation. In addition, the Committee of Experts has considered that Costa Rica has made progress in this area. Costa Rica would like this clarification to be recorded in the records.
Original French: The PRESIDENT — As there are no further speakers, we shall proceed with the adoption of the report, Parts I, II and III.
If there is no objection, may I take it that the report is adopted as a whole?
(The report is adopted as a whole.)
We have now completed our examination of the report of the Committee on the Application of Standards. I would like to express my warmest congratulations to the Chairperson, Vice-Chairpersons and Reporter of the Committee on the Application of Standards, and to all its members, for their excellent work. I would also like to thank the staff of the secretariat for their great contribution to this excellent work.
Last update by HK on 24 June 2002.