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90th Session, 3 - 20 June 2002



Report of the Resolutions Committee

Committee report

Submission, discussion and adoption

Original French: The PRESIDENT — We proceed now to the examination of the report of the Resolutions Committee, which is contained in Provisional Record No. 21.

I have great pleasure in giving the floor to Mr. Chetwin, Government delegate of New Zealand and Chairperson and Reporter of the Committee, to submit the report to plenary.

Mr. CHETWIN (Government delegate, New Zealand; Chairperson and Reporter of the Resolutions Committee) — I have the honour to present the report of the Resolutions Committee. The Committee completed its work by adopting a resolution on tripartism and social dialogue, having commenced with 12 proposals for draft resolutions. Following an introduction of these resolutions, discussion among the authors reduced the number of resolutions to seven. These were then voted on to determine the order in which the first five would be discussed. The draft resolution on tripartism and social dialogue received 30 per cent more votes than the second most popular topic and proved to be the only one which the Committee had time to discuss.

The resolution which I now present to you began life as a merger of three draft resolutions from Employer and Worker members and is the product of intensive discussion over five sittings, including consideration of some 44 amendments. The consideration of the amendments was not without difficulty. To construct an analogy with another concurrent international event, at half time the prospect was for a scoreless draw, with resolute defences successfully parrying skilful attacks and no extra time available. However, in the second half all three teams decided to join forces so that, in a vivid display of tripartism, they became an irresistible force which swept the ball, referee and all into the net for the winning goal with two minutes to play.

The result, I believe, is a resolution which reinforces the unique and powerful characteristics of the ILO — tripartism and social dialogue. It presents these as modern and dynamic processes with the capacity to address social concerns, accommodate conflicting interests, cope with issues arising from globalization and promote full employment, decent work and social cohesion in a challenging environment. Social dialogue is seen as a central element of democratic societies. The resolution also acknowledges the contributions that NGOs and civil society institutions can make to achieving the objectives of the ILO and its tripartite constituents, while emphasizing the need for appropriate consultation with those constituents and respect for the respective roles of all those involved.

The resolution invites governments, social partners and the ILO to take positive action to strengthen tripartism and social dialogue and their participation in those processes. Nationally, the aim should be to extend tripartism and social dialogue in the sectors where they are currently weak. Internationally, the ILO is invited to consolidate its tripartite nature and enhance the role of tripartism and social dialogue both as a strategic objective in its own right and also as a means of progressing all the strategic objectives and cross-cutting issues. The specific recommendations cover the institutions involved in tripartism and the contributions they can make through social dialogue to a broad range of labour market and social outcomes.

As I said a moment ago, this resolution is the product of team work. The Vice-Chairpersons, Mr. Bokkie Botha for the Employers’ group and Lord Brett, very ably assisted by Mr. Miranda de Oliveira for the Workers’ group, brought their vast experience and knowledge of the world of work to the discussions. Government members contributed much to the richness of the debate and to the outcome from their diverse perspectives. There was also a fourth party, the secretariat, and my report would not be complete without acknowledging their professionalism, commitment and good humour which greatly assisted me as Chairperson and facilitated the work of the Committee. I would particularly like to acknowledge the contribution of Mr. Oscar de Vries Reilingh, as representative of the Secretary-General. This is Mr. de Vries Reilingh’s last International Labour Conference as he is retiring early next year, after many years’ service to workers’ organizations and the ILO. The Organization can ill afford to lose people with such enthusiasm, energy and knowledge. His attitude is best captured by his favourite expression: “It is already possible”.

I commend to you and the Conference the report of the Resolutions Committee and the resolution concerning tripartism and social dialogue.

Mr. BOTHA (Employers’ delegate, South Africa; Employer Vice-Chairperson of the Resolutions Committee) — The Employers’ group of the International Labour Conference is very pleased that the Resolutions Committee reached an agreement on a resolution concerning tripartism and social dialogue. As has been said, this was the result of merging two Workers’ texts with an Employers’ text, and the debate by Governments, Workers and Employers resulted, in our view, in an enriched resolution.

The process followed by the Committee showed that tripartism can produce a result which meets the needs of all three groups — Governments, Workers and Employers — better than a single proposal from one group alone. Compromise was the means, namely listening to the other parties, attempting to find common ground, adapting views and reaching an agreement. No one party won the arguments — everyone contributed. Innovative means to reach an agreement were utilized inside and outside the room, and preparedness to move forward and backwards in the draft text were mechanisms which assisted in consensus-building. Having a flexible Chairperson, prepared to assist in finding new ways, paved the way for the parties to manoeuvre.

The Employers moved far from their original purpose. We were determined at the outset to keep the debate focused on strengthening tripartism in the ILO. We were persuaded to move further afield and to develop joint approaches to social dialogue. We argued for brevity and concise wording. We were concerned that our constituents outside the ILO, namely employers, workers and government labour administrators, should be able to clearly understand the details of the resolution. The Committee went some way to achieving this, but we believe we will still argue this point in the future. It remains our contention that too many outcomes of the International Labour Conference are legalistic and obscure and are only understood by grey-bearded, long-term Conference attendees.

We are also concerned that the resolution should be sufficiently flexible to enable government, workers’ and employers’ organizations to develop their own unique tripartite institutions and practices in their own wider constituencies and countries. We repeatedly drew attention to differing definitions of tripartism and social dialogue technology in different regions, countries, subregions and States. In our view, the ILO and its international constituents and representatives should avoid the temptation to prescribe models, definitions and modus operandi. The ILO’s focus should be on promoting principles and ideas and should leave Members to work out the most suitable and appropriate structures and institutions for themselves.

The issue of civil society institutions and non-governmental institutions was debated, and the resultant wording was a good example of constructive compromise. It also serves as an example of our previous comments about the need to develop appropriate structures in both the ILO and member States. Appreciation and recognition of the important role of civil society and non-governmental institutions was acknowledged by all the tripartite constituents in the debate. Employers’ and Workers’ concerns regarding representativity and the need to share the values and goals of the ILO were taken well, as were the donor government’s concerns that their autonomy of funding and choice of partnerships should be respected. The resulting wording gives all parties opportunities to develop constructive processes for the future selection and development of relationships with these organizations. The tripartite and quadripartite arrangements in many member States were not affected by the agreed formulation.

The Workers’ and Employers’ group received support for its determination to support the unique functions of the ILO’s Bureaus for Employers’ and Workers’ Activities and for strengthening their service capabilities. A strong debate concerning tripartism and social dialogue in the work of other international organizations and the Bretton Woods institutions produced an unwritten resolution to promote a stronger focus on social issues within the Bretton Woods institutions, with a major emphasis on employment. The Employers’ group supports these concerns.

I wish to pay particular tribute to our Chairperson for the guidance given and preparedness to look for new ways of working in the Committee. He, and I think all of us, know that the referee can make the game go one way or the other, and he certainly did that.

Mr. John Chetwin of the Government of New Zealand is our choice for future committees. I fully support the Chair’s comments about the ILO secretariat and its flexibility which assisted him. We salute the ILO secretariat and are aware of and appreciate the long hours worked.

We were very fortunate in having Government representatives who looked for solutions and compromise. Particular thanks goes out to the IMEC Group and their coordinator, the Government representative of Denmark. I think the IMEC Group included Canada, Sweden, Finland, the United Kingdom and the United States. Particular thanks too is given to the Government representatives of South Africa, Egypt, India, Pakistan and Ecuador. I have named these people, but everybody played a role in this Committee.

When you know that the Worker representative is going to be Lord Brett, with all his experience and ability to articulate, you know you will learn. I did, and this is my biggest personal comment. It was a pleasure developing a resolution with the Workers’ group, with Miranda de Oliviera, Anna Biondi and the whole group.

Thank you to my hard-working Employers’ group and particularly to Jean Dejardin, Eric Oechslin of the IOE and Roy Chacko of the ILO Bureau for Employers’ Activities.

Original Portuguese: Mr. MIRANDA DE OLIVEIRA (Workers’ delegate, Brazil; Worker spokesperson for the Resolutions Committee) — I am going to take this opportunity to speak in my mother tongue, Portuguese. The Report of the Director-General says that even with the progress to date, the value of social dialogue is still often unrecognized and underutilized, especially in strategies to address broad social and economic priorities. I believe that this concern was shared by all the participants in our Committee. That is what prompted them to place a the top of the order of voting, the resolution concerning strengthening tripartism and social dialogue, that is at the top of the seven resolutions which emerged from the 12 originally presented.

We would like to say that at the end of this process we have mixed feelings — a combination of satisfaction and concern.

Concern at the fact that once again we only managed to adopt one single resolution from a list of seven — all of which were important. We were disappointed. We did not even manage to open a general discussion on sustainable development, which would have helped us to better define the position of the ILO on the World Summit on Sustainable Development, which is to be held at the end of August in Johannesburg.

Satisfaction at the outcome achieved. As Mr. Chetwin so rightly said, when we began this discussion we started out with an ugly duckling, but by the end we had something that rather resembled a swan. Indeed, we are proud, my brothers and sisters and myself, who have come from every corner of the earth, that we could talk about a shared need — that was a fine outcome. As we did throughout the Committee, no doubt some of them will want to make additional remarks.

The practice of tripartism necessitates workers’ and employers’ organizations which are independent, strong and representative. The long list of violations of fundamental rights that is discussed every year in the Committee on the Application of Standards demonstrates the need to provide increased support for the strengthening of trade union organizations, especially in these times of globalization, regional integration and economic change.

In all regions we need clear rules that work, on social rights, international standards and labour legislation. It is therefore important to make specific reference to Conventions and Recommendations in the text . Apart from securing the implementation of these laws, we need to disseminate tripartism in all countries, considering conflicts of interest as something normal and collective bargaining as an instrument to enable us to overcome differences, with the parties retaining their autonomy and independence. We do not want a form of tripartism that merely acquiesces, rubber-stamps, previously taken decisions.

We held an open debate on the work of the ILO with other civil society organizations — such as NGOs, local grassroots communities, and so forth. This helped us take the lid off some of the myths we face and get a consensual vision of our Organization. Everyone feels that we should create synergies with civil society organizations, provided this helps us to carry out our work, particularly in the fields of child labour, migrant workers and workers with disabilities, as the text adopted clearly stipulates. In the same way, there is a clear consensus on the need to recognize the fact that the responsibility for adopting standards and defining social, economic and political priorities  in matters which come under the mandate of the ILO should remain with its tripartite structure, which is unique in the multilateral organizations.

To conclude, I would like to say how grateful I am to my group and particularly to Bill Brett, the Worker Vice-Chairperson, for having entrusted me with chairing the meeting when he had to attend to other duties within the Conference. I should like to thank Mr. Botha, too, Employer Vice-Chairperson, for the cooperation he lent us, for his understanding, and for the careful and elegant conducting of his group, which was fundamental for the quality of the resolution we concluded. A special word of thanks to Mr. John Chetwin who, with good humour, patience, understanding and competence steered us through our work, which was a very complex exercise in parliamentary practice requiring much from everyone, and which reached a successful conclusion thanks to his leadership. A sincere word of thanks to the Government members of the Committee who interacted, showing how one can practise meaningful tripartism, enrich the discussion and help to build consensus.

I should not like to forget the behind-the-scenes support, which is indispensable. I am referring to those who draw up the reports late into the night and produce a wonderful product in the wee, small hours. Also a special word of appreciation to Mr. de Vries, who will be retiring after this Conference, and finally to the interpreters, who make it possible for us all to take part in the discussion by overcoming the language barrier. It was a splendid job of teamwork, thank you very much.

The general discussion on the report is now open.

Mr. SEN (Workers’ delegate, India) — I commend the resolution on tripartism and social dialogue. The Resolutions Committee worked hard all these days and ultimately finalized one resolution. We would have been happier if more resolutions could have been considered, but that is part of the game.

None of the constituents of the tripartite unit are wholly satisfied, but there is general satisfaction with the finalized resolution, and therein lies the real strength of tripartism, I believe.

The resolution is a very timely and important one. Against the background of conflicts arising from globalization, the resolution, which details steps to strengthen tripartism and social dialogue, can be, if effectively implemented, a useful instrument in finding constructive solutions to conflicts that cannot be entirely avoided.

The resolution also focuses on the need for active participation by the social partners in designing policies for economic and social development — obviously no mere post-mortem exercise. I think the greatest strength of this resolution is that, while recognizing and encouraging the participation of civil society organizations in the dialogue and interaction process, the resolution clearly stresses tripartism and social dialogue. Tripartism is a decisive instrument for facilitating dialogue with civil society organizations, including their selection, thus guarding against the idea of replacing tripartism and the social partners with other chosen agencies in the name of civil society organizations or NGOs. This is being tried in many places, particularly in order to marginalize the legitimate organizations of workers and employers.

These, I believe, are the most important elements of the resolution, which I commend.

Original Arabic: Mr. TRABELSI (Workers’ adviser and substitute delegate, Tunisia) — This resolution has a number of merits which will most certainly have a favourable impact on relations between the social parties.

In spite of a divergence of views, dialogue won the day, and agreement was ultimately reached, and the resolution was adopted.

The resolution reflects a common conviction that social dialogue is essential for development, as is social peace for the promotion of democracy, in each country and in international relations.

It also confirms ILO’s determination to go forward and adapt to social change, through expansion of social dialogue to include other sectors of society and to open up to nongovernmental organizations which share our principles and goals, thus contributing to a strengthening of democracy, without undermining the tripartite nature of the ILO or marginalizing the roles of trade unions, or of the other social partners.

Personally, I would have liked to see a reference to the Workers’ Representatives Convention, 1971 (No. 135), as a means of strengthening the independence of all the social partners and of bolstering mutual confidence.

I should like to thank Mr. Miranda de Oliveira. We would have liked to have been able to discuss the other draft resolutions which were submitted. However, the resolution we have adopted calls for the support of all of us.

I should also like to express my gratitude to Mr. Chetwin, the Chairperson of the Resolutions Committee for having shown such great openness of mind, and for having tried to find common ground amongst the members of the Committee.

Ms. BRIGHI (Workers’ delegate, Italy) — The Workers’ group has been strongly supporting the idea of a specific resolution on tripartism and social dialogue because we believe that the new challenges posed by globalization can only be answered by strengthening such instruments and enhancing the role of trade unions and employers’ organizations from the workplace to the international level.

Moreover, we have the clear perception that such instruments are under attack.

Some governments have still not ratified and enforced the core Conventions and many employers deny the right to organize and collective bargaining, the basic instruments on which to build social dialogue, threatening the existence of free and independent trade unions.

In such conditions they often prefer to enhance the roles of NGOs, outside the workplace.

The growth of the internationalization of production, free trade zones, the use of subcontracting and foreign direct investment, supported by governments, without any conditionalities against the violation of workers’ rights, requires the role of the ILO and of its basic instruments — tripartism and social dialogue — to be strengthened.

The newly defined strategies of corporate social responsibility, with instruments such as codes of conduct, show, from OECD research, that trade unions are very rarely involved and that only 17 per cent of them include all core labour standards. This new fashionable approach, involving stakeholders — a not-well-defined subject — is very confusing, and sometimes misleading, with regard to the roles of both the employers and the unions.

Companies are investing in this new set of instruments, hoping to gain through it new market shares. But this approach will be built on shifting foundations, unless a substantial basis of trade union rights and participation is promoted and renewed industrial relations and collective bargaining is used to face the new challenges of globalization, market instability and, consequently, employment insecurity.

Instability and the so-called informal sector are increasing, not just in poor countries, and some international institutions, and even some governments, still consider tripartism an overstructural, time-consuming, useless instrument.

Moreover, for some years, liberalist strategies have strengthened the idea that social dialogue and consultation with trade unions are obstacles to quick and efficient decision-making, and that these methods would endanger the effectiveness of programmes and investments.

This culture, and the results of many structural adjustment programmes of the international financial institutions, demonstrates that if the unions and the employers had been involved at the appropriate time, and in the appropriate way, in their elaboration and implementation, most of the failures and weaknesses of their results would have been avoided.

The abovementioned factors highlight the importance of such a resolution and the need for the ILO to address and emphasize priorities such as strategic planning, microeconomic issues, expanding representation, the need for changes in the informal economy, the issues of migrant workers and women.

The resolution highlights the need to strengthen the capacity of both employers’ and workers’ organizations to face the new challenges.

The first commitment should be taken at ILO level.

I would like to remind those employers and those governments who strongly opposed, in the discussion, the reference to the need to “promote the mainstreaming of social issues and processes of tripartism and social dialogue into the work of other international institutions, including the Bretton Woods institutions”, that such ideas were already strongly enshrined in the Declaration signed in 1944 concerning the aims and purposes of the International Labour Organization.

This resolution is also the follow-up to the resolution concerning tripartite consultation at the national level on economic and social policy, adopted at the ILO’s 83rd Session in 1996. The resolution pointed out, and I quote, “The International Labour Organization should in any case strengthen its contacts and develop cooperation with the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the World Trade Organization and other international agencies in order to better sensitize them to the social consequences of their action. It should also increase its efforts aimed at convincing the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund of the need to consult social partners nationally on proposed programmes of structural adjustment and to encourage the use of tripartite cooperation.”

It is on this basis that the ILO, with its strategy for greater engagement with the international financial institutions, held a symposium in September 2001 “to strengthen workers’ participation in the United Nations system and impact on the Bretton Woods institutions”.

That is why we fully support the resolution because we think that tripartism, social dialogue and collective bargaining at various levels of the economy are key instruments to promote social justice, fair competition and economic and political stability.

The resolution highlights clearly the need to strengthen the tripartite nature of the ILO and its programmes, and, believe me, these are not just formal declarations and formal words. We need to promote tripartism, as my colleague from India said, not with a post-mortem approach, that is, through bureaucratic formalistic procedures, but from general strategic policies to daily decision-making, especially at field-programme level.

We need to face these new challenges of the international situation, keeping in mind that the ILO can play a substantial role with both employers and unions.

We think that social dialogue and tripartism has to be based on full implementation and ratification of the fundamental Conventions, starting with 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).

I really hope that this resolution will have the full vote of this plenary session for the abovementioned reasons.

Original French: The PRESIDENT — If there are no further speakers, we shall now proceed with the adoption of the report and the resolution submitted by the Committee.

If there is no objection, may I take it that the report, paragraphs 1-248, is adopted?

(The report — paragraphs 1-248 — is adopted.)

Resolution concerning tripartism and social dialogue

Original French: The PRESIDENT — We shall now move to the adoption of the resolution concerning tripartism and social dialogue. If there is no objection, may I take it that the resolution concerning tripartism and social dialogue is adopted?

(The resolution is adopted.)

Last updated by HK on 19 June 2002.