Interview with Dan Cunniah, Director of ACTRAV

After the inauguration of the new Director General of the ILO, Guy Ryder, what are the challenges of the Bureau for Workers' Activities(ACTRAV)? Explanations with Dan Cunniah, Director of ACTRAV ...

Press release | Geneva, Switzerland | 15 October 2012

ACTRAV INFO: The new Director General, Guy Ryder, took office on 1st October; he announced several reforms, stressing especially on the strengthening of relations between the Organisation and its constituents. Among these reforms, the ACTRAV department is placed under the direct authority of the Director General. What shall be the role of ACTRAV in this revised structure?

When we look back at the history of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), at the time of its creation, the founding members put forward tripartism as the universal principle of the organisation. They did not want the tripartite system to be implemented only during the ILO Conference or during the meetings of the Governing Body; but they wanted tripartism to be a permanent feature of the International Labour Office *. At that time, two departments were created, later called “Bureau” to single them out from others, namely the Bureau for Workers‘Activities (ACTRAV) and the Bureau for Employers’ Activities (ACTEMP). Both “Bureaux” have defined and specific roles towards the constituents of the ILO, but within the International Labour Office as well.

As far as ACTRAV is concerned, its role is to continue to be the link between the International Labour Office and Trade Union Organisations . We collaborate closely with the President and the Secretary of the Workers Group of the Governing Body and all the members of the Group.

ACTRAV is the reflection, within the Office, of the opinions of workers and Trade Unions worldwide; it maintains a constant relationship with the Global Trade Union Federations (GUFs), and trade unions at international, regional and national levels. True is the fact that it is difficult for ACTRAV to be directly in contact with every individual trade union, but we work closely with Central trade union organisations at international, regional and national levels.

ACTRAV under the authority of the new Director General (D.G.) will act as an “intelligence unit” to inform and advise him on issues relating to the world of work, particularly to worker’ and trade unions’ interests. One of ACTRAV missions, amongst others, is to keep the Director General better informed on the aspirations and concerns of workers in each country at the regional and international level. Hence, ACTRAV will provide him with updated information on trade union issues in the world, allowing the D.G. to take the necessary measures to respond to the aspirations of the Workers, as constituents of the ILO.

ACTRAV INFO: As one of his priorities, the D.G. insisted on effective internal communications. How will you proceed to tackle this challenge in ACTRAV in order to meet the expectations of workers and trade union organisations?

Today Information is of particular importance. Without information, we cannot act efficiently. The new Director General is aware of the crucial importance of Information and communication. With the discussions he had with the transition team before he took office, the Director General had feedbacks from the staff members at all levels. He was impressed by the determination and enthusiasm from the personnel in contributing actively towards the achievement of the Organisation’s objectives. Hence he stressed on the necessity of establishing a vertical as well as a horizontal communication channel at the staff level. This communication aims to strengthen the synergy among the staff in order to achieve the goals of our organisation.

ACTRAV has a network of specialists working in the field. We shall enhance the gathering of information from the field to headquarters and thus ensure better communication between the headquarters and the field as well as with our colleagues in Turin, specialised in workers’ education activities. On the whole, our colleagues from the field are in touch with the trade union organisations at the national and regional levels. This network will help us in informing the Director General on activities and events relating to the trade union movement in general.

ACTRAV INFO: Last but not the least, which message would you like to deliver to workers and trade union organisations who are expecting a lot from the International Labour Organisation?

With the consequences resulting from the current world economic and financial crisis, the trade unions are facing huge challenges. However, I share the opinion that it is in difficult times that trade unionists should stick more together, strengthen themselves in all areas to overcome this crisis. The Office, as a whole, is available, as stated by the Director General, to help them face these challenges and find solutions.

Now more than ever, social dialogue appears to be an appropriate means to find solutions especially during this economic and social crisis. ACTRAV will fully cooperate with the other departments of the Office to meet the needs of the workers.

On a personal basis, I encourage the trade union organisations to stand together, work in unity to grant better services to their members in areas such as social protection, minimum wages, promotion of employment, elimination of child and forced labour, as well as occupational health and safety, respect of trade union rights, etc.

The issue of international labour standards is also essential; the trade union organisations should ensure a follow up with governments on the recommendations made by the ILO supervisory bodies, particularly the Committee on Freedom of Association on violations of trade union rights.

Actions at the international, regional and national levels could ensure compliance with international labour standards and enable the ratification and implementation of the International Conventions of the ILO.

* The International Labour Office is the permanent secretariat of the International Labour Organization.