105th International Labour Conference

First meeting of the Workers'Group : Opening Statement of the ACTRAV Director

Statement | Geneva | 29 May 2016
Maria Helena ANDRE,Director of ACTRAV
On behalf of the Secretary General of the ILC, the Director-General Guy Ryder,

On behalf of the ACTRAV team,

I would like to welcome all delegates and other participants to 1st meeting of the Workers’ Group.

This is the first regular meeting of the Workers’ Group during the ILC: They usually take place every second day from 9.00 to 10.00 am in this room. So the next meeting will be on Tuesday, 31 May at 9.00 am. We will count upon the presence of the Secretary General of the Conference as well as Director-General of the ILO, Guy Rider, at the following meeting, on Thursday the 2nd June.

I would like to draw your attention to the importance of your participation in the Workers’ Group meetings. This is the place where the cohesion of the group and the spirit of solidarity will be tested.

Discussions will be held and decisions will be taken regarding the work in the different committees – what goes well, what goes less well and what is the position of the Workers’ Group.

Even more important, this is the place where eventual differences within the group regarding some of issues at stake should be discussed and explained. But once a decision is democratically taken by the majority of group, it is very important that the group acts single voiced and moves forward together and in unity.

A quick word for colleagues who come for the first time to the ILC: they will have two weeks of very intensive work and long working hours. Of course, this also depends on how efficient work in the committees will be.

There will also be a number of side events in the course of the two weeks. They will be publicised every day.

Anna Biondi, deputy-Director of ACTRAV will shortly guide you through the different aspects of the Conference and the ACTRAV colleagues will always be at your disposal to assist on any questions you may have.

To recall that the ILC represents a golden opportunity for:
  • The ILO constituents to work together, to discuss their points of agreement and their differences;
  • The trade union movement to work together and to develop more cohesion in the positions;
  • More important, for advancing together the rights based agenda, as spelled out in the Decent Work Agenda and to build fairer workplaces.
  • The daily lives of workers throughout the globe are showing that the wind is not blowing in their direction.
  • The raise in inequalities; poverty, income distribution, the situation of women (…)
  • Unemployment remains stubbornly high, with youth unemployment and long term unemployment taking the lead;
  • Wages remain stubbornly low, with no correction in the unfair distribution of revenues across the globe;
  • The casualization of work, the unstable employment relationships and the low quality in working conditions and work organisations;
  • The constant attacks against human and trade union rights;
  • The obstacles to the legitimate action of trade union organisations;
  • The still ongoing assassination of trade unionists in several parts of the world;
  • Those who have to flee their homes and their communities, engrossing the wave of refugees or those that have to move to another country in order to find work, often not decent;
  • The impact this has in terms of the quality of democracies and on the exercise of citizenship;
Could go on with the list, but all have a clear impact on ILO’s work agenda on the choices and decisions put forward by the workers’ and their trade unions.

How can we remedy many of these recurrent problems?

  • High quality social dialogue, developed by strong, autonomous and representative employers and workers organisation,
  • High quality collective bargaining that really caters for the interests of enterprises, sectors and workers,
  • Higher levels of social justice in terms of delivery of results of policies,
  • High quality jobs, based in high skills levels,
  • High levels of regulation, both at national and international level and thus a higher role for ILS and for the ILO.
Are certainly part of the solution and this is the raison d’être of the ILO.

Let me now turn to some of the points of the Agenda of the Conference very briefly, in order to draw your attention to some of the challenges ahead of you in the course of the next two weeks.

Two brief comments on the Standing items of the agenda:

The first, on the Report of the Director-General on the End to Poverty Initiative, the ILO and the 2030 Agenda, This is one of the Centenary Initiatives presented by the DG. There is a great expectation around the discussions on this Report since it will shape the future direction of the ILO’s work. In fact, it highlights the links between the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development Goals and the Decent Work implications of this Agenda. It seeks to discuss how constituents should be fully involved in its advocacy and implementation and what should be the central role and leadership of the ILO in not just shaping this discussion but also in supporting these efforts, in particular through its International Labour Standards. The full participation of workers and their organisations in the design, implementation and evaluation of the results of the SDGs will shape the contents of the End to Poverty Initiative through which this collective work will be developed. It will be important that Worker Delegates who speak in plenary provide ideas and engagement towards this goal.

The second comment I want to make is in reference to the Committee on the application of conventions and recommendations. This year the ILC General Survey covers a set of instruments on labour migration. The Survey provides a global picture of the law and practice of member States’ application of the Conventions (regardless of ratification) and Recommendations. The specific instruments are: the Migration for Employment Convention (Revised), 1949 (No. 97), the Migration for Employment Recommendation (Revised), 1949 (No. 86), the Migrant Workers (Supplementary Provisions) Convention, 1975 (No. 143) and the Migrant Workers Recommendation, 1975 (No. 151).

The Committee of experts clearly states that the rationale of the instruments and the promotion of a rights-based approach to labour migration remains relevant now as it was when the instruments were adopted back in 1949 and 1975.

Having considered the comments made by the constituents, the Committee of Experts notes its firm belief that the instruments retain their relevance and potential to contribute to effective governance of the considerable current migration challenges faced by the ILO tripartite constituents. Thus the Committee encourages the ILO to undertake a comprehensive campaign to promote the ratification and effective implementation and awareness of Conventions Nos. 97 and 143 and Recommendations Nos. 86 and 151, in the context of its Fair Migration Agenda.

The CAS will have furthermore to consider 24 cases. There is consensus on the importance of adopting conclusions on all cases, which should be short clear and specify the action expected of Governments, including the activities provided by the Office, if applicable. So, let’s hope that the Committee will reach good conclusions.

Moving to the items placed on the agenda by the Conference or the Governing Body, I would like to concentrate on three of those items:
The General Discussion on Decent Work in Global Supply Chains. There is a lot of interest and attention around this topic. Global Supply Chains are here to stay and so the challenge is to have a discussion that generates a better understanding of the opportunities and challenges to bring decent work to GSC: what are the decent work gaps, what should be the role of the constituents and of the ILO in realising a stronger coherence between economic outcomes and decent work in order to promote sustainable development, how to ensure a better national and international governance of GSC. From a workers perspective issues like the respect of workers fundamental rights, such as freedom of association and collective bargaining, the establishment of minimum living wages, the development of sound labour relations, the regulatory framework for GSC will certainly be part of the agenda of discussion.
The first discussion under the double discussion mechanism of a standard-setting on Decent Work for Peace, Security and Disaster Resilience: Revision of the Employment (transition from War to Peace) Recommendation n° 71 from 1944. The question of revising this Recommendation was first discussed in the Governing Body already in November 1998 and again in November 2002, but it was finally in March 2014 that the Governing Body decided to place this item on the agenda of the present and next session of the International Labour Conference.

The Recommendation remains the only international labour standard that provides visionary approach of restoring peace through employment. The rationale for the revision is derived from the realization that the contexts and approaches to post-conflict and post-disaster recovery have evolved significantly in recent decades. Major geopolitical changes have led to an increase in internal armed conflicts. Moreover, natural disasters, including due to climate change, are playing a destabilizing role in communities.

It is expected that a revised instrument encompassing substantive elements of decent work, would also strengthen the ILO-led UN Policy for Post-Conflict Employment Creation, Income Generation and Reintegration (2009).

Additionally, the revised instrument should focus on the ILO’s mandate, approach and expertise in crisis response taking due regard to the evolution and expansion of programme and activities that have taken place over the years and now include the promotion of durable solutions for communities and countries affected by armed conflicts and/or disasters. This includes the need to promote employment, reinforce state institutions, foster social protection, social dialogue and respect for fundamental rights.

And finally the Evaluation of the impact of the ILO Declaration on Social Justice for a Fair Globalisation, adopted in 2008. This evaluation should be considered as one of the first building blocks to the centenary outcomes, particularly the future of work initiative. Its original purpose to re-assert the value of the Philadelphia mandate and place social justice at the heart of globalization through decent work remains fully relevant in the eve of the ILO Centenary celebrations. The outcome should be to provide a coherent framework for achieving the full potential of the Declaration in the changing world of work. Issues like the Universal ratification and implementation of FPRW; Greater efforts to promote the ratification of these enabling conventions, with focus on Conventions 87 and 98; Targeted action to enhance the ratification and implementation of governance standards or the systematic involvement of social partners in the actions taken by Member States will have to be part on the discussions including in shaping ILO Decent Work Country programs that would be really addressing all pillars of Decent Work. An important novelty of this discussion is the inclusion of exchanges with other international organizations, which need to be reinforced if we want to enhance the “policy coherence” around the Decent Work agenda.

Colleagues, the menu is long and sometimes with issues that are difficult to digest. But I am certain of the engagement of all in all debates.

Shortly we will elect the chairperson of the Workers’ Group. But before that I will give the floor to Anna Biondi, Deputy Director of ACTRAV, who will give you some technical background about the ILC.

Before that I would like to request One minute of silence in the memory of all those who in the last year have lost their lives in the course of their professional activity, lives that in many cases could have been spared.

Thank you for your attention.