This year’s International Day of Cooperatives is focused on the theme, “Cooperatives for decent work”.
Decent work sums up the aspirations of people to live their working lives in conditions of freedom, equality, security and dignity. It is the precondition for social justice, the core of the ILO mandate since its foundation in 1919.
So, this year’s theme is particularly timely as the ILO celebrates its Centenary. During its one hundred years of service the ILO has given employers, workers and governments an equal voice in setting labour standards and labour policies. This has resulted on limits to working hours, progress towards ending child and forced labour, and more inclusive workplaces including for people with disabilities. It has helped to close the gender pay gap and aims to stop violence against women and men at work. And today the ILO is striving to lead the way to not only shape but to achieve the future of work we all want.
Over that century, cooperatives have been an important partner of the ILO in achieving a decent, “human-centred" work agenda for a fair, secure and inclusive future of work. The first ILO Director-General, Albert Thomas, was from the cooperative movement himself. Recognizing the importance of cooperatives, he established a Cooperative Service in the ILO in 1920. And co-operators are mentioned in Article 12 explicitly of the constitution of the ILO.
As the representative of cooperatives worldwide the International Cooperative Alliance holds a general consultative status at the ILO. Cooperatives offer a resilient, democratic and sustainable model of doing business in all sectors of the economy. The ILO’s Recommendation No. 193 on the Promotion of Co-operatives adopted in 2002 also provides a very solid basis for national policies on cooperatives. More recently cooperatives were recognized as a tool in the pathway towards formalising the informal economy, this in the ILO Transition from the Informal to the Formal Economy Recommendation No. 204, which we adopted in 2015, and it’s also recognized in the final report of the Global Commission on the Future of Work which was published in January of this centenary year.
So today, there are growing calls for new models of development and an increasing number of enterprises have come up with innovative solutions to improve the organisation of work and production. And cooperatives are increasingly recognised as key drivers in this diverse ecosystem.
The ILO therefore welcomes a commitment made by the international cooperative movement towards the promotion of a decent working environment and particularly zero tolerance for any form of harassment through your “Declaration on Decent Work and Against Harassment”. Good practices can be found in cooperatives all over the world showing how they address decent work deficits in their own operations and across the value chains in which they operate. Forward-thinking cooperatives are taking concrete measures toward social justice, equality and non-discrimination, and are putting systems in place to track their contribution to decent work. And the new guidelines concerning the statistics of cooperatives which were adopted at the International Conference of Labour Statisticians last year provides a solid framework to develop such systems.
As we embark upon the second century of the ILO, it is clear that our mandate to promote social justice and decent work has never been more relevant, and that it continues to endure.
In these times of unprecedented change and exceptional challenges in the world of work we look forward to continued partnership with the cooperative movement to achieve a stable, just future of work for everybody. I wish you good luck.