International Labour Conference empowered to abrogate obsolete Conventions

News | 20 November 2015
The 1997 amendment of the ILO Constitution which permits the abrogation of obsolete labour Conventions, has entered into force following its ratification by the Cook Islands - the Organization's newest member State.

GENEVA (ILO News) - On 8 October 2015, the Cook Islands wrote ILO history for the second time this year when it deposited its instrument of acceptance of the 1997 amendment to the ILO Constitution barely four months after it became the 186th member State of the Organization. This latest registration marks the acceptance of the constitutional amendment by the required two-thirds of member States and thus allows its entry into force.

This will enable the ILO and its members - governments, employers and workers - to strengthen the relevance, impact and coherence of the ILO's body of international labour standards by enabling the annual Conference to abrogate - by a two-thirds majority vote - Conventions which have manifestly lost their purpose and no longer make any useful contribution to the objectives of the Organization.

Until now, the ILO did not have a means of terminating the legal effects of outdated Conventions - it could only adopt new revised standards on subjects covered by existing Conventions. The entry into force of the 1997 constitutional amendment fills this gap and marks an important institutional milestone as the ILO approaches its 100th anniversary. Together with the launching of a standards review mechanism, this constitutional amendment reinforces the ILO's efforts to ensure that it has a clear, robust and up-to-date body of labour standards serving as a global reference.

To date, the ILO's Governing Body has identified 31 out of 189 ILO Conventions as outdated. The Conventions retained as candidates for possible abrogation include, for instance, Convention No. 15 of 1921 which regulates the minimum age of trimmers and stokers - long-disappeared occupations on board vessels, and Conventions Nos. 4 and 41 on women's night work which date back to 1919 and 1934 respectively, and forbid night work for women in industry - widely seen today as contrary to fundamental principles of gender equality and non-discrimination.