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Governing Body elects new Chairman, hears report on globalization debate Committee on Freedom of Association cites Cuba, Venezuela, Zimbabwe, others

The Governing Body of the International Labour Office (ILO) elected Philippe Séguin, government delegate of France, as Chairman for its 2004-2005 Session and heard a report on the ILO's role in promoting a fair globalization.

Press release | 18 June 2004

GENEVA (ILO News) - The Governing Body of the International Labour Office (ILO) elected Philippe Séguin, government delegate of France, as Chairman for its 2004-2005 Session and heard a report on the ILO's role in promoting a fair globalization.

The 290th session of the Governing Body also considered a range of other business including a report of the ILO Committee on Freedom of Association.

Philippe Séguin replaces H.E. Eui-Yong Chung, Ambassador of the Republic of Korea, who served as Governing Body Chairman during the 2003-2004 Session. Mr. Séguin was French Minister for Social Affairs and Employment from 1986-1988 and President of the National Assembly from 1993-1997. He has been the delegate of the French government to the ILO Governing Body since 2002.

Sir Leroy Trotman, General Secretary, Barbados Workers' Union and spokesperson of the Workers' Group in the Governing Body, was re-elected Workers' Vice-chairperson. Daniel Funes de Rioja, President of the Social Policy Department of the Argentine Industrial Union and Chairman of the Employers' Group of the Organization of American States from 1995 to 1998, was re-elected as Employer Vice-chairperson.

The three will serve as Officers of the Governing Body during its 2004-2005 Session. The Governing Body is the executive council of the ILO and meets three times annually in Geneva. It takes decisions on policy and establishes the program and budget of the 177 member States Organization.

Conference debates

The Governing Body also received proposals on how the ILO can effectively and efficiently address key issues raised by the World Commission on the Social Dimension of Globalization in its report published in February 2004 and discussed during the 92nd International Labour Conference over the past two weeks.

"The message of the Commission to the ILO is that given our mandate and our constituency we have a special role in promoting a fair globalization", said Juan Somavia, Director-General of the ILO. "The debate in this year's [International Labour] Conference suggests to me that the ILO's constituents are ready to rise to this challenge".

Mr. Somavia outlined proposals designed to meet the challenges posed by World Commission on the Social Dimension of Globalization, which issued a landmark report on the global economy and its social elements in February of this year. He said these proposals, which include a new strategic policy framework and programme and budget for the period 2006-2009 would provide concrete guidelines on "how the ILO an effectively and efficiently address key issues raised by the Commission which fall within its mandate, and which have received support in the Governing Body and the Conference."

"The debate in the Conference was wide and rich," Mr. Somavia said. "The point of departure is to note that the political impact of the World Commission's report has gone - probably - beyond all expectations. The message that decent work must be a global goal is still echoing."

These new policy guidelines were to be discussed by the Governing Body at its next meeting in November.

The International Labour Conference, which met on 1-17 June, heard world leaders and tripartite representatives voice their views on the report of the World Commission and its recommendations on how to achieve a fair globalization.

Freedom of Association

The Governing Body approved the 334th report of the ILO Committee on Freedom of Association. At its May-June meeting, the Committee examined 15 cases. Altogether there are currently 108 cases before the Committee.

The Committee drew special attention to the cases of Cuba, Venezuela and Zimbabwe in respect of freedom of association.

In the case of Cuba, the Committee deeply regretted the Government's categoric rejection of the proposal for a direct contacts mission made by the Committee in November 2003.

The Committee further deplored that the Government had not sent the judgements requested in respect of the seven trade union officials who had been sentenced to long prison sentences of up to 26 years, thus obstructing the Committee's ability to examine these judgements in the light of the general and vague accusations made by the Government in respect of these individuals. Given the absence of concrete information from the Government in respect of these trials, the Committee urged the Government to take steps for the immediate release of these trade union leaders.

As regards the trade union monopoly established by law, the Committee urged the Government promptly to adopt new provisions and measures to recognize in law and in practice the right of workers to establish the organizations of their own choosing - independent from the current trade union structure.

In the case of Venezuela, the Committee examined two cases against the Government, one emanating from Venezuelan workers' organizations (CTV, UNAPETROL and FEDEUNEP), and the other from the employers' organization (FEDECAMARAS).

In the first case, brought by the Venezuelan workers' organizations and the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU), the Committee strongly urged the Government to take steps to vacate the detention order against the president of the CTV, Carlos Ortega, and to guarantee that Mr. Ortega may return to the country to perform his trade union functions, without being subject to reprisals. The Committee further urged the Government to recognize the executive committee of the CTV and to abstain from making statements which could express hostility towards the CTV, as well as to abstain from promoting the establishment of other trade unions or confederations.

In the second case, brought by FEDECAMARAS and the International Organisation of Employers (IOE), the Committee underlined the seriousness of the allegations presented over one year ago and regretted that the Government had still not provided specific replies to a large number of these.

It expressed generally its serious concern about the poor situation of the rights of employers' organizations, their representatives and their members and recall that the rights of workers' and employers' organizations can only be exercised in a climate that is free from violence, pressure or threats of any kind against the leaders and members of these organizations.

The Committee deplored the arrest of Carlos Fernández, President of the FEDECAMARAS, as being discriminatory and aimed at neutralizing him or at retaliating for his activities in defence of employers' interests. It urged the Government to take all possible steps to annul immediately the judicial proceedings against him and to ensure that he may return to Venezuela without delay and without risk of reprisal.

The case of Zimbabwe concerns allegations of arrests of trade union leaders and members of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) and of anti-union intimidation and harassment through repeated interventions by the authorities and the police in October and November 2003.

The Committee recalled that it had already been called upon to examine similar allegations in respect of events in March 2002 and December 2002 at which time it had called upon the Government to refrain from interfering in the ZCTU trade union activities and from arresting and detaining trade union leaders and members for reasons connected with their trade union activities.

In reply to the Government's statement that the activities of October and November 2003 were motivated by political elements within the ZCTU, the Committee recalled that trade union activities cannot be restricted solely to occupational matters since government policies and choices are generally bound to have an impact on workers. This was particularly true in this case as the demonstrations were on issues related to the high cost of living and trade union rights.

The Committee strongly urged the Government not to resort to measures of arrest or detention of trade union leaders or members for reasons connected with their trade union activities and not to interfere in the legitimate trade union activities of the ZCTU.

The Committee also considered a case against the Government of China - Hong Kong Special Administrative Region concerning the unilateral reduction of civil service pay through the enactment of a Public Officers Pay Adjustment Ordinance. The Committee requested the Government to engage in consultations without delay with a view to establishing a collective bargaining mechanism that would allow public employees who are not engaged in the administration of the State to negotiate collectively their terms and conditions of employment.

The Committee also followed-up on a case against the Government of Sweden concerning government interference in collective bargaining with respect to the retirement age in a new pension system. Noting that the Government had met with the social partners in June 2003, the Committee requested the Government to provide information on the results obtained. It further recalled that remedial measures should be taken by the Government so that all agreements already negotiated on pension matters continued to produce all their effects until their expiry dates.

The Governing Body adopted the recommendations of the Committee on these cases and 12 others.