Governing Body Elects New Chairman Committee on Application of Standards calls for missions to Nigeria, Djibouti and Republic of Korea

ILO/97/20

Press release | 20 June 1997

ILO/97/20

GENEVA (ILO News) ­ Meeting in Geneva this morning, the ILO's Governing Body unamimously elected Mr. Ahmed Ahmed El Amawy, Minister of Manpower and Immigration of Egypt, to serve as Chairman of its 1997-98 session. He replaces Mr. J. Arrate Mac Niven, of Chile, who served as chairman for the 1996-97 session. Mr. Jean-Jacques Oechslin (France) was re-elected as employer Vice-Chairman and Mr. William Brett (United Kingdom) was re-elected as worker Vice-Chairman.

The Governing Body is the executive council of the ILO and meets three times a year in Geneva. It takes decisions on ILO policy and establishes the programme and budget, which it then submits to the Conference for adoption. It also elects the Director-General. It is composed of 28 government members ( Endnote 1), 14 employer members and 14 worker members.

During the Governing Body, the Committee on Freedom of Association met at the International Labour Office to examine cases of non-respect of workers' right to organise, involving complaints of violence, intimidation and arrest of trade unionists.

Among the 67 cases currently before the Committee, the present meeting examined 29 cases, reaching definitive conclusions in 17 and interim conclusions in 12 cases. The Recommendations of the Committee were adopted unanimously by the ILO Governing Body at its 269 th session and are contained in its 307 th Report.

Among its Recommendations, the Committee cited the Republic of Korea's recent revision of its labour law, the Trade Union and Labour Relations Adjustment Act, which "contains a number of amendments which constitute progress towards acceptance of the Committees previous recommendations."

However, it also called upon the Government "to take the appropriate steps so as to ensure respect for the fundamental principle of the recognition of the right to organize of workers without distinction whatsoever, including public servants and teachers."

The Committee "firmly insisted that the Government do everything in its power to ensure of the dropping of the charges brought against Mr. Kwon Young-kil, President of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, before the January 1997 strikes." It also noted with interest that the arrest warrants issued against trade union leaders during the strikes of January 1997 have been withdrawn and that certain trade unionists have been released. However, it"expressed its serious concern over the detention of trade unionists and the judicial proceedings taken against them, for, it would appear, activities linked to collective labour disputes."

The Chairman of the Committee, Mr. Jean-Jacques Oechslin, encouraged the Government of the Republic of Korea to accept the direct-contacts mission recommended at its previous session before the next legislative reform and urged the country to continue discussions with the ILO to work out the modality of such a mission.

He reiterated the Committee's request for a mission to Nigeria, in particular, to visit imprisoned trade union leaders. He also urged Djibouti to accept such a mission.

Nigeria has been repeatedly cited in ILO Committee Reports for non-observance of workers right to organise, including dissolution of trade union councils, forced consolidation of trade unions, imprisonment of trade union councils, human rights abuses and prohibitions on Nigerian trade unions associating with international federations and confederations.

The Committee cited Djibouti for "serious repressive measures imposed on trade unionists and trade union officials which have not been lifted, but, on the contrary, have worsened." in the aftermath of a series of industrial actions in 1995, 1996 and 1997.

It called upon the Government to "take measures to lift immediately the severe penalties imposed on the strikers and, in particular to reinstate trade union officials and trade unionists suspended for participating in a strike."

It also requested the Government to respond to the allegation that it set up a trade union organisation supporting its cause called the Djibouti Labour Congress.

Mr. Oechslin noted with satisfaction the liberation of imprisoned trade unionists in Côte d'Ivoire and the reintegration of fired workers in Congo.

The Committee on Freedom of Association, established in 1951, oversees compliance with the fundamental principles of freedom of association, which guarantee, inter alia, the right of workers to engage in collective bargaining: it meets three times annually and consists of 3 government representatives, 3 employer representatives and 3 worker representatives.

Endnote 1 :

Bangladesh, Brazil*, Canada, Chile, China*, Colombia, Congo, Egypt, France*, Guinea, Germany*, Hungary, India*, Italy*, Japan*, Republic of Korea, Mauritius, Nigeria, Panama, Poland, Russian Federation*, Saudi Arabia, Suriname, Swaziland, Thailand, Turkey, United Kingdom*, United States*.

(* = members holding non-elective seats as States of chief industrial importance).