GENEVA (ILO News) - Promoting employment, combating child labour and extending fundamental labour rights to millions of homeworkers worldwide are among the main agenda items of the 83rd International Labour Conference, which opens in Geneva on Tuesday 4 June 1996.
The Conference will be attended by delegations from most of the ILO's 173 member States. Each delegation is composed of four delegates, two representing governments and one each representing employers and workers. The opening sitting will see the election of the President of the Conference, at 11 a.m. in the Assembly Hall of the UN Palais des Nations. The various meetings of the Conference will be held in the Palais des Nations and at the International Labour Office.
Work begins on Tuesday for the Conference's Resolutions Committee and the Committee on Application of Labour Standards. The work of three other Committees (on Homework, Employment Policy and Tripartite Consultation) begins on Wednesday, 5 June.
The electoral colleges of the government, employer and worker groups of the Organization will elect the members of their respective groups of the Governing Body, whose period of office lasts for three years.
A special plenary session will be addressed by President Jacques Chirac of France on 11 June at 11:00.
On Wednesday 12 June an Informal Tripartite Meeting at the Ministerial Level will be convened to discuss the problem of child labour. Over 100 Ministers of Labour are expected to attend. The International Labour Office notes that many millions of children work worldwide, often in deplorable conditions. It calls upon ILO Member states to take vigorous action to promote wider ratification of existing ILO Conventions designed to bring about the effective elimination of child labour and to promote national practices that respect the fundamental human rights of children.
The ILO's role in the fight against child labour has intensified greatly since the establishment in 1991 of the International Programme for the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC).
In March this year, the ILO's Governing Body decided to place the development of a new international instrument on the agenda of the 1998 Conference with the goal of eliminating the most damaging forms of child labour (including forced or slave labour, work with dangerous substances and child prostitution).
Plenary sessions will begin on 11 June at 10:00 to examine the Director-General's report on ILO activities for 1994-95. Delegates will also review and examine policies designed to boost employment.
Delegates to the Conference will also examine the condition of many millions of homeworkers with a view to the adoption of a proposed Convention and Recommendation on Homework. The ILO notes that labour-intensive, homework is practised in most countries and provides employment and earnings for increasing numbers of workers: it can take many forms, ranging from services, to textile manufacturing to processing food. This sector of the labour market is seen as an important potential source of job growth. However, a report prepared for the Committee noted that homeworkers constitute a particularly vulnerable category of workers due to such factors as inadequate legal protection, isolation and weak bargaining position. The proposed Convention would oblige any ratifying member State to adopt policies aimed at improving the situation of home workers and promoting equality of treatment between this large and often unprotected workforce and other wage earners.
The Committee on Application of Standards will call directly upon Governments to consider a wide range of human rights and labour issues discussed in the 1996 Report of the Committee of Experts. These abuses include restrictions on freedom of association, the use of forced labour and the persistence of widespread discrimination in the workplace. The Committee will also examine a special report on the Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Convention, 1958 ( No. 111). In addition to examining national practices with respect to non-discrimination on such grounds as sex or religion, the Committee will consider proposals for expanding the scope of the Convention to encompass other grounds of discrimination, including age or state of health, which are particularly important for elderly, disabled, handicapped or HIV-positive workers.
The Committee on Tripartite Consultation will examine developments in labour relations, particularly in light of the globalisation of the economy and its impact on traditional tripartite consultations. The Committee on Finance will meet to review financial and administrative matters.
The role of the International Labour Conference is to adopt international labour standards, establish the budget of the Organisation and elect members of the ILO Governing Body. The Conference functions much like an international parliament of labour and since 1919 has served as a major international forum for debate on social and labour questions of worldwide importance.