GENEVA (ILO News) - In an act of great practical and symbolic significance, South Africa has formally committed itself to meet and thereafter uphold international standards on freedom of association and on the right to collective bargaining.
The instruments of ratification of two Fundamental ILO Conventions - No 87 (1948) concerning Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize, and No 98 (1949) concerning the Application of the Principles of the Right to Organize and to Bargain Collectively - were presented on 19 February to the Director-General of the ILO, Mr. Michel Hansenne, by the Permanent Representative of South Africa in Geneva, Ambassador Jacobs S. Selebi.
"The basic rights enshrined in Conventions 87 and 98 represent vital attributes of a free society", said Mr. Hansenne during the brief ceremony. "Coming so soon after historic transformations, the simultaneous ratification of both instruments stands out as an explicit symbol of the new South Africa's determination to destroy the last vestiges of apartheid and to set a course towards greater social justice for all its citizens, without exception."
Application of these Conventions will imply a radical departure from past practice and should lead to the rapid consolidation of tripartite institutions and mechanisms. "Workers and employers, without distinction whatsoever," stipulates Article 2 of Convention 87, "shall have the right to establish and, subject only to the rules of the organization concerned, to join organizations of their own choosing without previous authorization."
South Africa re-joined the ILO in June 1994, after thirty years of self-imposed absence during which the organization stood in the forefront of the international battle against apartheid. In 1992, an ILO Fact-Finding and Conciliation Commission had recommended "that South Africa bring its law and practice into full conformity with Conventions Nos. 87 and 98, so that when the time comes for South Africa to become once more a Member of the International Labour Organization, one of its first steps will be to ratify in particular these Conventions for the protection of fundamental human rights."