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ILO Governing Body concludes 298th Session: Considers ILO budget, labour situation in Myanmar, Belarus and other countries as well as trade and employment policy

The Governing Body of the International Labour Office (ILO) concluded its 298th session here today following wide-ranging discussions among its worker, employer and government constituents on the Organization’s budget, the labour situation in Myanmar, Belarus and other countries as well as trade and employment policy.

Press release | 30 March 2007

GENEVA (ILO News) – The Governing Body of the International Labour Office (ILO) concluded its 298th session here today following wide-ranging discussions among its worker, employer and government constituents on the Organization’s budget, the labour situation in Myanmar, Belarus and other countries as well as trade and employment policy.

The Governing Body adopted a proposed programme and budget for 2008-09 of US$594 million – which in constant 2006-07 US dollars represents no change for the next biennium, before accounting for cost increases. The proposed budget will be submitted to the International Labour Conference in June for consideration.

The Governing Body was in session between 8-30 March under the chairmanship of South African Minister of Labour Mr. M. M. S. Mdladlana.

On trade and employment policy, the Working Party on the Social Dimension of Globalization held a lengthy discussion based on a joint review by the ILO/WTO Secretariats (Note 1) published in February.

The discussion was led by a panel including WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy; Mr. Osvaldo Andrade Lara, Minister of Labour and Social Welfare, Chile; Ms. Sudha Pillai, Secretary (Labor and Employment), Ministry of Labour and Employment, India; Mr. Abraham Katz, President, International Organisation of Employers (IOE) and Sir Leroy Trotman, spokesperson of the Workers’ Group of the Governing Body. ILO Director-General Juan Somavia provided concluding comments.

Noting that the study marked the first collaborative research project between the ILO and the WTO Secretariat, Mr. Lamy added that it provided an impartial overview of what could be said, and with what degree of confidence, on the relationship between trade and employment. He also noted that the joint study “stays away from giving policy advice but can help policy-makers to think about policy design and in particular the trade offs that may be implied”.

ILO Director-General Juan Somavia noted that the joint study could promote a better understanding of the interaction between different policy spheres and contribute to greater policy coherence at the national level. He added that the discussion marked “an important institutional breakthrough” in addressing the relationship between ILO and WTO. In conclusion he also reiterated that the joint study could be a useful source for tripartite dialogue at the national level and contribute to a tripartite consultation on trade negotiation.

Myanmar

The Governing Body welcomed the Understanding reached between the ILO and the government of Myanmar in February 2007 on a mechanism for victims of forced labour to seek redress without having to fear reprisals. It also welcomed the fact that the implementation of this mechanism had begun, and that action had been taken by the Myanmar authorities in those cases that involved forced labour.

The Governing Body underlined the importance of the mechanism continuing to function effectively in the context of a very serious forced labour situation. In this regard, the Governing Body requested the Office to move quickly to assign suitable international staff to assist the ILO Liaison Officer, and requested the Government of Myanmar to extend the necessary cooperation and facilities.

On the question of an advisory opinion by the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the Governing Body decided to defer this issue on the understanding that the necessary question or questions would continue to be studied and prepared by the Office.

Belarus

Regarding trade union rights in Belarus, the Governing Body considered for the third time what measures had been taken to promote the implementation of recommendations of the 2004 Commission of Inquiry.

Taking note of some positive steps taken by the Government, the Governing Body nevertheless noted with continuing concern that several important matters raised by the Commission of Inquiry and figuring in their corresponding recommendations had not yet been fully addressed by the Government. It referred in this respect to the non-registration of a certain number of primary-level trade union organizations and the consequent denial of registration to several regional organizations.

Noting the dialogue that had taken place with the Government, the Governing Body therefore called upon the Government of Belarus to fully cooperate with the International Labour Office for the implementation of all the recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry. It also called upon the Government to ensure that all workers’ and employers’ organizations can function freely and without interference, and obtain registration.

The Governing Body urged the Government to abandon the present draft concept on the trade union law and review all its legislation in full consultation with all the social partners concerned in order to ensure fully the right to organize both in law and in practice, in accordance with ILO Convention No. 87, so that free and independent trade unions may exercise their full rights.

Freedom of Association

The tripartite body also approved the 344th and 345th Reports of the ILO Committee on Freedom of Association, drawing special attention to the cases of Djibouti and Zimbabwe.

In the case of Djibouti, the Committee deeply regretted that it did not even have a reply from the Government to the allegations relating to intimidation and increasingly serious violations of trade union rights. The allegations include the abusive dismissal of numerous trade union leaders and activists and the subsequent detention of nearly 200 workers acting in solidarity of the dismissed workers.

The Committee requested the Government to institute an independent inquiry rapidly into the allegations of abusive dismissal and, should the allegations prove to be founded, to ensure the reinstatement of these workers without loss of pay. Regarding the arrest of trade union leaders Adan Mohamed, Hassan Cher Hared, Mohamed Ahmed Mohamed and Djibril Ismael Egeuh in June 2006, the Committee expressed the firm expectation that they have since been released and that no charges remain pending against them.

In the case of Zimbabwe, the Committee examined the government sponsoring of a rival faction within the Zimbabwe Central Trade Union (ZCTU) in order to undermine its leadership, breaking up of their meetings, raiding their headquarters, seizing their property, launching unfounded inquiries, proposing amendments to the labour legislation in violation of freedom of association and several instances of arrest, detention and beating of ZCTU leaders and members.

The Committee urged the Government to drop the charges brought against trade unionists for reasons connected to their trade union activities and to initiate independent inquiries having the confidence of the parties concerned into the allegations of beatings of ZCTU members while in detention, as well as into the disruption of their meetings and physical assault by rival factions within the union.

Following the deportation and refusal of entry to a number of foreign trade unionists, the Committee urged the Government to allow mutual support missions into the country, subjecting any approval to objective criteria only. The Committee once again noted with deep concern that the trade union situation in Zimbabwe has not evolved and may even have worsened since its last examination of the case. It also urged the Government to reconsider the request for a direct contacts mission.

The Governing Body is the executive body of the International Labour Office (the Office is the secretariat of the Organization). It meets three times a year, in March, June and November and takes decisions on ILO policy, the agenda of the International Labour Conference and the draft Programme and Budget of the Organization for submission to the Conference.

It is composed of 56 titular members (28 Governments, 14 Employers and 14 Workers) and 66 deputy members (28 Governments, 19 Employers and 19 Workers). Ten of the titular government seats are permanently held by States of chief industrial importance (Brazil, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom and the United States). The other Government members are elected by the Conference every three years.

Video: Somavia and Lamy discuss ILO/WTO report


Note 1 - International Labour Office and Secretariat of the WTO, Trade and employment: Challenges for policy research, a joint ILO/WTO Secretariat study, Geneva, February 2007.