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Governing Body

ILO expresses deep concern over economic crisis, moves to forge policy responses based on decent work

Amid growing concern over the impact of economic turmoil on workers, employers and governments, the Governing Body of the International Labour Office (ILO) took the first steps toward forging employment and social policy responses through social dialogue aimed at meeting the challenges of the deepening global economic crisis.

Press release | 21 November 2008

GENEVA (ILO News) ─ Amid growing concern over the impact of economic turmoil on workers, employers and governments, the Governing Body of the International Labour Office (ILO) today took the first steps toward forging employment and social policy responses through social dialogue aimed at meeting the challenges of the deepening global economic crisis.

The move came as the ILO’s tripartite membership, and its Decent Work Agenda, drew strong support from José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, President of the Government of Spain, Nicolas Sarkozy, President of France, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development Secretary-General Angel Gurría.

“The central conclusion is that the Decent Work Agenda is an appropriate policy framework to confront the crisis”, said ILO Director-General Juan Somavia. “There is a powerful message that tripartite dialogue with employers and workers organizations should play a central role in addressing the economic crisis, and developing policy responses.”

The ILO met amid new reports that the global economic crisis was deepening with strong indications that economic growth in all regions will be substantially lower in the remainder of 2008 and much lower in 2009. ILO data indicate that unemployment could increase worldwide by some 20 million, while the number of working poor living on less than $2 per day was also expected to rise.

“This calls for urgent action”, said the Chair and Employer and Worker Vice-Chairs of the ILO Governing Body in a special statement issued on the financial and economic crisis. “We need comprehensive and coordinated measures to minimize the duration and the depth of the downturn in the global economy as well as to combat possible negative social consequences and accelerate recovery.”

The statement identifies a number of measures that would be necessary to “address the impact of the crisis on the real economy to protect people, support productive enterprises and safeguard jobs,” including:

  • ensuring the flow of credit to consumption, trade and investment;
  • protecting persons most exposed, including extending social protection and unemployment benefits, and promoting training, retraining and placement services;
  • supporting productive, profitable and sustainable enterprises together with a strong social economy and a viable public sector, so as to maximize employment and decent work;
  • ensuring that social progress is not undermined in the current crisis;
  • developing strong cooperation between the ILO and its tripartite constituents with the multilateral system in order to assist countries in implementing measures aimed at addressing the crisis; and,
  • maintaining development aid as a minimum at current levels and providing additional credit lines and support to enable low-income countries to cushion the crisis.
  • “We now have clear guidance on how to move forward” said Mr. Somavia, who was elected to a third, five-year term as head of the agency on Tuesday. “We will do this by expanding the ILO’s work on responses to the labour and social consequences of the crisis; supporting ILO constituents as they forge responses; and engaging with the multilateral system, including the G20 process and international finance institutions.”

    The Governing Body also received unprecedented expressions of support during the week, opening with an urgent call by Mr. Gurría on Monday for increased collaboration between the OECD and the ILO on labour market and social policies, saying “success or failure in this area will affect not only the livelihood of millions of people around the world but it will also determine what the citizens of the world want the global financial and economic architecture to look like after the crisis”.

    On Tuesday, Mr Rodriguez Zapatero called social dialogue “a model for the reform process that started at the G-20 meeting in Washington”, and reiterated his willingness to continue to work with the ILO to strengthen the organization’s capacity to influence global governance.

    Noting that the financial crisis has also become a “jobs crisis,” Mr. Ban Ki-moon said Wednesday that “we have to do more than just fix the current financial disorder. We have to improve governance so that globalization produces fairer results and promotes social justice. And we have to make sure that it is environmentally, economically, socially and politically sustainable.” He added, “I am convinced the ILO has a major role to play.”

    In a message to the Governing Body on Thursday, Mr. Sarkozy urged the ILO to make its voice heard to promote Decent Work in the negotiations on responses to the crisis, saying that “Decent Work has to be at the heart of the reflection that we should pursue and of any decisions that we have to take in the coming months.”

    Speaking on behalf of the employers, Mr Daniel Funes de Rioja called on the ILO to act as the “Red Cross” of the international system, “helping to restore jobs and using its vast network to assist workers and enterprises , so that each of our countries can find new productive niches that will quickly allow us to overcome the crisis.”

    Sir Roy Trotman, Worker Vice-Chairperson, called for "the deepening of the work of the ILO on the different dimensions and responses to the labour and social consequences of the crisis” as well as “engagement with multilateral systems including the G20 and the international financial institutions.”

    In other matters, the Governing Body approved the 351st and 352nd Reports of the ILO Committee on Freedom of Association, drawing special attention to the cases of Cambodia, Chad, Djibouti, Guatemala, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Myanmar and the Philippines. (cf GB.303/9/1, GB.303/9/2).

    Concerning the complaint under article 26 of the ILO Constitution against the Government of Zimbabwe for non observance of Conventions No. 87 and No. 98, on Freedom of Association, Protection of the Right to Organise and collective bargaining, the Governing Body decided to institute a procedure provided for in article 26, paragraph 4, of the Constitution and consequently to proceed to appoint a Commission of Inquiry to consider the allegations of violation of trade union rights referred to in the report of Officers of the Governing Body (cf GB.303/20/1). The Commission will be composed of Judge Raymond Ranjeva, Chairperson, Professor Evance Rabban Kalula and Doctor Bertrand Ramcharan.

    The Governing Body also discussed the reports submitted by the Office concerning the application by Myanmar of the Forced Labour Convention, 1930. It stressed once again the urgency of giving full effect to the recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry. It expressed its concern that an authoritative statement has not yet been made at the highest level that forced labour, including under-age recruitment, is prohibited. The Governing Body further noted that a framework in which the aims of the Supplementary Understanding can be guaranteed efficiently in the future has to be negotiated before the next Governing Body session. It requested the government and the ILO to take necessary steps towards that end.

    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.