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Governing Body

ILO Governing Body elects new Chairperson – Committee on Freedom of Association cites Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Islamic Republic of Iran and Peru

The Governing Body of the International Labour Office (ILO) elected H.E. Mr. Adelwaheb Jemal, Ambassador of Tunisia and Permanent Representative of Tunisia to the United Nations Office in Geneva, as Chairperson for 2010-11.

Press release | 18 June 2010

GENEVA (ILO News) – The Governing Body of the International Labour Office (ILO) elected H.E. Mr. Adelwaheb Jemal, Ambassador of Tunisia and Permanent Representative of Tunisia to the United Nations Office in Geneva, as Chairperson for 2010-11.

The 308th Session of the Governing Body also considered a range of other business, including a report of the ILO Committee on Freedom of Association.

Mr. Abdelwaheb Jemal replaces H.E. Mrs. Maria Nazareth Farani Azevêdo, Ambassador of Brazil and Permanent Representative of Brazil to the United Nations Office in Geneva, who served as Governing Body Chairperson during the period 2009-10.

Prior to this appointment in Geneva in December 2008, Mr Abdelwaheb Jemal had worked as General Commissioner of Regional Development in the Tunisian Ministry of Planning, Chief of Staff of the Minister of Social Welfare, Governor of the provinces of Mahdia and Nabeul, Permanent Secretary (with the status of a Deputy Minister) in the Constitutional Democratic Rally and Ambassador of Tunisia in Mauritania.

Daniel Funes de Rioja, President of the Social Policy Department of the Argentine Industrial Union and Chairman of the Employers’ Group of the Organization of American States from 1995 to 1998, was re-elected as Employer Vice-chairperson. Sir Leroy Trotman, General Secretary, Barbados Workers’ Union and spokesperson of the Workers’ Group in the Governing Body, was re-elected Workers’ Vice-chairperson.

The three will serve as Officers of the Governing Body during the period 2010-11. The Governing Body is the executive council of the ILO and meets three times annually in Geneva. It takes decisions on policy and establishes the program and budget of the 183 member States of the ILO.

The Governing Body also prepared the agenda of the 100th session of the International Labour Conference in June 2011. It decided to include a general discussion on "labour administration and labour inspection - Trends and challenges" in the agenda. The 2011 session will also hold a second discussion on “Decent work for domestic workers” with a view to standard setting, and consider the strategic objective of social protection, the application of ILO Conventions and Recommendations, reports of the Chairperson of the Governing Body and the Director-General, and proposals for the ILO Programme and Budget for 2012-13.

Freedom of association

The Governing Body approved the 357th report of the ILO Committee on Freedom of Association. At its present meeting, the Committee examined 39 cases. Altogether there are currently 128 cases before the Committee.

The Committee drew special attention to the cases of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, the Islamic Republic of Iran and Peru.

In the case of the Democratic Republic of Congo, concerning the arbitrary detention of members and leaders of the Congolese Labour Confederation (CCT) working at the Ministry of National Economy and Foreign Trade by intelligence services, the Committee requested the Government to immediately start an independent inquiry to explain the nature of their arrest and the offences they have been charged for. Such an inquiry should also establish whether the trade unionists have been detained for a month before being questioned and whether they have been subject to inhuman and degrading treatment. The Committee requested that the detained should be released immediately if the inquiry revealed that they were only in prison because of the exercise of their legitimate trade union activities.

In the case of Ethiopia, the Committee regretted that the National Teachers Association (NTA) has still not been registered with the government despite the Committee’s earlier recommendations in this regard. It urged the Government to proceed immediately to register the association so that teachers can fully exercise their right to form associations to defend their professional interests. More generally, the committee urged the government to fully guarantee the rights of union officials, including public school teachers. The Committee also noted the adoption of a new Proclamation on Charities, asking the government to provide information on its implementation, especially with respect to alleged interference of the body responsible for registering associations.

The two cases concerning the Islamic Republic of Iran show that the difficulties related to the exercise of the right to freedom of association affects both employers and workers in the country. In the first case, involving repeated acts of repression against the union of the Bus Company of Tehran Vahed (SVATH) and detention of its President, Mr. Mansour Osanloo, the Committee welcomed efforts by the Minister of Labour to obtain his release and a decision to include him in a list of persons to be pardoned. It strongly expected to see his immediate release and demanded the immediate release and dropping of charges brought against several other trade unionists. The committee also called for measures to amend the legislation to recognize the principles of trade union pluralism, and the right to public protest and expression.

The second Iranian case concerns the government's interference in the affairs of an organization representing employers and its administrative dissolution. In the light of a recent court decision in this matter, the Committee expressed the hope that the government will register immediately the employers' organization concerned (ICEA) and asked it to adopt a position of neutrality with respect to the exercise of employers’ associations. The Committee reiterated the need to amend the labour law to provide protection against acts of government interference and guarantee the freedom to form and join organizations of workers and employers. Finally, the Committee expected the government to accept a mission to the country to discuss all issues related to freedom of association, including the issues raised in the present case.

In the case of Peru, concerning the dismissal of many union leaders in the mining sector following a strike and the assassination of two trade unionists, the Committee strongly expressed its hope that the ongoing investigations into these murders will deliver concrete results and determine responsibilities. The Committee also called for an independent investigation into the allegations of dismissals of trade unionists for strike and requested their reinstatement if it turns out that participation in strikes was the only reason for their dismissal.

On a positive note, the Committee welcomed the revitalization of social dialogue in Japan particularly with respect to the formulation of a legislative framework to ensure basic labour rights to public servants and the establishment of a committee to examine the issue of the right to organize of fire fighters. It urged the Government to continue in this direction and to keep it informed of all developments in this regard.