ILO and the International Organization of Standardization

ILO termination of ISO Agreement

ILO Statement upon termination of the Agreement between the International Labour Organization and the International Organization of Standardization, signed August 6, 2013.

Statement | 15 January 2018
The International Labour Organization (ILO) formally notified the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) on 18 December 2017 of its decision to terminate the Agreement between the ILO and the International Organization for Standardization, signed 6 August 2013. The decision followed a review by the ILO Governing Body of a report on the ILO’s pilot implementation of that Agreement over the past four years.* The termination will take effect on 8 March 2018.

The ILO termination of the 2013 Agreement affirms that the work of the ISO or other public and private bodies should not be in conflict with public policies or regulations that fall under the remit of governments or treaty organizations, including international labour standards and guidelines (ILS). The implementation of the 2013 Agreement over the past four years has fallen short of satisfying the Agreement’s aims, such as avoiding that ISO standards conflict with international labour standards and that the ILO receive meaningful advance notice of ISO proposals that could address ILO issues. The ILO and the ISO have disagreed as to whether development of ISO standards required treating ILS “as the source of reference in case of conflict” (Agreement, paragraph 4) or whether the ISO simply needed to consider but not to defer to ILS. When ILS does not form the floor of private standards on subjects relevant to the work of the ILO, the private standards risk leaving workers unprotected despite the tripartite consensus in the form of ILS concluded and given effect for decades.

The ILO will continue to be active in the international arena to ensure that other public and private bodies act in conformity with ILO standards. In accordance with the relevant Governing Body decision, it will not seek to renew collaboration with the ISO without adequate safeguards being in place to ensure respect of ILO standards. The ISO is effective in convening expertise on discrete technical issues but it is not equipped with the mandate, the representation, the expertise, or the capacity to address social issues that require processes for balancing the competing interests of different stakeholders. The ILO will still receive information on some technical standards on the ISO’s agenda without the need for active collaboration.

* The pilot was in the context of development of an ISO occupational health and safety management systems standard (ISO 45001).