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Day 3: 108th International Labour Conference

World leaders, workers, employers, speak out for social justice at ILO Centenary conference

World leaders expressed strong support for the ILO as it marks its 100th anniversary at the Centenary International Labour Conference. The Conference – the 108th session of the ILC – has a strong focus on the future of work and is also discussing violence and harassment at the workplace.

News | 12 June 2019
GENEVA (ILO News) – Heads of state and government from Jamaica, Burkina Faso and Serbia, as well as the Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority and representatives of employers and workers, addressed the International Labour Conference (ILC) on the third day of its Centenary session.

A steady stream of world leaders have expressed support for the ILO’s social justice mandate, with more high-level visits expected in the last days of the June 10-21 Conference.

Addressing delegates, the Prime Minister of Jamaica, Michel Holness said; “the humanness of the world of work is diminishing, as automation subsumes labour input.” He spoke of, “an overarching covenant that links the past to the future,” and “places a moral and philosophical obligation on governments to ensure all citizens share in the progress and prosperity of their countries.”

“The leaders of the Caribbean remain conscious that the future – and our obligations to the next generation – now summon us to ‘seize the moment’ and draw on the creative imagination that is forever located in the dynamism of a Caribbean tradition that puts people first,” he said.

The Prime Minister of Burkina Faso, Christophe Joseph Marie Dabire, said that any consideration of the future of work must be “a consideration of the future of mankind…the majority of whom live in the southern hemisphere and half of them on the African continent.”

“It is also urgent that the scope of the social contract be broadened to ensure that public policies are made to incorporate a legal framework that regulates all forms of work, be it formal or informal, visible or invisible.”

The Prime Minister of the Republic of Serbia, Ana Brnabic, told delegates, “there are two key areas where we need to invest to prepare for the future which has already started: one is education and the other is creativity.”

“Creativity will play a crucial role in the new world created by the 4th Industrial Revolution simply because it cannot be outsourced, it cannot be automated, and it’s not part of the race to the bottom….creativity is a fundamentally human feature.”

Speaking on behalf of the workers’ group, the General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation, Sharon Burrow, spoke of “the urgent challenge of putting a floor of dignity under all workers,” which she said “lies with all of us.”

“We are, I’m afraid, on the verge of an age of anger. It comes from despair, a lack of hope, and, as the social contract continues to break down, the challenge for us is to reaffirm, develop and renew the social contract.”

For the Employers’ Group, Roberto Suarez Santos, Secretary-General of the International Organization of Employers told delegates that, “the future offers more opportunities than before. Millions of workers, individuals and companies will have unprecedented access to education, to skills and business connections.”

“If we maximize the benefits of these new opportunities, even more people will be lifted out of poverty. We must not put the brakes on the future and respond out of fear. Be aware that if we just simply restrict entrepreneurship, you will harm not only future jobs but also creativity, innovation, prosperity.”

The Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority, Mohamed Shtayyeh, praised the Global Commission on the Future of Work, which presented its landmark report in January. “The Future of Work Recommendations are important for us. Investing in people’s capabilities and in institutions is important for the Palestinians, who are striving to build an independent Palestinian State that is capable of serving its citizens and meet their needs.”

This year’s ILC seeks to address the challenges presented by the profound transformations in the world of work, and could adopt a landmark ILO Centenary Declaration focused on a human-centred approach to the future of work. The more than 5,700 delegates – representing governments, workers and employers – will also discuss a possible standard on preventing violence and harassment at the workplace.