Report of the Committee on the Application of Standards
Submission, discussion and adoption
Original French: Ms. AGUESSY (Government delegate, Benin; Reporter of the Committee on the Application of Standards) -- It is my honour and my great pleasure to speak in this plenary this morning to present the report of the Committee on the Application of Standards.
The Committee, which was established pursuant to article 7 of the Standing Orders of the Conference, was assigned the task of examining agenda item III -- "Information and reports on the application of Conventions and Recommendations".
The report is divided into two parts: the first is the general report, and the second is a report on the discussion of individual cases examined by the Committee.
As is the usual practice, the Committee took as the basis for its work the report of the Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations. It greatly appreciated once again being able to benefit from the presence of the Chairman of the Committee of Experts, Sir William Douglas, as an observer in the course of the general debate. His presence bears witness to the dialogue and mutual understanding which exist among the supervisory bodies.
In line with traditional practice, the Committee first held a discussion on general issues relating to the application of Conventions and Recommendations and on the way in which member States meet their standard-setting obligations under the ILO Constitution. It also considered the General Survey of the Committee of Experts on the vocational rehabilitation and employment of disabled persons.
In addition the Committee held an exchange of views on the report of the Fourth Special Session of the Joint ILO/UNESCO Committee of Experts on the Application of the Recommendation concerning the Status of Teachers.
In the second part and also in accordance with usual practice, the Committee discussed a number of individual cases, including 25 cases relating to the application of ratified Conventions.
I would like to emphasize just one or two aspects of what was a very enriching and varied debate, which took place in a spirit of constructive dialogue and which is described in detail in Provisional Record No. 18. This year, our discussion took place at a very important time for both the Organization and for international labour standards.
Indeed, I do not think I really need to remind you of the discussion on the Declaration of principles and its follow-up mechanism which you will no doubt be adopting in a short while, or of the debate on the adoption of a new instrument on extreme forms of child labour.
The year 1998 is also the year of two important anniversaries. I refer of course to the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the 50th anniversary of the adoption of the Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise Convention, 1948 (No. 87).
Here in this room, we listened to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights speak on this subject. The Universal Declaration reflects the principles enshrined in the Declaration of Philadelphia adopted by the ILO in 1944 and integrated into its Constitution in 1946.
The Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise Convention, 1948 (No. 87), was adopted by the Conference in July 1948, just a few months before the adoption of the Universal Declaration. In 1994 the Committee on the Application of Standards "made a solemn call for the ratification of fundamental Conventions, the principles of which were at the core of the ILO mandate, and the respect of which was an indispensable prerequisite for the defence of workers' and employers' interests throughout the world, particularly in an international context characterized by very rapid changes and accelerated globalization of the economy". The number of ratifications of Convention No. 87 has grown since the appeal in 1994 from 109 to 122, and the number of member States of the International Labour Organization from 170 to 174. The most recent ratification of Convention No. 87 was that of Indonesia, on 9 June. However, there are still some 52 countries which have not ratified this fundamental Convention, and some of them account for more than half of the world's workers and employers.
The members of our Committee strongly emphasized that freedom of association is one of the essential objectives of the Organization, as it is set forth in the Constitution. It is at the heart of the ILO's mission and lies at the basis of tripartism. They noted with interest the progress achieved, and they also highlighted the difficulties and constraints which persist or are emerging and which underscore the significance of the seven core Conventions in the context of ongoing globalization. Reference was made to the abuse to which trade unionists are subjected in some countries. Various cases of arrest and indeed murder were mentioned. Fortunately, we were able to note that sometimes the situation improves. The Committee experienced a moment of historical importance when Mr. Pakpahan, the Indonesian trade unionist who had been imprisoned and tortured but was released on 21 May 1998, visited it.
The Committee recognized that the appeal of the World Summit for Social Development in Copenhagen in March 1995 and the constant approaches made by the Director-General of the ILO requesting States to ratify the seven core Conventions, including Convention No. 87, had achieved positive results. More than 80 ratifications of the fundamental Conventions have been registered recently, and the prospects for further ratifications are good. However, we are aware that a great deal remains to be done in order to achieve universal ratification of the Conventions concerned. In this connection, some people think that the failure to ratify Conventions is attributable to administrative difficulties. That may be so. But others believe that it is first and foremost the political will that is lacking.
Next year will be the 50th anniversary of another core Convention, the Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining Convention, 1949 (No. 98).
Some members of our Committee mentioned that the ratification of the fundamental Conventions is merely a first step in a broader social policy involving, among other things, the ratification of other priority Conventions, such as the Labour Inspection Convention, 1947 (No. 81), the Employment Policy Convention, 1964 (No. 122), and the Tripartite Consultation (International Labour Standards) Convention, 1976 (No. 144). Members of the Committee also noted with satisfaction that the number of ratifications for Convention No. 144 had doubled.
In November 1995 the Governing Body decided that the special procedure established under article 19 of the Constitution for Convention No. 111 would be extended to cover the other core Conventions as well. This procedure is aimed at allowing for an examination, over and above those of the General Surveys also carried out under article 19, of the obstacles to ratification of fundamental instruments and of the prospects for ratification thereof. The Special Reports this year focused on the Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29), and on the Abolition of Forced Labour Convention, 1957 (No. 105). These are among the most frequently ratified instruments, but we feel that they should be universally ratified because there should be, and must be, no place in this world for new or old forms of slavery or forced labour.
A considerable part of the discussion covered prison labour and developments with respect to two phenomena: prisoners employed by private enterprises in state prisons and the management of prisons and detention centres by private enterprises.
There was also a wide-ranging exchange of views on problems relating to the Employment Policy Convention, 1964 (No. 122), and prospects for its implementation. The Committee members were fully agreed that the triple objective of the Convention -- full employment, productive employment and freely chosen employment -- should remain at the heart of member States' economic and social policies. Apart from the wide diversity of national measures adopted in order to attain this objective, they emphasized that employment policy should not be limited to labour market policy in the narrow sense but should be integrated into the broader framework of a coordinated economic and social policy. The Committee also discussed the risks and opportunities of globalization, with regard to employment objectives. It considered that the Convention was a useful frame of reference for the adoption of measures to alleviate the social consequences of the crisis in Asia. The wish was expressed that employment policy initiatives taken at regional level should take full account of experience accumulated over the 30 or so years of the application of this major ILO Convention.
The problem of child labour was also the subject of considerable attention in the Committee. The members of the Committee are fully aware that the eyes of the world have recently been turned on the Palais des Nations, and on the discussion here about the elimination of the more extreme forms of child labour. Some people said that awareness of the problem of child labour had grown and expressed the hope for a greater number of ratifications of the Minimum Age Convention, 1973 (No. 138). People also emphasized the role of effective labour inspection in advancing the observance of fundamental rights. It could, in particular, gather information on the practical application of the Minimum Age Convention, 1973 (No. 138). The Committee also looked at the report of the Fourth Special Session of the Joint ILO/UNESCO Committee of Experts on the Application of the Recommendation concerning the Status of Teachers. Teachers should enjoy employment conditions, working conditions and standards of living commensurate with their social status, and their opportunities for training should match the dignity of their important task. Like other professionals, teachers are affected by ongoing changes in the world, which are often due to structural adjustment programmes. The role of teachers and educational establishments in helping to eradicate child labour was emphasized. A child's right to education is enshrined in the Recommendation and educational systems should have the tools they need to help the fight against child labour. It is worth noting that the Joint Committee proposed modifications to the procedure for the examination of complaints and that a Recommendation concerning the Status of Higher Education Teaching Personnel was adopted by UNESCO in 1997.
The last part of the general discussion covered the reports on the Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (Disabled Persons) Convention (No. 159) and Recommendation (No. 168), 1983. The flexibility of the instruments, which means that they can address the different economic and social conditions of each country, was highlighted. Member States were urged to base their national policies on the principle of equality of opportunity between disabled workers and workers in general, while also observing the principle of full equality of opportunity and treatment between male and female disabled workers.
Access to appropriate forms of vocational rehabilitation should be guaranteed to all categories of disabled persons and the possibility of employment for disabled persons on the open labour market should be promoted by either incentive-based or compulsory provisions.
The rehabilitation of physically or mentally disabled persons requires special positive measures to enable them to develop on a level with other members of the community through access to the education, vocational training and job placement services available to all. The establishment of special working environments or structures should be reserved for people who cannot be integrated fully into normal society because of the severity of their handicap.
Active steps should be taken against the exclusion of disabled persons and their families in rural areas or isolated communities. The solution should be to adopt community-based rehabilitation policies which take into account the human resources available to these persons in their local environment and their often very limited financial resources.
The study emphasized the importance of consultation in drawing up and applying national policies. Employers' and workers' organizations should be consulted, of course, as part of the traditional tripartite consensus central to the ILO's approach, but so should organizations made up of, or dealing with, disabled persons.
The feelings of the Committee may, I think, be reflected in this sentence spoken by a member of the Committee during the discussion: "It is characteristic of enlightened humanity to show concern for the situation of persons with disabilities and for their integration into work and society in every way possible; however, good intentions are not enough. It is important that the resources available be used in the most effective manner."
Most of the second part of the discussion in the Committee went on the examination of individual cases. Countries were given the opportunity to explain the difficulties facing them in their attempts to respect their obligations. The reasons given often relate to a lack of technical competence, political instability and other specific situations.
The governments of most of the countries concerned promised to respect their obligations, with the ILO's assistance.
I would like to stress the many cases in which tribute was paid to the ILO, with regard to the application of ratified Conventions, for the various types of technical assistance it provides to help countries overcome their difficulties. The Committee deplored, however, the fact that certain countries do not take into account the proposals made by direct contact missions, which are supposed to help solve problems over application that the Committee has been dealing with over a period of several years. It was noted that poverty and other social and economic factors can constitute difficulties but cannot excuse the non-application of ratified Conventions.
The Committee expressed the hope that promises made would be kept, so that governments which had their cases examined this year would not come up on the list next year in connection with the same Conventions. You will find the record of the discussions of these cases in the second part of the report.
I would particularly draw your attention to paragraphs 212 and 213 of the report, relating to two cases of non-application of ratified Conventions.
The countries and Conventions concerned are: the application by Myanmar of the Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise Convention, 1948 (No. 87) and the application by Sudan of the Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29).
Given the continued failure over several years to eliminate serious deficiencies in the application by Myanmar of Convention No. 87, the Committee has listed that country in paragraph 215 as a case of continued failure to implement.
I would also like to say that during the discussion of the application by Colombia of the Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise Convention, 1948 (No. 87), the Committee observed a minute's silence for the trade unionists recently murdered in Colombia.
In conclusion, I would like to emphasize the excellent working atmosphere which prevailed throughout the Committee's session. The discussion in the Committee took place in a spirit of cooperation. The dialogue between the three groups never led to confrontation. Speakers behaved like social partners and expressed their ideas with courtesy and conviction, in the desire to promote a better application of standards. I hope this cooperation will continue in our respective countries. I must thank the members of the Committee secretariat, who worked literally around the clock in order to produce the record of our discussions.
I should also like to thank the interpreters, the typists and everybody else who made a contribution to the work of the Committee.
I should particularly like to express my thanks to Mr. Bartolomei, Mr. Zenger, Mr. Gernigon, Mr. Oates, Ms. Ancel and lastly and above all our Chairperson, Mr. van der Hejiden, and our two Vice-Chairpersons, Mr. Peirens and Mr. Wisskirchen, for their courtesy, and their skill, which enabled us to bring the Committee through to the results which are now being submitted to the Conference.
I would recommend to the Conference that it adopt the report.
Original German: Mr. WISSKIRCHEN (Employers' delegate, Germany; Employer Vice-Chairperson of the Committee on the Application of Standards) -- This year once again our Committee has concluded its work on a very wide-ranging agenda. The Reporter has already informed you about the various topics and important individual cases with which we dealt.
In the first part of the traditional general discussion we always deal with a number of different issues. Much of it is familiar to us from previous discussions, but particular attention is paid to any changes and any new issues that have emerged. We should in fact heighten sensitivity to such new issues, and such changes are also reflected in the report of the Committee of Experts which we draw on to a great extent in our work in the Committee. We could say in simple terms that the only constant factor is change. For example, globalization is playing a significant role. Whether we welcome it or deplore it, it is something that we simply cannot talk away. Globalization is linked with many other developments which we have to address. Most of these developments, however, can be used to the advantage of all.
The new ratifications and denunciations announced this year were less spectacular. The number of denunciations of Conventions not accompanied by the ratification of revised versions could in fact be reduced if the process of revising old standards as well the process of weeding out obsolete texts was carried out more swiftly than it is at present. We have also noted a further increase in the number of complaints and representations under article 24 of the Constitution and procedures in the Committee on Freedom of Association. What was intended as an extraordinary measure has resulted in a flood and some solution to this problem must be found.
Two important instruments are 50 years old this year, namely, the Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise Convention, 1948 (No. 87), and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Although 120 member States have ratified Convention No. 87, more than half of all workers and employers are active in the 54 States which have not ratified the Convention. Of course, as we have often emphasized, ratification is not an end in itself. What is important is practical implementation and we have observed that some States respect the spirit and the letter of the Convention even though they have not actually ratified it. Progress that has been made can be traced back to the extension of democracy and constitutionality in the world. The introduction and the development of the market economy is also extremely important in our view, because it assumes the need for individual self-determination, allows a free choice of occupation and puts an end to a situation whereby the State takes over all decisions and responsibility for the individual, as is usual in a command economy.
We endorse most of the comments made by the experts on problems which have arisen under Convention No. 87. However, we have noticed that globalization in this connection tends to be mentioned as a negative factor. We were particularly interested to note that the experts have paid scant attention to the subject of the right to strike and have voiced criticism only where there are total prohibitions or excessive restrictions on the right to strike. The general principle of the freedom to pursue a labour dispute for both sides, that is the employers and the workers, may be derived from international customary law. As we have indicated on many occasions in the past, Convention No. 87 does not give any adequate basis for further detailed provisions regarding the right to strike.
We emphasize, as the experts have done, the significance of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights. Individual provisions are further developed in ILO standards. Although much militates in favour of the fact that the basic human rights of every individual are independent of the State, practical implementation of those rights requires state laws, such as the Declaration of the Virginia Bill of Rights 1776.
The efforts being made by the ILO to increase the number of ratifications of the seven fundamental Conventions has already achieved a certain degree of success and these efforts merit our continued support, regardless of the Declaration which has just been adopted.
Every year we have something to say about employment policy. This year, the experts have pointed out quite rightly that it is necessary to adapt to constantly changing circumstances. However, their statements and comments we feel are too coloured by pessimism concerning globalization. We must remember that, overall, there has been no reduction in the number of jobs, on the contrary, employment for some time now has been increasing around the world. Much of the prosperity is the result of the increase in cross-border trade, globalization of financial markets and the dynamic nature of international direct investments, as well as the associated surge of development in emerging economies. Everyone is feeling the need for restructuring and the pressure to adjust. Countries with excessively high costs and taxes, cumbersome bureaucracies that stifle enterprise, and an obsessive concern to protect old property relationships will find it very difficult to meet these new challenges. It is of no real significance whether in the old spirit of a planned economy a particular law provides for a so-called right to work. In the final analysis, jobs are created only when an enterprise produces goods and services at the right level of quality and price. In this connection we welcome the unprecedented warning from the experts about the so-called second labour market. Here resources are being tied down to create artificial jobs which are not exposed to competition.
For the first time we have a separate chapter concerning the Forced Labour Conventions No. 29 and No. 105, based on member States' reports under article 19 of the Constitution. These Conventions are among those which received the greatest number of ratifications. The experts are trying to deal with some problems of detail in these Conventions. The Conventions do not, however, contain very detailed provisions, and so we do not think that every single difficult problem in practice can be solved with reference to them if we are to avoid crossing the line between application of the law and the creation of new legislation. Creation of new legislation is not the task of the supervisory system. With regard to some individual questions regarding work done by prisoners, we should not lose sight of the fact that it is extremely important for detainees and prisoners to have the opportunity to do productive work instead of remaining idle. This of course can only succeed if private firms are prepared to give such work to prisons, which is linked with a higher level of risk and a lower level of productivity.
Part of the general discussion in the Committee concerned the report of the Joint ILO/UNESCO Committee of Experts on the Application of the Recommendation concerning the Status of Teachers. Teachers as a group are in a privileged position compared with others in being the subject of a special Recommendation, compliance with which is monitored through a special supervisory mechanism. For this purpose we have the Joint Committee of Experts set up by the two worldwide organizations, the ILO and UNESCO. If there is a reason for this privileged position, it is the extraordinarily important role of teachers in any society. The future of any State depends to a very great extent on the training and education of its young people. The report itself is a more or less unbroken lament, and gives a negative and pessimistic assessment of all recent developments. We, on the other hand, believe that teachers of all people must be in a position, and indeed are obliged, to adapt to the often breathtaking rate of change in all areas of our lives. The necessity of lifelong learning has to be applied first and foremost to teachers themselves. But we also believe that teachers must be accorded a status commensurate with their importance. This means in particular professional training and continuous training, for which the individual initiative on the part of teachers themselves is also necessary. And material conditions must also be appropriate. Of course, there is no one standard that can be applied around the world, but it is important for teachers as a whole to deal more intensively with contemporary problems which go beyond their own material status. This could only improve their image in society.
Another part of our general discussion dealt with the General Survey on the reports on the Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (Disabled Persons) Convention (No. 159) and Recommendation (No. 168), 1983. For our Organization it is very appropriate to pay particular attention to those people who are disadvantaged in a number of different ways, that is, in their working life as well as in the rest of their life. The study shows the significance of the standards in Convention No. 159 and Recommendation No. 168, as well as the practical application of these standards. The promotional character of the Convention is particularly important. What is sought here is a policy of vocational rehabilitation and employment. The standards avoid rigid definitions and aims that are too specific. This has, in fact, helped the acceptance of this standard. Overall, the report provides us with a wide-range of possible solutions which have, to a great extent, already been adopted in member countries. In order to promote vocational rehabilitation and employment, it is important that there is not just one overall definition of disability. Instead, individual cases should be assessed to gauge the specific limitations, the assistance that is required and how it will affect job performance. All measures should have as their aim the provision of equal opportunities for the disabled. The report also makes it clear that disabled women are at a double disadvantage. For employers who employ the disabled there should be incentives and some compensation because if the burden is left on individual employers this will be counterproductive with regard to the employment of the disabled which is what we are aiming to achieve. A coordinated policy to help the disabled will be successful if it is agreed with a number of social groups, and in particular with the involvement of the employers' and workers' organizations. We hope that this year's comprehensive and informative General Survey will be widely disseminated, that there will be more ratifications of Convention No. 159 and also an improvement in what progress is already being achieved with regard to the social integration of the disabled.
We also dealt with the important question of child labour, but I will not dwell on this subject here and now because it is already the subject of another document. The main task of our Committee is to monitor whether and to what extent the member States are carrying out their obligations under the Constitution and ratified Conventions. In order to take stock of this and in order to make it possible for the Committee of Experts to carry out a preliminary investigation, the member States must fulfil their reporting obligations. As in the past, we are still witnessing many shortcomings and failures in this area. For example, more than one-third of the reports which were due had still not been received by the end of the meeting of the Committee of Experts. Member States lose credibility if they praise the ILO in solemn speeches but simply do not fulfil their fundamental obligations. The supervisory machinery stands or falls by the correct implementation of these obligations. Many such individual cases can be found in the report of the Committee of Experts.
We were particularly interested to take note of the comments of the experts on how the member States must implement the obligations arising from ratified Conventions within their national legislation. For many years, the experts had required member States to lay down sanctions for cases of non-observance. As a response to our repeated criticism, for the first time they have reacted and as a result of this they have said quite rightly that according to the ILO Constitution, there are no specific measures to be taken but only "such action as may be necessary". Where certain Conventions specify definite implementation measures then these of course are to be observed. We believe that this correction to the experts' approach is the result of a successful dialogue between the two independent fora of the supervisory machinery, that is the Committee of Experts and the Conference Committee. This is certainly something which speaks in favour of improved communication between the two Committees. A tangible sign of this is the presence of the Chairperson of the Committee of Experts for some years now at the Conference Committee during our general discussion. Perhaps it might even be useful if this communication channel were not just seen as a one-way street and if a few representatives of the Conference Committee could also be present as observers in the meetings of the Committee of Experts.
As far as the discussion of the individual cases is concerned, at the beginning of its work the Conference draws up a list and this year once again we had 27 member States on the list. Although two countries, that is Afghanistan and Djibouti, did not appear at all, the Committee could only deal with the remaining 25 cases by having several night meetings. This was caused by the many long and repetitive contributions to the discussion on individual cases, because we cannot, and should not, limit the time given to each speaker. The only solution is the possibility of envisaging a shortening of the list next year.
As for the decision on which countries should be invited to come to the Committee, there are no perfect criteria for this. Many different aspects have to be weighed up. In our view, the Conference Committee this year drew up a, generally speaking, well-balanced list of individual cases.
Next year, we will have to verify whether the Islamic Republic of Iran, as in previous years, should once again be called to discuss Convention No. 111. In order to have this option open to us, the corresponding comments should be included in the report of the Committee of Experts.
The discussions of all the individual cases are precisely described in the second part of the Committee's report. If anyone wishes for further information about the content and the application of standards, then please read this part of our report.
Two countries are mentioned in special paragraphs this year. As far as Myanmar is concerned, the Committee observed that for many years there have been serious violations of Convention No. 87 on freedom of association. With regard to Sudan, the Committee expressed its serious concern about various forms of forced labour under Convention No. 29.
Attention was also drawn to Australia and Convention No. 98. The experts had recommended amendments to a new Australian law because they felt that it gave an excessively privileged role to individual labour contracts vis-à-vis collective bargaining agreements and therefore felt that this was a violation of the Convention promoting collective bargaining agreements. The Employers expressed certain factual reservations about the comments made by the experts arising from the content of the new law and because of various aspects of Australian legislation. However, what was decisive for us was that the experts were unable to take into account any detailed position expressed by the Australian Government. This is because only six months have passed since the entry into force of this criticized law. The Conference Committee, in its conclusions, therefore simply took note of the comments made by the experts and urged the Government to provide information.
In conclusion, I would like to say one or two words about the work in our Committee. Generally speaking, we worked together in a very cooperative and constructive manner. Quite obviously this does not mean that different views were not held at one time or another. I would in particular like to thank the Workers' spokesperson, Mr. Peirens, for his objective cooperation which has been the case for many years now. Mr. van der Heijden, the Chair, deserves great respect because although he is not an old hand in our forum, he carried out his tasks almost perfectly, to the greater good of the whole. Without the enormous efforts made by many colleagues in the International Labour Standards Department, we would have simply not been successful. All the preparatory work and the work after the Committee, the punctuality of the PVs and the accurate summaries of our discussions made our work possible. The leading representatives of the International Labour Standards Department, Mr. Bartolomei De La Cruz and Mr. Zenger, are to be thanked, and through them all their colleagues. I would address my last words of thanks to all the members of the Employers' group for their full support for all the comments and steps which I took on behalf of the whole of the Employers' group. I would particularly like to mention the name of Béatrice Ozainne, who has assisted me constantly in the 16 years that I have been spokesperson for the Employers' group in this Committee.
Original French: Mr. PEIRENS (Workers' delegate, Belgium; Worker Vice-Chairperson of the Committee on the Application of Standards) --The 50th anniversary of the Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise Convention, 1948 (No. 87), and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights received special attention from our Committee, paragraphs 67 to 87 and 222 of our report. The tribute that was paid by our Committee to Convention No. 87 is fully justified because it lies at the very heart of the ILO's mission, for which reason we urged all member States to ratify and apply it. The universal scope of Convention No. 87, its standards and principles, has been confirmed, which is very important in the context of accelerating globalization of the economy and rapid technological changes.
Our Committee stressed that globalization of the economy should go hand in hand with a legal framework comprised in particular of international labour standards, such as the Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise Convention, 1948 (No. 87), the full compliance with these standards and their effective application.
The Workers' group feels that this awareness of the strategic importance of international labour standards, and in particular Convention No. 87, is encouraging as we approach the twenty-first century. However, continuing violations of social rights calls increasingly urgently for ever more stringent application of international standards. A number of ratifications of Convention No. 87 has increased, from 109 to 122 since the last General Survey of 1994. However, 52 members States have not yet ratified, and some of these are among the most heavily populated and most powerful nations, such as Brazil, China, the United States and India. These countries alone account for over half of the world's workers and employers. We urge all member States to accede to the appeal by the Director-General, the Governing Body and our Committee to ratify the core Conventions, including Convention No. 87.
In several countries, progress has clearly been made in applying this Convention. The firm attitude of the ILO supervisory bodies has meant that, in a number of countries, it has been possible to increase the scope of trade union rights to include categories of workers such as civil servants, teachers, nurses and migrant workers. In addition, the right to strike has been recognized for a number of years now by all of the supervisory bodies as an essential corollary of freedom of association.
Nevertheless, globalization of the economy and increased competition have prompted a number of countries to introduce or to directly or indirectly condone new obstacles to freedom of association, in export processing zones in particular.
In addition, the legislation and practice of all too many countries is still characterized by anti-trade union views, and neglect and indifference towards social problems, therefore leaving workers bereft of social protection or occupational prospects.
We believe that the international dimension of freedom of association and social policy must be strengthened, in order to enable workers to share in the opportunities generated by the internationalization of the economy.
The general discussion by our Committee of the first part of the Committee of Experts report provided an opportunity to deal in a structured fashion with developments in the setting and application of standards. Our Committee noted that standard setting continues to receive particular attention both inside and outside the ILO. Many studies have confirmed not only that compliance with core Conventions does not hamper economic development, but that it actively boosts such development.
The Declaration of principles and its follow-up mechanism should, under certain conditions, encourage the ratification and application of core standards. In all events, the Governing Body should ensure that the follow-up mechanism is complementary, and that it does not weaken the existing supervisory system. It should also clarify the relationship between the follow-up mechanism, the general surveys and the special reports on the core Conventions.
All Governments have supported the ILO's work on standards. Many of them have shown a very constructive attitude, sometimes in very precise terms. They have submitted information on the ratification of core standards and other Conventions, on the prospects for further ratifications and application, and on their cooperation with the ILO (paragraph 40).
Standards are a necessary framework for economic and social development. Cooperation between the ILO, the WTO, the World Bank and the IMF should be further strengthened in order to promote the application of standards.
Our Committee has noted both in the general discussion, and in the discussion of individual cases, that ILO technical assistance with respect to standards contributes effectively to strengthening the application of these standards, providing that a genuine, sincere and sustained political will exist on the part of the government.
The ILO should strengthen technical assistance in the area of standards, in particular using the multidisciplinary teams and by educating workers' and employers' organizations about standards. Often, such organizations are not fully aware of the interdependent and complementary nature of the various procedures, such as the article 26 complaints procedures, the article 24 representation procedures, the observations contained in the report of the Committee of Experts and special reports, general surveys, etc.
Technical assistance should also assist governments to fulfil their constitutional obligations regarding the submission of reports to the Committee of Experts more conscientiously. Governments should also seek long-term solutions which permit them to meet their constitutional obligations more effectively, and in particular, by improving labour administration and practising tripartism in (paragraphs 41 to 60).
It is also the responsibility of governments to establish an effective labour inspection system, to monitor systematically the application of core Conventions and other international and national standards. Our Committee also discussed for the first time a special report on Conventions Nos. 29 and 105 (paragraphs 88 and 98).
The special reports were introduced in order to promote the ratification of core Conventions. Next year, the special report will be devoted to Conventions Nos. 87 and 98. Conventions No. 29 and 105 are among the most widely ratified instruments, although, there are still 31 countries that have not ratified Convention No. 29, in particular, China, the United States and Canada. However, Canada and other countries are considering ratification. We would urge all countries to ratify and apply these Conventions, regardless of the changes that this would require in their legislation and attitudes.
Conventions Nos. 29 and 105 should be universally ratified because today, in a globalizing world, there is no room for any forms of slavery, old or new.
The Committee of Experts has drawn our attention to recent developments that could lead to forced labour, which is dealt with in these two Conventions. Governments should ensure that work programmes for the unemployed or the system of unemployment benefits do not, in fact, become forms of forced labour. Convict labour in prisons that are managed or co-managed by private enterprise, or work for the private sector in public prisons, can create serious difficulties in terms of fundamental rights, and also in terms of unfair competition, including the case of special workshops that employ the disabled. Governments should take vigorous measures to prevent convict labour from becoming a type of forced labour.
Child labour is, in practice, often carried out in conditions that amount to forced labour and exploitation. Our Committee stressed the importance of an effective system of monitoring through labour inspection. The governments concerned often do not have detailed information, either because they fail to follow up or simply through lack of attention. Employers' and workers' organizations should work more closely with governments in the campaign against child labour, and trade unions should make a special effort in this regard.
Our Committee also discussed the application of the Employment Policy Convention, 1964 (No. 122).
The position of the Committee of Experts, according to which the objective of full employment should be at the very heart of all economic and social policies, and not just labour-market policy, was supported by our Committee, including during the discussion of individual cases. This position is valid both for industrialized countries, such as the European Union and other regional groups, and for countries in transition, developing countries, and international institutions.
Our Committee discussed the economic and financial crisis in Asia. The Workers' group referred in this respect to the conclusions of the high-level tripartite meeting organized by the ILO in 1998 in Bangkok, which stressed the need to provide a social safety net, and to respect international standards.
The report of the Joint ILO/UNESCO Committee of Experts on the Application of the Recommendation concerning the Status of Teachers was also included on our agenda. This report is discussed every three years in our Committee. The Committee's various groups agreed that the Recommendation of 1966 is still valid. The fall in the morale and in the professional level of teachers and the lack of genuine consultation with their organizations has an increasingly negative effect on the quality of teaching. Teaching and working conditions of teachers are often seriously affected by programmes of structural adjustment and reductions in budgets. The lower quality of teaching also has serious negative consequences on the campaign against child labour. The Workers' group requested the Joint Committee of Experts to pay particular attention to the relationship between the conditions in which teaching staff work and child labour. The Workers' group also stressed the importance of freedom of association as a whole for teachers, and the importance of having a more effective follow-up mechanism, including for teaching staff at the higher education level.
The discussion of the General Survey on Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment of Disabled Persons in respect of Convention No. 159, and Recommendation No. 168, confirmed that these are solid and relevant instruments which should be applied more stringently. More statements were made on this subject than on any other ever discussed in connection with a General Survey. We hope that it will effectively prompt a revision and systematic development of national policies to promote equality of opportunity for the disabled. The discussion showed that specific and effective measures taken after consultation with workers' and employers' groups, and with organizations representing the disabled, are essential in order to meet the legitimate aspirations of disabled persons for social integration (paragraphs 140-192).
The General Survey covers both those countries that have ratified Convention No. 159 and those that have not. All member States should cooperate by replying to the questionnaire. The General Survey and the discussion in the Committee on the Application of Standards are genuine tools for evaluating the relevance of a particular instrument so that problems of interpretation and application can be remedied where necessary, in order to facilitate ratification.
Our Committee conducted an in-depth discussion of individual cases. The Workers' and Employers' groups cooperated very constructively, and all the conclusions were adopted with the agreement of the two groups, despite a number of differences of view on certain points. Working methods and the decision-making procedure in our Committee differ from those of other Conference committees. The position of the Employers' and Workers' groups is decisive. The overwhelming majority of conclusions are specific and precise. We very much hope that they will have a genuine impact at the national level and we would urge you carefully to read these conclusions, and to meet the request made by the Committee, and to honour the commitments of governments.
ILO technical assistance can contribute to progress, providing that a genuine political will exists. We discussed 25 cases relating to 25 countries. The list contained 27 countries, but Afghanistan and Djibouti did not appear before the Committee, and Djibouti was not accredited to the Conference.
The Workers' group would like to have dealt with a larger number of cases, but we were obliged to limit ourselves to one Convention per country. Lack of time prevented the Committee from dealing with certain situations: paragraphs 8 and 9 contain explanations concerning the selection of individual cases, and our considerable efforts to reconcile time constraints imposed by the shortness of the Conference with the need to discuss a sufficient number of cases. I would draw your attention to paragraph 9 which contains the list of cases to which the Workers' group would like to return next year, if genuine progress is not made; specifically, Iran on Convention No. 111; Guatemala on Convention No. 87; Costa Rica on Convention No. 98; and Pakistan on Convention No. 29.
Our statement concerning reasons and circumstances is repeated in paragraph 9. The conclusions concerning two countries and two Conventions were included in a special paragraph of the Committee. I would advise delegates very carefully to read paragraphs 210-215. They concern the case of Myanmar, for a very serious violation of the Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise Convention, 1948 (No. 87), and Sudan, for an equally serious violation of the Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29). Moreover, the case of Myanmar is also included in paragraph 215, for continued failure to implement. Slavery continues in Sudan without any credible actions being taken by the Government to combat it.
These two countries were included in a special paragraph following in-depth discussions in the Committee. The defining criteria for inclusion in a special paragraph are the seriousness of the violations and, above all, the lack of a clear and unequivocal sign of willingness genuinely to cooperate with the supervisory bodies. Last year, our Committee had to include six countries in a special paragraph. This year, as I have just said, there were only two.
The reduction in the number of special paragraphs means that there does appear to be some prospect for an improvement in the situation and improved cooperation with the ILO. We very much hope that this will result in real progress in the field. Otherwise, the Committee will be once again forced to deal with these cases, and to arrive at much more severe conclusions.
In the case of Morocco, which was included in a special paragraph last year regarding implementation of the Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining Convention, 1949 (No. 98), the Government stated that a bill had been drafted to strengthen workers' protection from anti-trade union discrimination and interference by employers. Our Committee has suggested to the Government that it request a direct contacts mission in order to achieve full application of the Convention. We hope that the Government will accept our invitation.
With respect to Swaziland, which was also included in a special paragraph last year concerning implementation of Convention No. 87, our Committee noted that numerous legislative provisions are in breach of the Convention. Nevertheless, the Committee took note of the intentions of the Government to pass a bill that was drafted in consultation with the social partners and the ILO. The Committee urged that the bill be adopted by the Parliament before it is dissolved, and that the Government carry out an independent investigation into the kidnapping of the Secretary-General of the Swaziland Federation of Trade Unions.
The Committee also dealt with the situation of freedom of association in other countries, such as Argentina, Bolivia, Cameroon, Colombia, Ecuador, Ethiopia and Pakistan.
In the case of Colombia, the Committee noted the statement made by the Government concerning its willingness to communicate with the Governing Body in the event of a complaint under article 26 of the ILO Constitution so that a committee of inquiry can be set up.
During this session, the Committee also observed a minute of silence in memory of murdered trade unionists in Colombia.
With regard to the Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining Convention, 1949 (No. 98), we also discussed the cases of Australia, Brazil, Indonesia and Turkey.
The Committee also dealt with cases of forced labour under the Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29), including of children, in India and Bangladesh. In the case of India the Committee noted with deep concern that the situation of children in bondage, and other forms of forced labour, were not showing any notable improvement, despite statements by the Government committing itself to eliminating this problem within the context of the International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (ILO-IPEC). Moreover, the Government of India was not in a position to provide the information requested on how children are protected against sexual exploitation. The Committee requested the Committee of Experts to follow this case very carefully.
In the case of Bangladesh and forced labour, the Committee took note of the information concerning legislative reforms but deplored the lack of visible progress. The slave labour of children employed as domestic servants and the treatment of women and children, basically for purposes of prostitution, are of great concern.
The Government must also report on allegations concerning forced labour in the clothing industry.
With respect to the case of the Russian Federation and the Protection of Wages Convention, 1949 (No. 95), the Committee noted that the Government has not yet provided any evidence of a specific and definitive solution to the problem of the payment of wages. The Government referred to bills but the texts of these bills do not appear to offer anything new. The Committee expressed the firm hope that next year it will be in a position to note tangible and definitive improvements in the situation.
We also discussed the Social Security (Minimum Standards) Convention, 1952 (No. 102), in the case of Croatia with respect to the limits on health care for workers in cases where the employers do not pay the insurance premium.
In the case of Malaysia and the Migration for Employment Convention (Revised), 1949 (No. 97), we noted that an ILO technical assistance mission recently visited the country. We urged the Government to seek a solution in order to ensure equality of treatment for migrant workers in respect of compensation paid for occupational accidents and disability.
We reached interesting conclusions in a number of individual cases. I will confine myself to a few examples regarding several Conventions.
In the case of Argentina and Convention No. 89 and legislation recognizing the status of unions, the Committee noted that the Government was willing to make use of ILO technical assistance in order to find a solution, in cooperation with workers' organizations, including those which have been registered but which do not yet have the trade union status. We hope that we will soon see substantial progress.
With respect to the case of Indonesia and the Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining Convention, 1949 (No. 98), the Committee noted with interest a number of positive measures taken by the Government, including the release of certain trade union leaders and activists, such as Muchtar Pakpahan and the ratification of Convention No. 87. Muchtar Pakpahan has also taken part in this session of the Conference as a Workers' delegate from Indonesia and attended one of the Committee's sittings.
Our Committee stressed that in the case of Indonesia there is still a great deal to be done.
There are still many restrictions on collective bargaining and legislation needs to be strengthened considerably in order to ensure that workers are fully protected against anti-trade union discrimination. The Government has requested technical assistance from the ILO and the Committee invites the Government to accept assistance from a direct contacts mission.
In the case of New Zealand regarding the fixing of minimum wages, the Committee requests the Government to hold genuine and effective consultations with workers' and employers' organizations. The social partners should have the power genuinely to influence decisions. The fixing of minimum wages falls within the natural competence of the social partners. Moreover, the Committee expressed the firm hope that New Zealand would take the necessary measures to ensure effective payment of wages, including through an effective labour inspectorate with sufficient numbers of staff. On the subject of the minimum wage for young workers, the Committee has requested the Government not to use age as a criterion for setting wages but that it use objective criteria, such as the quantity and quality of work. The criterion of age, as such, does not reflect the quality and quantity of work done by a young worker.
In the case of Uruguay, again with regard to fixing minimum wages, the Committee recalled the criteria regarding minimum wage levels. The Government should also take account of the needs of workers and their families and not just only macroeconomic objectives. It should also fully consult the social partners including with regard to setting minimum wage levels for rural workers and domestic employees.
With respect to the case of Peru and the Employment Policy Convention, 1964 (No. 122), the Committee reminded the Government that measures to be taken to promote full, productive and freely chosen employment should take account of economic and social objectives and should be regularly reviewed as part of a coordinated economic and social policy. The Government cannot reduce employment policy to measures that concern deregulation of the labour market and labour law.
The Committee also stressed the need for the Government to ensure that measures taken to promote youth employment, such as apprenticeships and internships, do not lose sight of their genuine objective which is the effective and long-term employment of young people in suitable jobs. Finally, the Committee noted the absence of any consultation with workers' and employers' organizations, because consultation with the social partners is crucial for drawing up and implementing employment policies.
With respect to the case of Côte d'Ivoire and the Workers' Representatives Convention, 1971 (No. 135), the Committee insisted that the Government undertake, in consultation with workers' and employers' organizations, the necessary measures to ensure effective protection against anti-trade union discrimination. The application in law and practice of the current legislative framework does not guarantee such effective protection, including in the case of dismissal for economic reasons.
The Committee had difficult discussions in the case of Australia and the Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining Convention, 1949 (No. 98). The Government and the Employers were of the view that the discussion at this session of the Conference was premature because the Committee of Experts had not been able to take account of the replies of the Government in response to the comments of the Australian Council of Trade Unions. The observations of the Committee of Experts were, however, based on a report submitted by the Government and an analysis of the legislation and comments of workers' and employers' organizations. Additional comments of the Government in response to the comments of the Australian Council of Trade Unions were only sent in at the end of the session of the Committee of Experts, that is December 1997, whereas the comments by the Australian Council of Trade Unions arrived in August 1997. The Workers' group felt that there were grounds enough to allow a discussion at this session of the Conference and we insisted that the Committee discuss the case and adopt conclusions.
We cannot accept that a different approach be taken in the case of industrialized countries, such as Australia, from the approach in the case of developing countries. We insist that the Employers' group continue to adopt a position that is not based on the economic clout and influence of particular countries. Fortunately, after in-depth discussions, the Committee reached useful conclusions. The Act of 1996 on relations in the workplace raises issues regarding application of Articles 1 and 4 of Convention No. 98, including with respect to protection against trade union discrimination and the primacy of individual work contracts over collective employment relationships. If necessary, the Committee will come back to this case next year.
Finally, I would like to draw delegates' attention to the very serious problems of the application of the Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Convention, 1958 (No. 111), in the case of Afghanistan, and Convention No. 87 in Djibouti. As I have already explained, these two countries were included on the list of individual cases but did not appear before our Committee for discussion of their cases. As a result the Committee was not able to formulate any conclusions. However, the spokespersons of the Workers' and Employers' groups did draw the attention of this session of the Conference to the importance of the two cases.
In Afghanistan, the regime in power has forbidden women to go to work or receive an education, which has very serious consequences for the survival of 700,000 widows and their families, for the organization of humanitarian programmes and health services.
We therefore appeal to the international community to accept its responsibilities in this respect.
In Djibouti, trade union leaders and members have suffered very serious anti-trade union discrimination. Despite the commitments undertaken by the Government for the reinstatement of trade union leaders and that it would amend legislation, commitments made during the direct contacts mission, the situation has not changed.
In conclusion I would thank our Chair, Mr. van der Heijden who, with his impartiality, firmness and professionalism, contributed to the excellent quality of the discussions and conclusions. We would also like to thank our Reporter, Ms. Aguessy. We also thank the Chairperson of the Committee of Experts, Sir William Douglas, who attended the general discussion and the discussion of the overall study as observer. His presence clearly strengthened cooperation, dialogue and the complementary nature of the two Committees. The Committee has asked the Chairperson of the Committee of Experts also to attend our meetings at the next session. We also thank the representatives of the Director-General, Mr. Bartolomei de La Cruz, Mr. Zenger, Mr. Gernigon and Ms. Cloutier, as well as all of the ILO staff and the interpreters. My thanks also go to all the members of the Committee and of course Mr. Wisskirchen, the Employers' spokesperson, for his spirit of dialogue and cooperation, and in particular I would like to thank the members of the Workers' group, the Officers of our group, namely, Mr. Ahmed, Mr. Sibanda, Mr. Venturini, Mr. Fishman and Mr. Etty.
Our report was adopted unanimously by the Committee and I would like to ask this session of the Conference to do the same.
Original French: The PRESIDENT -- I have no speakers on the list for the general discussion, and so we will move on immediately to the adoption of the report. If there are no objections, I shall take it that the report is adopted.