Promoting labour rights: A key role for Parliaments

Ms Cleopatra Doumbia-Henry, Director, International Labour Standards Department of the ILO in Geneva, travelled to Rome to open the hearing at the Chamber of Deputies of the Italian Parliament organized by the Labour Commission on Wednesday, June 25 in Rome.

Press release | 27 June 2014
Cesare Damiano, Laura Boldrini, Cleopatra Doumbia-Henry, Luigi Cal
«This is one of the unique occasions when a Parliament has invited the ILO to a hearing to explain the system of international labour standards,» she said.

Ms Doumbia-Henry explained that this was an extremely important initiative taken by the Labour Committee since the ILO Constitution envisages a specific role for national parliaments following the adoption of international labour Conventions and Recommendations and with respect to their effective implementation in national law and in practice. Today, more than ever, Parliaments — elected representatives of the people and therefore of workers — have a key role to play in preserving the fundamental labour rights at a time when governments, especially those most affected by the crisis, seem to be challenged in balancing the various interests.

The President of the Labour Commission, Mr Cesare Damiano, called for the organization of a yearly meetings with the ILO on various issues of common interest, from labour standards to labour macroeconomic issues. Several issues were raised by Members of Parliament attending the meeting including on: social dumping, youth unemployment, inequality, esodati — retired workers who have been left without a pension —, minimum wage, and occupational safety and health. Ms Doumbia-Henry responded to the issues raised, referring to their topicality, significance and importance as well as the fact that they were among the top priority issues currently being addressed by the ILO.

The hearing was followed by a private meeting with the President of the Chamber of Deputies, Ms. Laura Boldrini, who expressed appreciation for the work and the role of the ILO at a time when «the theme of the work is so crucial for our country.» The President reiterated the invitation to the ILO to institutionalize these meetings and to continue to keep the focus on youth unemployment and esodati, which are both urgent challenges for the Italian government. «The Youth Guarantee Scheme is a solution but not the panacea,» said the President who expressed her deep concern over the high levels of unemployment affecting Italian young people.

For her part, Ms Doumbia-Henry expressed appreciation for the commitment and support to the ILO standards system with its ranking as the third country with the highest number of ratifications of ILO Conventions with 113 Conventions ratified to date. At the same time she drew attention of the President to the significance of the continued consideration by Italy of the ratification of the two main ILO Conventions on occupational safety and health Conventions No. 155 and No. 187. She referred in this regard to the opportunity that the preparations for the hosting by Italy of Expo 2015 presented with its focus on agriculture and the environment.

Ms Doumbia-Henry also drew attention to the adoption by the International Labour Conference this June of the Protocol of 2014 to the Forced Labour Convention, 1930 and its related Recommendation. She referred to the 2014 Protocol as a key tool to combat the phenomenon of human trafficking for labour exploitation that generates illegal profits of 150 billion dollars a year and which requires an extraordinary effort on the part of governments, employers and workers organizations as well as the international community to combat the scourge. The first step, concludes Ms Doumbia-Henry, is the rapid and massive ratification by ILO member States of this Protocol, a lead Italy could take.