International Labour Conference
This is a brief report by Rajiv Dimri on the recently concluded 100th International Labour Conference.
The International Labour Conference of ILO held its 100th session from 1-17 June 2011 at its headquarter, Geneva, Switzerland. All India Central Council of Trade Unions (AICCTU), participated as one of the constituents of the Workers’ Group of the Tripartite Delegation (the other two groups consisted of employers’ and government representatives) of India. This was the first time AICCTU was invited. On behalf of AICCTU, Rajiv Dimri, National Secretary, attended the Conference.
The Conference discussed the impending Global Report, a follow-up to the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, which this year will focus on the elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation as well as a range of other issues confronting labour internationally.
Among the conclusions, the most important is the adoption of an ILO Convention and a Recommendation for domestic workers by an overwhelming majority vote. This Convention provides International Labour Standards to millions of domestic workers for decent working conditions including duty hours, weekly rest for 24 hours, leaves, timely payment, right to associations and collective bargaining like other industrial workers. The government of India after initial vacillation, eventually voted for the Convention. The other important conclusions include the adoption of a Report on Social Protection (social security) and this apart, finalization of a “Recommendation on Social Protection Floor”, which will be placed in the Conference next year for adoption; adoption of Report on Labour Administration and Labour Inspection along with a Resolution and adoption of a Report on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations.
The AICCTU representative took part in the Workers’ Committee on Social Protection (Security), and during deliberations raised issues relating to India’s informal workers/economy, the need for government’s primary responsibility for social protection, national social security fund as a healthy percentage of GDP, and pension to all informal workers from the government. On the question of social dialogue, he raised the issue of the deliberate efforts of the government to increase the involvement of NGOs and sideline the trade unions in regard to the formulations of policies and schemes for the social security in India. He also expressed protest against the invitation extended to IMF representative to speak in this committee. He was also nominated by the Workers’ Committee to speak as one of the four speakers from the workers’ side in the plenary session of this committee held in the Assembly Hall of the United Nations’ Building on 17 June.
The AICCTU representative also participated in the Presidential and Friends’ Council Meeting of WFTU held on this occasion under the chairmanship of its general secretary George Mavrikos. At this meeting, he announced the holding of 8th national conference of AICCTU this year and invited WFTU affiliates present in the meeting. He also expressed hopes of further strengthening of relationship between AICCTU and WFTU.
The ILO is the oldest and most specialized agency that deals with labour issues, and is the only tripartite body of United Nations (UN). It was founded in 1919 as an agency of the League of Nations in the Treaty of Versailles, which ended World War I, much before the UN came into existence. At present, it has 183 countries as members. The International Labour Conference of ILO has a complex but a comprehensive tripartite mechanism. The report of the Director General (DG) Juan Somavia reflected in quite strong words the ongoing crisis, the burden of this crisis on working people of world and tried to build a response albeit within the confines of “fair globalization”, to introduce “an era of social justice where the benefits of globalization are shared equitably”!
But it must be recognised that the tripartite mechanism of ILC is dominated and monopolized by one international trade union centre i.e. International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) - a reformist trade union centre. Almost all committees in ILC are headed by persons related to ITUC, and the workers’ group in the Governing Body is full of ITUC leaders. The other International Trade Union Centre, World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU), which is left-leaning and has an anti-imperialist thrust, finds minimal space in ILC. Its demand of proportional representation in the Governing Body has consistently been ignored. Even the staff of ILO, in significant numbers, are drawn from the ranks of ITUC-affiliated unions.
It is true, however, that the ITUC is currently the most representative international trade union organisation with 80 to 90% delegates in ILC, and even some unions known to be progressive and left-leaning like GEFONT of Nepal, CGT of France and COSATU of South Africa are members of ITUC.
The ILC was also addressed by the heads of states including from Russia, Germany, Tanzania, Indonesia and Swiss Confederation.
The Indian Government’s representatives who addressed the ILC were full of self-praise. Whereas representatives of some other countries were somewhat self-critical and talked of failures to protect workers’ interests, the Indian Government representatives entirely failed to do so.