Unprecedented attack on workers' rights at ILO


For the first time in the history of the International Labour Organization, the employers' group blocked discussion on June 4 on some of the worst cases of workers' rights violations at the annual ILO conference in Geneva.

GLOBAL: Since 1926, the International Labour Conference (ILC) has discussed the most serious cases included in the annual report of the ILO's Committee of Experts, a 17-member committee of eminent and independent international jurists. This, year the International Organisation of Employers (IOE) has refused to discuss any cases.

Jyrki Raina, International Metalworkers' Federation General Secretary, said "In a move that is nothing less than a full political ambush, the employers' group has successfully shut down the Committee on the Application of Standards (CAS) thus undermining an important monitoring mechanism regarding ratified conventions and calling into question the future of tripartite cooperation."

The CAS is a standing committee of the ILC that meets each year to examine specific cases identified by workers and employers on the application of ILO Conventions. A list of 25 priority cases identified by the workers' group, in consultation with unions and national centres, were being debated with the employers group, which has now blocked all discussion.

Sharan Burrow, ITUC General Secretary, said "Employers at the ILO are trying to keep the worst abuses under wraps and avoid the international scrutiny which could help save lives and tackle some of the most appalling attacks on the rights of working people.  Last year, 29 trade unionists were murdered in Colombia, but employers don't think the ILO should even discuss that, nor the terrible campaign of violence against trade unionists in Guatemala or Swaziland.  Egyptians are in the midst of a battle for their most basic rights to decent work, but employers seem to be siding with the military and fundamentalist forces both of which want to deprive workers of a voice."

"The ILO was established on the basis of social justice and a commitment to respect for the rule of law as it applies to working people.  The world's most eminent labour law jurists have presented their findings to the ILO Conference, but the IOE is refusing to allow their findings to be examined," said Sharan Burrow.

"Employer groups are trying to undermine one of the most effective human rights mechanisms in the international system. This might help some of their least responsible member companies make some more profit and sustain governments which allow or even encourage violence against working people, but this will be at the cost of lives and livelihoods of some of the world's most vulnerable workers," said Burrow.