- International Labour Organization
International Labour Organization
Organisation internationale du Travail
Organización Internacional del Trabajo
Org type UN agency Acronyms ILO Head Juan Somavía Status active Established 1919 Headquarters Geneva Website www.ilo.org
The International Labour Organization (ILO) is a specialized agency of the United Nations that deals with labour issues pertaining to international labour standards. Its headquarters are in Geneva, Switzerland. Its secretariat — the people who are employed by it throughout the world — is known as the International Labour Office. The organization received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1969.
Membership and organization
Members include states that were members on 1 November 1945, when the organization's new constitution came into effect after World War II. In addition, any original member of the United Nations and any state admitted to the U.N. thereafter may join. Other states can be admitted by a two-thirds vote of all delegates, including a two-thirds vote of government delegates, at any ILO General Conference.
Unlike other United Nations specialized agencies, the International Labour Organization has a tripartite governing structure — representing governments, employers and workers.
The Governing Body decides the agenda of the International Labour Conference, adopts the draft programme and budget of the organization for submission to the conference, elects the director-general, requests information from member states concerning labour matters, appoints commissions of inquiry and supervises the work of the International Labour Office.
This guiding body is composed of 28 government representatives, 14 workers' representatives, and 14 employers' representatives. Ten of the government seats are held by member states that are nations of "chief industrial importance," as first considered by an "impartial committee." The terms of office are three years.
International Labour Conference
The ILO organizes the International Labour Conference in Geneva every year in June, where conventions and recommendations are crafted and adopted. The conference also makes decisions on the ILO's general policy, work programme and budget.
Each member state is represented at the conference by four people: two government delegates, an employer delegate and a worker delegate. All of them have individual voting rights, and all votes are equal, regardless of the population of the delegate's member state. The employer and worker delegates are normally chosen in agreement with the "most representative" national organizations of employers and workers. Usually, the workers' delegates coordinate their voting, as do the employers' delegates.
For a list, see Category:International Labour Organization conventions
Through July 2011, the ILO has adopted 189 conventions .
Adoption of a convention by the International Labour Conference allows governments to ratify it, and the convention then becomes a treaty in international law when a specified number of governments have done so. But all adopted ILO conventions are considered international labour standards regardless of how many governments have ratified them.
The coming into force of a convention results in a legal obligation to apply its provisions by the nations that have ratified it. Ratification of a convention is voluntary. Conventions that have not been ratified by member states have the same legal force as do recommendations. Governments are required to submit reports detailing their compliance with the obligations of the conventions they have ratified. Every year the International Labour Conference's Committee on the Application of Standards examines a number of alleged breaches of international labour standards.
1998 Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work
In 1998, the 86th International Labour Conference adopted the Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work. This declaration identified four "principles" as "core" or "fundamental", asserting that all ILO member States on the basis of existing obligations as members in the Organization have an obligation to work towards fully respecting the principles embodied in the relevant (ratifiable) ILO Conventions. The fundamental rights concern freedom of association and collective bargaining, discrimination, forced labour, and child labour. The ILO Conventions which embody the fundamental principles have now been ratified by most member states.
Recommendations do not have the binding force of conventions and are not subject to ratification. Recommendations may be adopted at the same time as conventions to supplement the latter with additional or more detailed provisions. In other cases recommendations may be adopted separately and may address issues not covered by, or be unrelated to, any particular convention.
VanDaele, (2005) argues that in 1919 a pioneering generation of scholars, social policy experts, and politicians designed an unprecedented international organizational framework for labour politics. The founding fathers of the ILO had made great strides in social thought and action before 1919. The core members all knew one another from earlier private professional and ideological networks, in which they exchanged knowledge, experiences, and ideas on social policy. Prewar 'epistemic communities,' such as the International Association for Labour Legislation (IALL), founded in 1900, and political networks, such as the Socialist Second International, were a decisive factor in the institutionalization of international labour politics. In the post–World War I euphoria, the idea of a 'makeable society' was an important catalyst behind the social engineering of the ILO architects. As a new discipline, international labour law became a useful instrument for putting social reforms into practice. The utopian ideals of the founding fathers – social justice and the right to decent work – were changed by diplomatic and political compromises made at the Paris Peace Conference of 1919, showing the ILO's balance between idealism and pragmatism.
Over the course of World War I, the international labour movement proposed a comprehensive programme of protection for the working classes, conceived as compensation for labour's support of the war. This programme was supposed to become an international agreement after the war. In 1919, politicians took it up in order to give social stability to the postwar order. However, the way in which the programme was instituted disappointed the high expectations of trade unions. Politicians offered labour an institution that could attempt to achieve trade-union demands. Despite open disappointment and sharp critique, the revived International Federation of Trade Unions (IFTU), founded in 1913, quickly adapted itself to this mechanism. The IFTU increasingly oriented its international activities around the lobby work of the ILO.
Post-war reconstruction and the protection of labour unions occupied the attention of many nations during and immediately after World War I. In Great Britain, the Whitley Commission, a subcommittee of the Reconstruction Commission, recommended in its July 1918 Final Report that "industrial councils" be established throughout the world. The British Labour Party had issued its own reconstruction programme in the document titled Labour and the New Social Order. In February 1918, the third Inter-Allied Labour and Socialist Conference (representing delegates from Great Britain, France, Belgium and Italy) issued its report, advocating an international labour rights body, an end to secret diplomacy, and other goals. And in December 1918, the American Federation of Labor (AFL) issued its own distinctively apolitical report, which called for the achievement of numerous incremental improvements via the collective bargaining process.
As the war drew to a close, two competing visions for the post-war world emerged. The first was offered by the International Federation of Trade Unions (IFTU), which called for a meeting in Bern in July 1919. The Bern meeting would consider both the future of the IFTU and the various proposals which had been made in the previous few years. The IFTU also proposed including delegates from the Central Powers as equals. Samuel Gompers, president of the AFL, boycotted the meeting, wanting the Central Powers delegates in a subservient role as an admission of guilt for their countries' role in the bringing about war. Instead, Gompers favoured a meeting in Paris which would only consider President Woodrow Wilson's Fourteen Points as a platform. Despite the American boycott, the Bern meeting went ahead as scheduled. In its final report, the Bern Conference demanded an end to wage labour and the establishment of socialism. If these ends could not be immediately achieved, then an international body attached to the League of Nations should enact and enforce legislation to protect workers and trade unions.
Meanwhile, the Paris Peace Conference sought to dampen public support for communism. Subsequently, the Allied Powers agreed that clauses should be inserted into the emerging peace treaty protecting labour unions and workers' rights, and that an international labour body be established to help guide international labour relations in the future. The advisory Commission on International Labour Legislation was established by the Peace Conference to draft these proposals. The Commission met for the first time on 1 February 1919, and Gompers was elected chairman.
Two competing proposals for an international body emerged during the Commission's meetings. The British proposed establishing an international parliament to enact labour laws which each member of the League would be required to implement. Each nation would have two delegates to the parliament, one each from labour and management. An international labour office would collect statistics on labour issues and enforce the new international laws. Philosophically opposed to the concept of an international parliament and convinced that international standards would lower the few protections achieved in the United States, Gompers proposed that the international labour body be authorized only to make recommendations, and that enforcement be left up to the League of Nations. Despite vigorous opposition from the British, the American proposal was adopted.
Gompers also set the agenda for the draft charter protecting workers' rights. The Americans made 10 proposals. Three were adopted without change: That labour should not be treated as a commodity; that all workers had the right to a wage sufficient to live on; and that women should receive equal pay for equal work. A proposal protecting the freedom of speech, press, assembly, and association was amended to include only freedom of association. A proposed ban on the international shipment of goods made by children under the age of 16 was amended to ban goods made by children under the age of 14. A proposal to require an eight-hour work day was amended to require the eight-hour work day or the 40-hour work week (an exception was made for countries where productivity was low). Four other American proposals were rejected. Meanwhile, international delegates proposed three additional clauses, which were adopted: One or more days for weekly rest; equality of laws for foreign workers; and regular and frequent inspection of factory conditions.
The Commission issued its final report on 4 March 1919, and the Peace Conference adopted it without amendment on 11 April. The report became Part XIII of the Treaty of Versailles.
The first annual conference (referred to as the International Labour Conference, or ILC) began on 29 October 1919 at the Pan American Union (building) in Washington, D.C. and adopted the first six International Labour Conventions, which dealt with hours of work in industry, unemployment, maternity protection, night work for women, minimum age and night work for young persons in industry. The prominent French socialist Albert Thomas became its first Director General. The ILO became the first specialized agency of the United Nations system after the demise of the League in 1946. Its constitution, as amended, includes the Declaration of Philadelphia (1944) on the aims and purposes of the organization. As of April 2009[update], the current director-general is Juan Somavia (since 1999).
At the time of establishment, the US government was not a member of ILO, as the US Senate rejected the Covenant of the League of Nations, and the US could not join any of its agencies. Following the election of Franklin Delano Roosevelt to the US presidency, the new administration made renewed efforts to join the ILO even without League membership. On 19 June 1934, the US Congress passed a joint resolution authorizing the President to join ILO without joining the League of Nations as a whole. On 22 June 1934, the ILO adopted a resolution inviting the US government to join the organization. On 20 August 1934, the US government responded positively and took its seat at the ILO.
Training and teaching units
The International Training Centre of the International Labour Organization (ITCILO) is based in Turin, Italy. Together with the University of Turin, Faculty of Law, the ITC offers training for ILO officers and secretariat members, as well as offering educational programmes. For instance, the ITCILO offers a Master of Laws (LL.M.) programme in Management of Development, which aims specialize professionals in the field of cooperation and development.
The term "child labour" is often defined as work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential and their dignity, and that is harmful to physical and mental development.
It refers to work that:
- is mentally, physically, socially or morally dangerous and harmful to children; and
- interferes with their schooling by:
- depriving them of the opportunity to attend school;
- obliging them to leave school prematurely; or
- requiring them to attempt to combine school attendance with excessively long and heavy work.
In its most extreme forms, child labour involves children being enslaved, separated from their families, exposed to serious hazards and illnesses and/or left to fend for themselves on the streets of large cities – often at a very early age. Whether or not particular forms of "work" can be called "child labour" depends on the child's age, the type and hours of work performed, the conditions under which it is performed and the objectives pursued by individual countries. The answer varies from country to country, as well as among sectors within countries.
Not all work done by children should be classified as child labour that is to be targeted for elimination. Children’s or adolescents’ participation in work that does not affect their health and personal development or interfere with their schooling, is generally regarded as being something positive. This includes activities such as helping their parents around the home, assisting in a family business or earning pocket money outside school hours and during school holidays. These kinds of activities contribute to children’s development and to the welfare of their families; they provide them with skills and experience, and help to prepare them to be productive members of society during their adult life.
ILO’s response to child labour
The ILO’s International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC) was created in 1992 with the overall goal of the progressive elimination of child labour, which was to be achieved through strengthening the capacity of countries to deal with the problem and promoting a worldwide movement to combat child labour. IPEC currently has operations in 88 countries, with an annual expenditure on technical cooperation projects that reached over US$74 million, €50 million in 2006. It is the largest programme of its kind globally and the biggest single operational programme of the ILO.
The number and range of IPEC’s partners have expanded over the years and now include employers’ and workers’ organizations, other international and government agencies, private businesses, community-based organizations, NGOs, the media, parliamentarians, the judiciary, universities, religious groups and, of course, children and their families.
IPEC's work to eliminate child labour is an important facet of the ILO's Decent Work Agenda. Child labour not only prevents children from acquiring the skills and education they need for a better future, it also perpetuates poverty and affects national economies through losses in competitiveness, productivity and potential income. Withdrawing children from child labour, providing them with education and assisting their families with training and employment opportunities contribute directly to creating decent work for adults.
INDUS Child Labour Project
The INDUS (India-US) Child Labour Project is a US$40 million, €25 million initiative between the ILO-IPEC, Government of India, and the US Department of Labour. Started in 2004, the project covered an estimated 80,000 children across 21 districts in 5 major states. The project came to a conclusion in March 2009.
The INDUS Project target districts include
- Madhya Pradesh
- Tamil Nadu
- Uttar Pradesh
INDUS aims to eliminate child labour in these 5 states among 10 hazardous sectors.
- Hand-rolled beedi cigarettes
- Leather, rubber, and plastic footwear
- Hand-blown glass bangles
- Hand-made locks
- Hand-broken quarried stones
- Hand-spun/hand-loomed silk thread, yarn and fabric
- Hand-dipped matches
- Handmade bricks
INDUS Project Strategies
- Strengthening public education
To ensure that children withdrawn from the hazardous sectors do not relapse, Transitional Education Centres (TEC) were established to ease the mainstreaming of children back into schools within 24 months. Education up to Class VI and VII were provided by the TECs. Primary health care including health check-ups, school meals and stationaries were all funded by the project. Each child was paid a stipend of Rs. 100 per month, as long as they attained a minimum attendance rate of 80%.
- Providing vocational training
Vocational centres were established to help equip children with necessary life skills which make decent incomes in the future viable. In addition to focusing on knowledge, skills and computer literacy, the centres also carried out life enrichment education, which includes basic workers’ rights and the dangers of HIV/AIDS. Travelling allowances of up to a maximum of Rs.300 per month and tools kits were sponsored.
- Providing income-generating opportunities to the families of child labour
In an effort to compensate families’ loss in income due to their children enrolling into the education system, training agencies that specialize in micro-enterprise development and skill training were established. These agencies assisted families in selecting an appropriate micro-enterprise or to improve an existing skill.
Results of INDUS Project
- The proportion of children aged 10–14 who are economically active fell from 8.7% in 2001 to 6.6% in 2006, as shown in Table 1.
Distribution of children 2001 Population Census 2006 Population Projection and estimates % of children to population in 2001 % of children to population in 2006 Population Male 132367710 125485000 Female 120795938 116274000 Total 253163648 241759000 Child Labour (10-14) Male 6804336 4276744 8.8 6.7 Female 5862041 3894131 8.5 6.3 Total 12666377 8082954 8.7 6.6
Table 1: Magnitude of child labour in India
- Primary school net enrolment rate between years 2005-2009 was 83%, a more than threefold increase from the 1950s level of 26%.
Criticisms of Project
- Delays in the Transitional Education Centres (TEC) resulted in mainstreamed children being released to public schools at a sluggish rate. Having completed the education provided by TEC, children were not transferred to public schools promptly.
- Progress in the income generation segment has been relatively slow. Financial benefits only reached pockets of a few targeted mothers in Tamil Nadu by mid 2007.
The ILO has considered the fight against forced labour to be one of its main priorities. During the interwar years, the issue was mainly considered a colonial phenomenon, and the ILO's concern was to establish minimum standards protecting the inhabitants of colonies from the worst abuses committed by economic interests. After 1945, the goal became to set a uniform and universal standard, determined by the higher awareness gained during World War II of politically and economically motivated systems of forced labour, but debates were hampered by the Cold War and by exemptions claimed by colonial powers. Since the 1960s, declarations of labour standards as a component of human rights have been weakened by government of postcolonial countries claiming a need to exercise extraordinary powers over labour in their role as emergency regimes promoting rapid economic development.
In June 1998 the International Labour Conference adopted a Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work and its Follow-up that obligates member States to respect, promote and realize freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining, the elimination of all forms of forced or compulsory labour, the effective abolition of child labour, and the elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation.
With the adoption of the Declaration, the International Labour Organization (ILO) created the InFocus Programme on Promoting the Declaration which is responsible for the reporting processes and technical cooperation activities associated with the Declaration; and it carries out awareness raising, advocacy and knowledge functions.
In November 2001, following the publication of the In Focus Programme's first Global Report on forced labour, the ILO Governing Body created a Special Action Programme to Combat Forced Labour (SAP-FL), as part of broader efforts to promote the 1998 Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work and its Follow-up.
Since its inception, SAP-FL has focused on raising global awareness of forced labour in its different forms, and mobilising action against its manifestation. Several thematic and country-specific studies and surveys have since been undertaken, on such diverse aspects of forced labour as bonded labour, human trafficking, forced domestic work, rural servitude, and forced prison labour.
The Special Action Programme to combat Forced Labour (SAP-FL) has spearheaded the ILO’s work in this field since early 2002. The programme is designed to:
• Raise global awareness and understanding of modern forced labour
• Assist governments in developing and implementing new laws, policies and action plans
• Develop and disseminate guidance and training materials on key aspects of forced labour and trafficking
• Implement innovative programmes that combine policy development, capacity building of law enforcement and labour market institutions, and targeted, field-based projects of direct support for both prevention of forced labour and identification and rehabilitation of its victims.
Minimum wage law
To protect the right of labours for fixing minimum wage, ILO has created Minimum Wage-Fixing Machinery Convention, 1928, Minimum Wage Fixing Machinery (Agriculture) Convention, 1951 and Minimum Wage Fixing Convention, 1970 as minimum wage law.
Under the name ILOAIDS, the ILO created the Code of Practice on HIV/AIDS and the World of Work as a document providing principles for "policy development and practical guidelines for programmes at enterprise, community, and national levels." Including:
- prevention of HIV
- management and mitigation of the impact of AIDS on the world of work
- care and support of workers infected and affected by HIV/AIDS
- elimination of stigma and discrimination on the basis of real or perceived HIV status.
ILO-Convention 169 concerns indigenous and tribal peoples in independent countries. It was adopted on 27 June 1989 by the General Conference of the ILO at its 76th session. Its entry into force was 5 September 1991.
For the rights of migrant workers, ILO has adopted conventions, including Migrant Workers (Supplementary Provisions) Convention, 1975 and United Nations Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families in 1990.
The ILO is a major provider of labour statistics. Labour statistics are an important tool for its member states to monitor their progress toward improving labour standards. As part of their statistical work, ILO maintains several databases, such as Laborsta. This database covers 11 major data series for over 200 countries. In addition, ILO publishes a number of compilations of labour statistics, such as the Key Indicators of Labour Markets (KILM). KILM covers 20 main indicators on labour participation rates, employment, unemployment, educational attainment, labour cost, and economic performance. Many of these indicators have been prepared by other organizations. For example, the Division of International Labour Comparisons of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics prepares the hourly compensation in manufacturing indicator.
Connections within the UN
Most Recent ILO Committee Reports and Recommendations
The ILO has several specialized and technical committees that focus on labor relations and trade union rights issues. One of these bodies is the ILO Committee on Freedom of Association. This committee has successfully issued recommendations in 2010 on 6 anomalous and highly celebrated cases in the labor front, 2 of which are the following:
Case Number 2716 - International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations (IUF) and the National Union of Workers in the Hotel, Restaurant, and Allied Industries (NUWHRAIN), Dusit Hotel Nikko Chapter supported by the Alliance of Progressive Labour (APL), the Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP), the Confederation of Independent Unions in the Public Sector (CIU), Manggagawa para sa Kalayaan ng Bayan (MAKABAYAN), the National Labor Union (NLU), Partido ng Manggagawa (PM), the Public Services Labor Independent Confederation (PSLINK), the Alliance of Coca-Cola Unions of the Philippines (ACCUP), the Automotive Industry Workers Alliance (AIWA), the League of Independent Bank Organization (LIBO), the National Alliance of Broadcast Unions (NABU), the Postal Employees Union of the Philippines (PEUP), Pinag-isang Tinig at Lakas ng Anak Pawis (PIGLAS), the Philippine Metalworkers Alliance (PMA) and the Workers Solidarity Network (WSN).
- The complainants allege that, in a decision concerning anti-union dismissals in the context of a labour dispute, the Supreme Court of the Philippines held that workers who shaved or cropped their hair engaged in an unprotected illegal strike, and thus upheld the dismissal of 29 trade union officers and allowed dismissal of 61 trade union members, in violation of the principles of freedom of association. The issue has been protested on wildly in the Philippines.
Case Number 2669 - International Wiring Systems Workers Union (IWSWU)
- Military threat and harassment against IWSWU officers and their families; interference by the armed forces of the Philippines in trade union affairs by dissuading trade union members to engage in collective bargaining; and vilification campaign against IWSWU members and families to the detriment of their safety and security
- Centre William Rappard, first permanent home of the ILO on the north bank of Lake Geneva
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- United Nations Global Compact, 1999–2000, encouraging businesses to adopt sustainable and socially responsible policies
- International Labour Organization Conventions
- Labour movement
- Ohlin Report, providing the basis for the Treaty of Rome on the common market in 1957 and the creation of the European Economic Community in 1958
- Seoul Declaration on Safety and Health at Work, 2008
- Social clause, the integration of seven core ILO labour rights conventions into trade agreements
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Resolutions Related topics Laureates of the Nobel Peace Prize (1951–1975)
- Léon Jouhaux (1951)
- Albert Schweitzer (1952)
- George Marshall (1953)
- United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (1954)
- Lester B. Pearson (1957)
- Georges Pire (1958)
- Philip Noel-Baker (1959)
- Albert Lutuli (1960)
- Dag Hammarskjöld (1961)
- Linus Pauling (1962)
- International Committee of the Red Cross / League of Red Cross Societies (1963)
- Martin Luther King, Jr. (1964)
- UNICEF (1965)
- René Cassin (1968)
- International Labour Organization (1969)
- Norman Borlaug (1970)
- Willy Brandt (1971)
- Henry Kissinger / Le Duc Tho (declined award) (1973)
- Seán MacBride / Eisaku Satō (1974)
- Andrei Sakharov (1975)
- Complete list
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