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Report on ILO core labour standards
Keywords Employment law, International standards, Labour
The first set of annual reports on core labour standards by states which have not yet ratified one or more of the International Labour Organisation's (ILO) seven fundamental Conventions was made public recently.
The full text of the report is available on the ILO Web site at: http://www.ilo.org/public/english/standards/relm/gb/docs/gb277/d1-index.htm
The ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work and its follow-up were adopted in June 1998 by the International Labour Conference - the supreme legislative body of the ILO - by a vote of 273 for, zero against, with 43 abstentions. The Declaration reaffirms the commitment of the international community to "respect, to promote and to realise in good faith" the rights of workers and employers to freedom of association and the effective right to collective bargaining, and to work towards 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. The Declaration underlines that all member countries have an obligation to respect the fundamental principles involved, whether or not they have ratified the relevant Conventions.
The reports that have been released are the first concrete element in the follow-up to the ILO Declaration. Submitted by just over half (55.7 per cent) the governments which had an obligation to do so and by a number of workers' organisations, the reports compiled by the ILO "indicated varying levels of activity to promote respect for core principles".
In an introduction to the review of these annual reports, a group of expert-advisers responsible for drawing the Governing Body's attention to specific areas requiring further discussion, noted that ratifications of the core Conventions has steadily increased - 150 since 1995 - and that "many reports contain statements about intentions to ratify and information about the steps already taken in this direction" by States including Angola, Colombia, Guinea-Bissau, India, South Africa and Sri Lanka. Other countries, on the other hand, "continue to deny basic civil liberties that underpin the very exercise of freedom of association and collective bargaining".
The expert-advisers pointed with satisfaction to evidence of growing acceptance of the Declaration and its follow-up in the international community. "It is noteworthy", says the introduction, "that of the 19 governments that had abstained in the voting on the Declaration, two have now ratified the seven fundamental Conventions (Egypt and Indonesia)", and 14 others supplied one or more of the reports requested.
"The willingness of these countries to participate in a process about which they had harboured doubts is a most encouraging sign" noted the expert-advisers who also expressed the wish to "welcome first reports next year from the three other countries in this group: Oman, Pakistan and Sudan".
The follow-up to the Declaration has three aspects.
The first is an annual review of the situation in countries that have not ratified one or more of the ILO "core" Conventions relating to the four categories of fundamental rights, based on information provided from the Governments, supplemented by information from employer and worker organisation, and reviewed by a seven member group of expert-advisers.
The second part of the follow-up is a Global Report drawn up under the responsibility of the Director-General on the basis of official information or information gathered and assessed in accordance with standard procedures. The purpose of the report is to provide a dynamic global picture relating to each category of fundamental principles and rights. The Global Report will cover, each year, one of the four categories of fundamental principles and rights in turn. This year's report, the first, will examine freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining. Reports in coming years will focus on forced labour, child labour and discrimination in employment.
The third part is the establishment by the Governing Body of priorities and plans of action for technical co-operation to be implemented during the four-year reporting period. The Declaration also envisages support across the multilateral system for encouraging country efforts to respect, promote and realise the fundamental principles and rights.
The Director-General of the ILO, Mr. Juan Somavia has stressed that the Declaration "should spur national and international efforts to translate economic growth into social equity and employment in countries at all stages of the development path". He promised reinforced ILO technical co-operation for countries working to ratify and implement the fundamental Conventions and the terms of the Declaration.
To date, 59 countries have ratified all seven of the Conventions (numbers in brackets are ratifications at the start of the ILO ratification campaign in May 1995 and the increase in ratifications since then). Convention No. 87 (Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise, 1948) has received 128 ratifications, roughly 73 per cent of the ILO's 175 member states (114/14). Convention No. 98 (Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining 1949 has received 146 ratifications, or 83 per cent of ILO members (128/18). Convention No. 29 (Force Labour) 152 ratifications, or 86 of ILO members (139/13) and Convention No. 105 (Abolition of Forced Labour), 146 or 83 per cent of ILO members (115/31). The two Conventions on discrimination (No. 100, Equal Remuneration and No. 111, Discrimination - Employment and Occupation, 1958), 144 and 142 ratifications, or 82 and 81 members (127/17 and 122/20 respectively). The Minimum Age Convention No. 138 has received 85 ratifications, or 48 per cent of member states (48/37).