August 23, 2015

Report of the DG to the 104th ILC – A Derogatory Document Developed To: Dismantle the ILO International Standards - II

Swadesh Dev Roye

WE are discussing about the anti-labour blueprint drawn in the Report of the Director General of ILO presented to the 104th session of the ILC of ILO held in Geneva from May 31 to June 13, 2015. In the first installment of our discussion, we have already dealt with that part of the Report which has enumerated the structure, contents and method of preparation of the centenary ILC, due in 2019 and pointed out the deliberate and motivated departure from the time-tested standing system and tripartite principles. We have also extensively excerpted from the Report to capture the forthcoming onslaught to decimate work, worker and workplace and disarm trade union movement.


Desperate Move to Dismantle ILO Standards

Since inception, one of the most vital functions of ILO has been setting International Labour Standards through adoption of instruments called ‘Convention’ and ‘Recommendation’. The basic difference between the two categories of instruments is, ‘Conventions’ are communicated to all member countries for ratification while the ‘Recommendations’ are communicated for their consideration.

So far a total of around 195 Conventions and 204 Recommendations have been adopted in the ILCs of the ILO. The Conventions so far adopted broadly pertains to Freedom of Association, Employment and Training, matters related to Conditions of Work including Health & Safety, Social Security, etc. The Conventions of Freedom of Association, Abolition of Forced Labour, Non-discrimination, Equal Remuneration, Employment Policy, Social Security, Migrant Workers, Labour Inspection and Tripartite Consultation are generally considered to be the major ILO Conventions. And of course, there are the eight Core Conventions.

In the matters of ratification and administration of the instruments, ILO extends various services to all three constituents in member states which is known as ‘Technical Cooperation’. These functions have been defined as, “assistance to governments and employers’ and workers’ organisations to fulfil their functions and roles in the standard-setting and supervisory system.” This role of ILO has been termed as, “the Organisation’s basic aims and principles as enshrined in its Constitution and international labour standards and its overall policy”.

Neo-liberal Design to Hijack ILO

With the advent of imperialist globalisation driven neo-liberal policies, the imperialist forces have been repeatedly hatching and pushing conspiracies to launch multifaceted attacks on the International Standards steered by ILO and adopted in different ILCs, and even to remove or at least seriously restrict the empowerment of ILO to set standards.

The 323rd session of the Governing Body of ILO held in March 2015 decided to set up a Standard Review Mechanism (SRM). Now the hidden intention behind such steps must be understood in the background of the attack on the working class globally by the capitalist ruling classes under the iron grip of systemic crisis of capitalism coupled with the intent and contents of the Report of the DG. The DG Report said, “The very process of change that are transforming the world of work are themselves reason for renewed focus on standards, and in particular for the adoption or revision of standards in response to newly arising needs and circumstances.” And these words must be understood by the trade union movement not in the content but in intent of the authors. Mr. Ronnest, the Chairperson of the Employers’ group, was open and loud about their intention “in the clearly transforming world of work, the ILO has to aim to ensure that these rights and standards continue to be relevant and enforceable in new work environment.” The attack on the standard setting role of ILO and attempt to dismantle the international standards are instance of class onslaught of the capitalist class and it must be combated through class struggle by the working class, nationally and internationally.

Intervention by General Secretary WFTU


George Mavrikos, General Secretary, WFTU (World Federation of Trade Unions) in his mind-blowing speech came out heavily against the imperialist forces for their inhuman crime of imposing “embargo, blockades and discrimination which have nothing to do with their demagogy for democracy and freedom, they use them hypocritically.”How the hypocritic practice has entrenched into the functioning of ILO has been captured by Mavrikos, “Another thing proves the hypocrisy of the imperialists is that from the ILO list of countries whose governments are accused of attack against trade unions, Colombia, Israel, and the USA are missing always. In these countries, the governments violate basic human rights and, trade unionists are assassinated.

The World Federation of Trade Unions, that celebrates this year its 70th anniversary, will steadily continue in all international forums intervening based on its principles, its commitment for internationalism of working class and the values of international solidarity.”

It is very important to note that many workers representatives attending the conference from developed countries, most of the worker representatives from developing countries and even the government representatives from many of the developing countries from different continents generally, and particularly from Asia, Africa and Latin America, while participating in the deliberations on the report of the DG and/or in the different Committee Sessions, strongly pointed out the sufferings of the workers as a direct consequence of the neo-liberal policies under imperialist globalisation.


Desperate Attempt to Deny Right to Strike

A serious situation has been created by the Employers’ group in ILO on the question of Right to Strike. In December 2013 in the annual meeting of the Group of Experts, the employers’ representatives have come out with an atrocious position that there is no mention of the right to strike in the ILO Convention 87. Thus a pandemonium on the matter has emerged. In this situation the WFTU has, as usual, taken a militant position while the ITUC has obviously come out with its true colour by adopting an evasive approach. In one hand ITUC has resorted to high sounding rhetoric and on the other hand they are adopting tactic to help the employers’ class suggesting referring the matter to the International Court at Hague.


ILO Instruments on Right to Strike  

Out of the eight ILO Conventions which are referred to as ‘Core Conventions’, one is C87 – Freedom of Association and Protection of Right to Organise, and another is C98 – Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining. It may not be exaggeration to say that these two rights are the two pillars of trade union movement. And strengthening and making them effective and meaningful the third horizontal pillar is the Right to Strike.

On right to strike, ILO’s position should be comprehended in terms of ILO conventions 87, 98, 105, 151, 154 and also Recommendation No. 92 both explicit and implicit. There is mention about Right to strike in Convention No. 105 (1957) -The Abolition of Forced Labour, prohibiting the use of forced or compulsory labour “as a punishment for having participated in strikes” and Recommendation No. 92 (1951) - Voluntary Conciliation and Arbitration Recommendation, stating that no provision it contains which “may be interpreted in limiting, in any way whatsoever, the right to strike.” Convention 151 meant for Public Services, specifically mandates that “public employees shall have, as other workers, the civil and political rights which are essential for the normal exercise of freedom of association, subject only to the obligation arising from their status and the nature of function.”

Additionally, there are ILO adopted resolutions and also specific observations of Committee on Freedom of Association (since 1952) and the Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations (since 1959) established by the ILO Governing Body which have emphasised recognition of the right to strike in member States.

We must not forget even for a moment that the working class all over the world has achieved various rights through bitter class struggles and sacrifices and not as mercy from any quarters. And this is equally true both for industrial and public services workers. In fact, trade union movement and right to strike are synonymous. And hence right to strike is the birthright of workers. Therefore, working class cannot forego their right to collective bargaining including right to strike in furtherance of the legitimate concerns, whatever may be the circumstances.



There is no doubt that ILO suffers from serious limitations. Also the working class must not suffer from any illusion expecting impartial role of ILO. But at the same time, we must be mindful that ILO is the oldest and most important organisation in the UN system. It is also the only one to be run on a tripartite basis – governments, employers and workers. Therefore, the international standard setting and supervisory capacity and mechanism of ILO should be protected from the onslaught of the class enemies of working class. ILO provides the most important international tripartite forum to the workers to voice its concern. Therefore, while we should continue our fight to assert the democratic rights of the world working class in the forum of ILO, any attempt to dismantle or dilute the instruments, structure and empowerment of ILO must be fought with unity at international level.  

There is an urgent need to deeply study the Report of the DG to develop deeper understanding about the game behind the whole design in the perspective of class struggle. We have attempted to communicate the seriousness of the situation even in the title of this piece itself - ‘A Derogatory Document Developed to Decimate Work, Worker & Workplace and Disarm the Trade Union Movement’ In the meantime, the trade union movement must undertake massive campaign to educate and mobilise the workers in a massive scale to combat the onslaught of the capitalist class to hijack the ILO under the design of neo-liberalism.