ILC 2017: Closing speech by Marie Clarke Walker, Worker Vice President of the Conference

Marie Clarke Walker, Worker Vice President of the 106th International Labour Conference
President,
Vice Presidents,
Director General,
Distinguished delegates, 

 

It has been a great pleasure and honour for me to be elected Vice-President of the 106thSession of the International Labour Conference. I would like to express my sincere thanks to the worker delegates for the trust they have placed in me.

I would also like to congratulate the President of the Conference, Mr Luis Ernesto Carles Rudy (Panama), the Government Vice-President Ms Saja S. Majali (Jordan) and the Employer Vice-President Mr José María Lacasa Aso (Spain), for their excellent and fruitful cooperation.

Mr President, let me start with expressing some concern. I recall the words of the Director General in his opening statement last week, on the importance and the relevance of the ILO Constitution for today’s world of work. It is indeed crucial to recall our values especially in these difficult social and economic times with many challenges surrounding us. It is therefore disheartening to see how difficult some of the discussions have been at this conference, on very fundamental values and rights that have been questioned or opposed in the various committees.

Despite this, I welcome the fact that the spirit of consensus prevailed and all the committees were able to adopt good conclusions. I congratulate the Conference on the successful adoption of a new instrument that reaffirms the principle of universal and lasting peace based on social justice and social dialogue.

I would also like to welcome the adoption of the Programme and Budget for 2018-2019 which will enable this organization to carry out the work we have all asked them to do during this conference.

Allow me now to briefly address the various subjects discussed at our conference this year.

Let me start with the work of the Committee on the Application of Standards.

This year, the Committee on the Application of Standards was again able to examine the application of international labour standards in 24 countries. The Committee discussed five so-called double-footnoted cases in relation to which the Committee of Experts requested governments to supply full particulars to the Conference. These countries include Ecuador on Convention No. 87 on Freedom of Association, El Salvador on Convention No. 144 on Tripartite Consultation, Malaysia on Convention No. 19 on the Equality of Treatment (Accident Compensation), Poland on Convention No. 29 on Forced Labour and the Ukraine on Convention No. 81/129 on Labour Inspection. A consensual list of 19 additional countries was agreed upon, including fundamental, governance and technical conventions. The Workers’ Group regrets that a number of countries with serious violations of fundamental rights were not examined by the Committee. These countries include Brazil, Colombia, Belarus, Honduras, Indonesia and the Philippines. Our Group welcomes clear and straightforward conclusions adopted by the Committee in order to provide recommendations to Governments in relation to their obligations under the relevant Conventions ratified. This year’s conclusions include a high-level tripartite mission to Kazakhstan, a high-level mission to Mauritania and direct contacts missions to Bahrain, Egypt and Algeria.

Let me now turn to the Committee on the transition from War to Peace, which has ably finalised its work on the Recommendation No.71. The workers’ group arrived here with the firm determination to achieve a Recommendation focused on Employment and Decent Work in the transition from war to peace, disasters, and building resilience.

We wanted a standard that clearly reflects the Decent Work pillars of social protection, social dialogue, and fundamental principles and rights at work. It was further important to recognize the importance of public services and the role of the public sector; the need for just transition measures towards an ecologically sustainable economy as an element of responses to disasters and building resilience; progress for due diligence in global supply chains operating in countries in situations of crisis or in recovery; and to provide concrete measures to respect the fundamental principles and rights at work for refugees as well as for migrants and other forcibly displaced persons within countries as well as across borders.

We have achieved much of that. We are convinced that the new instrument will serve the cause of employment and decent work in the transition from war to peace, disasters, and in strengthening resilience. But of course it will do so only if we dedicate ourselves to giving it life and pertinence.

We further welcome the conclusions of the Committee on the second recurrent discussion on fundamental principles and rights at work. We congratulate the committee not only for its speedy work, much more for its spirit of consensus. The Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work are at the heart of the organization. They are the human rights of workers. It is therefore reassuring to know that constituents renew their commitment and that there was a strong consensus on the way to make better progress in their full respect, promotion and realization.

The conclusions outline a clear direction for the road ahead. There is commitment to work towards universal ratification of all core labour standards by the Centenary in 2019. In the campaign for ratification, but also for action tackling gaps in implementation, we welcome the clear focus on freedom of association and collective bargaining as enabling rights. The 2030 Agenda offers an important opportunity for the ILO to develop a plan of action to support projects around SDG target 8.8, which aims to protect labor rights and promote safe and secure working environments for all workers. Indeed, this target can only be reached through tripartism, social dialogue, freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining.
We are facing serious challenges, but with an ILO that will scale up its work on policy coherence and partnerships with and outreach to economic institutions, capacity building of constituents as well as research, analysis and data to guide future standard setting and policy development, we are confident to face the challenges of the future of work, with freedom of association and through tripartism, social dialogue and collective bargaining, in the same spirit of consensus.

Last but not least, the Committee on Labour Migration, despite difficult and long discussions, was able to achieve a good result and adopt an important set of conclusions. They reaffirm an important and leadership role for the ILO in the area of labour migration, based on tripartism and our normative framework, not only in its’ future work but also in its’ role towards the development of the Global Compact for Migration. The relevance of the migration conventions was reaffirmed, both for protecting the rights of migrant workers as well as for contributing to good labour migration governance.

The conclusions identified key areas that warrant special attention. Three of the areas I would like to mention in particular are the need to address much more effectively abuses around temporary migration, irregular migration and fair recruitment. Protection of migrant workers, their right to organise and especially the need to guarantee equal treatment for migrant workers were important achievements.

The conclusions further include priorities for action by the ILO in all these areas in particular more action on the awareness raising of the migration conventions; an assessment of decent work impacts of temporary migration schemes; and an assessment of the impact of the recently adopted guidelines for fair recruitment. We therefore think these conclusions strengthen the ILO’s mandate for a fair labour migration.

The work of these committees is the manifestation of the founding objectives of the ILO and its commitment to social justice. Its unique tripartite structure gives equal voice to workers, employers and governments in advancing internationally recognized human and labour rights in pursuit of its founding mission that social justice is essential to universal and lasting peace.

The ILO must continue social dialogue and promote tripartitism to not only set labour standards, develop policies and devise programmes promoting decent work for all women and men but to also assist in their implementation.

My report would not be complete without mentioning the World of Work. This year the ILC World of Work Summit was dedicated to the theme of “A better future for Women at Work”. Workers welcomed the interactive nature of the summit and its engagement of ILO stakeholders and constituents in discussing how to ensure a better future for women at work, looking at work life balance, the care economy, violence and harassment as a barrier to decent work and the gender pay gap. A key part of the discussion also included the role men must play in the process. The Summit also welcomed three women Presidents who spoke about how they had advanced the gender equality agenda.

Finally let me congratulate all the new Governing Body members on their election and wish them all success in their important work over the next three years.

Mr. President, let me conclude by thanking the Director General, the ILO staff and the interpreters, who all worked tirelessly to ensure the success of this Conference, as well as my worker colleagues who did an excellent job in the various committees.

I thank you for your attention and wish you all a safe journey back home.

Source:  ILO ACTRAV Media Centre