ILO renews social contract with Centenary Declaration, adopts anti-violence Convention and holds governments to account for violations

photo: ILO

The 100th Anniversary Conference of the International Labour Organisation has concluded with the adoption of two major instruments, a Centenary Declaration for the Future of Work, and a crucial new international Convention to tackle violence and harassment at work.

“This week the ILO has delivered an historic commitment, agreed between unions, employers and governments, to a human centred future of work with a realisation of the Social Contract embodied in the mandate of the ILO 100 years ago. The Declaration is an agenda for rights and protection for all workers at a time when the world faces the enormous challenges of climate change and digital transformation, and for a labour protection floor for all workers. The labour protection floor includes the hundreds of millions of workers who are trapped in the informal economy or whose jobs are insecure, dangerous and don’t pay enough to support them and their families. It also covers exploitative supply chains and the growing platform businesses. The landmark Convention against violence and harassment at work is the culmination of an exceptional campaign for this new global standard, and efforts will now turn to ensuring that it is ratified by governments and put into action. With these decisions, the social contract for the future, embodied in the ILO, has been secured,” said ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow.

An ILO Centenary Declaration for the Future of Work

With the emergence of new business models such as ‘platform’ companies which completely deny employment responsibilities, along with increasing the erosion of workers’ rights to secure jobs with decent pay and conditions, the Declaration represents an important renewal of the social contract with its focus on a floor of rights and protections for all workers. It also calls for just transition measures to protect and support livelihoods in the transition to a carbon-free economy and in the accelerating digital transformation of work. Collective bargaining, dialogue between unions, employers and governments and cross-border action to secure workers’ rights in supply chains are also given high prominence, along with data privacy and education and training. The Declaration also recognises occupational health and safety as fundamental to decent work, and a Resolution also passed by the Conference sets out a pathway for this to be given formal recognition by the ILO in the framework of ILO Fundamental Rights. It also calls for the multilateral system to have a coherent and human-centered approach, with the ILO at the heart of international trade, finance, economic and environmental policies.

New Global Standard Against Violence and Harassment

The new Convention adopted at the Conference guarantees that the world of work must be free of violence and harassment, providing urgently-needed momentum in the quest to protect hundreds of millions of workers, mostly women. It takes an inclusive approach, extending protection to all workers irrespective of their contractual status, including individuals who are exercising the authority of an employer, as well as jobseekers, trainees, interns and apprentices, volunteers and others. The Convention also makes it clear that violence and harassment involving third parties – whether they are clients, customers, patients, or members of the public - must be considered and addressed. For workers whose jobs involve dealing with the public and in public space, this recognition is extremely important.

ILO considers country cases of rights violations

The regular meeting of the Conference Committee on the Application of Standards reviewed ILO member states’ commitments on providing social protection, a priority issue with some three-quarters of the world’s population having inadequate protection or none at all.

The Committee also reviewed Governments’ compliance with ILO Conventions. 24 of the countries who are the worst offenders were discussed including Turkey, Brazil, India, Kazakhstan, Fiji, Zimbabwe and the Philippines, where the Duterte government has been complicit in enabling impunity in the face of violence against trade unionists and even murder.

A message for the next hundred years

“The Centenary Conference has reminded the world of how important the International Labour Organisation, the oldest and most significant of all the multilateral institutions, is. It provides protection for the most vulnerable and secures rights for working people. With unprecedented levels of income inequality, shrinking democratic space and an age of anger where corporations have too much power and people too little, the ILO is a major bulwark against labour becoming a commodity to be traded without regard for human decency,” said Burrow.