Notes on Chapter 2: Introduction to International Labour Standards
2.1: Introduction to International Labour Standards
[Note: Additional Material: ILO on ILS: read pgs 7-25 for Video 1 and 2]
International Labour Standards
1. Conventions : International treaties that become legally binding on a member state on ratification.
2. Recommendations : Not legally binding; sets guidelines and suggestive practices; might be freestanding but generally accompany a convention; advice for implementation.
3. Protocols : revise, supplement or update parts of a convention.
4. Declarations: Not legally binding; give critical policy guidance to ILO office and member states: ex. Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work (1998)
5. On review: 82 Conventions and 87 Recommendations have been identified as up-to date.
6. Eight core Conventions have been identified that implement the 1998 Declaration principles.
7. Four convention have been identified as ‘priority’:
a. Labour Inspection
b. Tripartite Consultation
c. Employment policy
Characteristics of International Labour Standards
8. Universality and Flexibility
a. Balance between the two: Hurdle should be set realistically but high enough to promote progress
b. Make allowance for different levels of economic development or industrial organisation
c. Ex: 138 Minimum age for employment: Shall not be less than the age for compulsory schooling, never less than 15; but when economy, educational facilities are not developed, can, after consultations, make it 14 years.
10. Minimum levels
a. No country can use the adoption of a convention or any ILS to reduce existing labour standards in domestic law.
How are International Labour Standards set up?
11. All three organs play a part
12. Generally, the Governing body initiates the process
13. Members agree to place a subject on the agenda of the annual ILO conference:
a. This is usually a result of real world experience, advocacy, etc. of years that has convinced the members they need to act
14. Typically takes two annual ILO conferences: Double discussion procedure [diagram in readings]
15. International Labour Office prepares
a. A preliminary report on the law and practice in different countries
b. A questionnaire for the governments, which should be answered in consultation with worker and employer representatives
c. A digest of comments and responses for discussion by the ILC
16. ILC discusses, compiles, prepares draft for tripartite consultation
17. Second ILC annual meeting
a. discusses if any standard should be set up
b. what form it should take
c. requires two-third majority vote
18. Adoption of convention often is accompanied by the passing of recommendations to implement it.
2.2: Submission and Ratification of ILO instruments
Duty to Submit
1. Every member state, on the adoption of a new instrument, has the positive “Duty to submit”
a. To the country’s competent authority: Parliament, etc.
b. Within a reasonable time: generally, a year.
c. Purpose: to craft legislation or other measures at the domestic level for implementation
d. Legal duty to submit is not a duty to support: can result in rejection of a convention/opposition to its ratification.
2. A persistent violation of the obligation would let Trade Unions call out the government at the ILC: name and shame but no legal consequences
3. Formal procedure whereby a national government accepts an ILO Convention as legally binding
4. Members must:
a. Report ratification to ILO
b. Bring national law and practice into conformity within a year
After a year
c. Apply ratified convention in domestic legal framework
d. Be subject to ILO supervisory system
i. Report on its application at regular intervals
ii. Be subject to regular supervision
iii. Subject to possible complaints and representations on the basis of the Convention
5. International obligation to give effect to the Convention
a. In law
b. In practice
6. All or nothing proposition: members cannot exercise ‘reservations’, unless there is inbuilt flexibility in the Convention
a. Ex: Convention 102 on Social Security
2.3: The Role of Trade Unions in the Standard Setting Process
1. Trade Unions can use the ILS
a. Government: In national debates/negotiation on legislation and policy
b. Industry/enterprise: Debates on regulations and collective agreements
c. Domestic Courts/Tribunal: to better defend labour rights
Vital role of the union in the ILO
The Unions/workers representatives are crucial among the tripartite parties as they are generally responsible for
2. Collecting and submitting evidence required to showcase the need for a new standard
3. Lobbying to include an item in the agenda and later lobbying for support
4. Influencing form and content of the instrument
5. Encouraging compliance with the constitution of the ILO.
In the domestic forum, they lobby for
6. ‘Submitting’ instruments
8. Implementation of ILS in law and practice by participating and supporting the supervisory mechanisms of the ILO
2.4: Practical Experiences: Campaigning for the Domestic Workers’ Convention
In the Dominican Republic, the National Confederation of Trade Union Unity collected statistical data, identified migrant labourers, organised domestic workers, placed information before the government, approached specific ministries, approached civil society, raised awareness among workers and unions and had a media campaign and succeeded in influencing the government to adopt Convention 189 on Domestic Workers rights [though the ratification has not yet been officially notified to the ILO].