International labour organisation – foundation, structure and functions of ilo
The International Labour Organisation was set up in 1919 to bring governments, employers and trade unions together for united action in the cause of social justice and better living conditions everywhere. ILO is tripartite organisation, with worker and employer representatives taking part in its work on an equal footing with governments. The number of ILO member countries now stands at 154. In 1969 the Organisation celebrated its Fiftieth anninversary and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Its secretariat is based in Geneva, Switzerland. Between the two world wars the ILO was an autonomus part of the League of Nations. During the second world war the ILO moved its head quarters temporarily to Montreal, Canada. The most urgent problems of the time, on which its first decisions were made, included the promotion of the eight-hour working day, the struggle against unemployment, maernity protection and the working conditions of women and the young.
In its preamble the ILO Constitution declares that universal and lasting peace can be found only on the basis of social justice. The International Labour Conference held at Philadelphia in 1944, redefined the Organisation’s aims and objectives in adopting the Declaration of Philadelphia and helped prepare the ILO for the problems awaiting it after the war.
It adopted a Declaration, now an annex to the Constitution, which embodies an even more dynamic concept. It proclaims the right of all human beings “to pursue both their material well-being and their spiritual development in conditions of freedom and dignity, of economic security and equal opportunity”. It further states that “poverty anywhere constitutes a danger to prosperity everywhere.”
The ILO accomplishes its work through three main bodies, namely, the International Labour Conference, the Governing Body and the International Labour Office. In the International Labour Conference, each member state is represented by two government delegates and an employer delegate and a worker delegate, all accompanied by Advisers if they wish. Every delegate has the same rights. Worker and Employer delegates have even voted against their government representatives or against each other. Each can express himself freely and vote as he wishes. This diversity of viewpoint does not prevent decisions from being adopted by large majorities or in many cases even unanimously.
The Conference, which is often called an “International Parliament of Labour”, has several main tasks. The first task is to work out and adopt International Labour Standards in the form of Conventions and Recommendations. Secondly, the Conference approves the work programmes and budget for the organisation. Thirdly, the Conference acts as a forum where social and labour questions of global importance are discussed freely as themes of endeavour for the future. In addition, the Conference also passes resolutions which provide guidelines for the ILO’s general policy and future activities.
The Governing Body is the Executive Council of the ILO and is elected every three years at the Conference. It is, so to speak, the hub of the wheel around which all ILO activities revolve. The Governing Body, like the Conference, is tripartite. It comprises 56 members – 28 representing Governments, 14 representing workers and 14 representing employers. Of the 28 Government seats 10 are held by states of Chief Industrial importance and all other members are collected. The Governing Body establishes the agenda for the conference and other meetings takes note of their decisions and decides on the consequent action to be taken. It directs the activities of the International Labour Office.
The International Labour Office in Geneva is the permanent secretariat of the ILO. There are regional offices for Asia and Pacific, Latin America, Africa, the Arab States and Europe. The ILO accomplishes its tasks through numerous conferences and specialised meetings. Periodic regional conferences bring together government, employer and workers representatives of specific regions to study questions of particular interest to each region. Industrial Committees are permanent tripartite bodies that bring together for discussion at the international level, the social partners engaed in specific sectors of economic activity. For special sectors like maritime undertakings, public service and telecommunication there are separate Joint Commissions which are bipartite in character. The ILO also functions in multi-disciplinary areas in collaboration with other agencies of the UN System.
To accomplish its task, the ILO uses three complementary methods of work, namely, setting international standards and supervising their observance; extending technical co-operation in the field to member-states; conducting research, and collecting and disseminating information.
B. INTERNATIONAL LABOUR STANDARDS – CURRENT VALIDITY
The main tasks of the ILO at the outset was to improve conditions of life and work by building up a comprehensive code of law and practice. The Organisation’s founders felt that standards laid down through the joint efforts of governments, management and labour would be realistic, solid and widely applicable. This standard-setting function is one that the ILO still performs. The number of international labour instruments–Conventions and Recommendations–adopted by the International Labour Conference since 1919 has now reached 351 (172 Conventions and 179 Recommendations) at the end of 1991. Each Convention is a legal instrument regulating some aspect of labour administration, social welfare or human rights. Its ratification involves a dual obligation for a member State; it is both a formal commitment to apply the provisions of the Convention, and an indication of willingness to accept a measure of international supervision. A Recommendation is similar to a Convention except that it is not subject to ratification, and provides more specific guidelines Recommendations often, but not always, supplement conventions. Both Conventions and Recommendations define standards and provide a model and stimulus for national legislation and practice in member countries. ILO Conventions cover a wide field of social problems, including basic human rights matters (such as freedom of association, abolition of forced labour, and elimination of discrimination in employment) minimum age for employment on work, minimum wages, labour administration, industrial relations, employment policy, working conditions, social security, occupational safety and health, and employment at sea. Anumber of the instruments deal with women workers.
This does not mean that the standard-setting process has been without imperfections. Criticism has been voiced and numerous questions have been raised concerning their relevance; their preparation and examination by the Conference; their ratification, application and supervision. It has been argued that this traditional activity of the ILO, the elaboration of standards, is no longer relevant in the world of today in view of the marked improvement in the working conditions and living standards that has unquestionably taken place since 1919, when the ILO was established. A few economists have held that view that trade unionism will lose its validity as industrial society becomes technologically more sophisticated and the intelligentia of a proletariat is transferred into a meritocracy, reducing thereby the importance of labour standards. Some critics have emphasised the urgent need for giving top priority to ‘accelerated growth of economic development’ rather than to ‘social advancement’, implying thereby that social development could wait till satisfactory rates of economic growth have brought about hgher levels of prosperity in developing countries, which form the majority of the ILO membership.
These arguments do not hold good for the simple reason that, men and women of the world whether from the developed or developing countries work in a dynamic and changing environment continuously posing new challenges. New solutions must be found to resolve new difficulties. Realising this, the Government Body and the Conference have on many occassions assessed the work accomplished and decided on the measures for improving it.
Recently in the year 1984, the Director General, in his report to the Conference, placed an analytical report on the past and future of the standard setting process for discussion. The study had brought out both the efforts which have been made over the years to adapt and to re-inforce this essential means of ILO action and the fact that this process can never come to a halt. Following the discussions, a Working Party on International Labour Standards was constituted, which recommended a revised classification of the Instruments, indicated possible subjects for setting future standards and suggested a range of practical measures aimed at promoting a better understanding of ILO standards and at facilitating their use. Most of the suggestions were accepted by the Governing Body of the ILO in 1987. The ILO member states have also recognised the role which ILO standards can play as a means of ensuring balanced economic and social development and in securing recognition of the need for improved living and working conditions both as a contributory factor to and as the ultimate purpose of economic development. In 1992 the Director General has proposed a new updating of the system.
Thus the international labour standards, the quintessence of world-wide experience in the progress towards higher social and economic objectives, continue to be principal means at the disposal of the ILO to achieve social justice throughout the world.
C. FORMULATION AND ADOPTION OF STANDARDS
ILO Conventions and Recommendations are not a haphazard collection of instruments but constitute a comprehensive body of standards concerning most areas of ILO concern. This has been possible because of the established procedure for drawing up of ILO instruments.
The Governing Body decides the agenda of the International Labour Conference, on the basis of suggestions made by employers’ and workers’ organisations, or by the ILO’s other deliverative bodies, proposes from other sources are also taken into account. Selection of agenda items is a delicate and difficult task. If an item is placed on the agenda, before it is sufficiently mature for international consideration, the Conference is unlikely to succeed in adopting a Convention or a Recommendation. Again, if the Governing Body waits to place an item on the agenda till there is one hundred percent certainty that such a measure can be adopted, the Organisation will tend to become a sort of recording machine rather than an initiator of progress. Therefore, the choice of items for the agenda of a Conference to be held eighteen monts later always involved a careful balance and evaluation of many factors. The eternal question that has to be examined in this process is whether the existing body of Conventions and Recommendations is adopted to the current needs of the ILO’s membership, and what can and should be done in future to make ILO standards fully responsive to these needs. How to ensure observance of basic social guarantees in a period of recession and how far standard setting would contribute to adoption to change, for example on such issues as the relationship between working time and employment or the function of service security amid changing patterns of population and employment structures?
However, once the agenda is settled, it is for the International Labour Office, the Secreatariat of the Organisation, to examine the subjects proposed for submission to the Conference and to initiate documentary preparation. The Office carries out a preparatory technical study of the questions under consideration in a thorough and objective manner, provides fullest preliminary consultation to Governments, and safeguards the authority and continuity of the work of the Conference.
The Conference discusses the questions placed on its agenda at two succeeding sessions with a view to the adoption of international regulations. Subjects so placed on the agenda are dealt with usually under the “double discussion” procedure and in exceptional or urgent cases under the ”single discussion” procedure. In cases of special urgency or where other special circumstances exist, the governing body may decide by three fifth majority on a single discussion. Double discussion procedure, prevents approval of badly or hastily drafted texts. Where a subject has been placed on the agenda for double discussion, the Office circulates a Preliminary Report setting out the law and practice relating to the subject in different countries and other relevant information, together with a questionnaire, with a view to eliciting the views of the member States on the desirability of adopting international regularities and their form and scope.
On the basis of the replies and comments received from states and from employer’s and worker’s organisation the Office prepares a further report indicating the principal questions that require consideration by the Conference. This report is communicated to the member States and submitted to the Conference for discussion.
The conclusions reached by the Conference at its first discussion form the basis of the preliminary draft texts of the Conventions and or Recommendations drawn up by office and circulated for comments among member States. On the basis of the comments the Office draws up a final report containing the draft texts of the Conventions/Recommendations and places the same before the succeeding session of the Conference (simultaneous communicating the report to member States) for final discussion and decision. In the case of the single discussion procedure, the second and third stages are skipped. A majority of two-thirds of the votes cast by the delegates present is necessary for the adoption of a Convention or a Recommendation.
D. FORMS OF STANDARDS.
The international labour standards take the form of Conventions and Recommendations. The original draft constitution (prepared by the the British delegation) on which the Commission on International Labour-Legislation concentrated envisaged only one form of standard, i.e., Conventions. Article. 18 reads as:
“When the Conference has approved proposal as to an item in the Agenda, these proposals shall be in the form of an International Convention”. (emphasis provided).
However, this was not acceptable to American delegates who drew the attention of the Commision to the constitutional difficulties arising out of their federal constitution in entering into any convention which infringed in any way the rights of the constituent states. After prolonged discussion, as a compromise measure, adoption of Recommendation was included. The revised Article (New Article 19.1) reads as:
“When the Conference has decided on the adoption of proposals with regard to an item in the agenda, it will rest with the Conference to determine whether these proposals should take the form: (a). of an International Conventon, or (b). of a Recommendation to meet circumstances where the subject, or aspect of it, dealt with is not considered suitable or appropriate at that time for a Convention”.
There is a fundamnetal difference between a Convention and a Recommendation. While Conventions are obligation-creating instruments, Recommendations are guidance-providing instruments. In other words, once the Conventions are ratified by the member-states, they become binding international obligations, whereas Recommendations are essentially guides to national action and do not create international obligations. A Convention is clearly the ‘model’ type of international regulation, or what may be called ‘Precise model codes’, facilitating drafting of uniform legislation. However, when the subject, or aspect of it, dealt with is not considered suitable or appropriate at that time, for a Convention, the Conference adopts a Recommendation. Thus a Recommendation acts as forerunner to a Convention and in fact often paves the way for subsequent adoption of a Convention. Further, a Recommendation may play a supplementary role by spelling out the precise or detailed methods of application of the basic rules or principles enshrined in a Convention. Again, there may be areas, e.g., social security, industrial relations, etc., where circumstances and practices vary so widely from one country to another that binding international commitments are out of question and adoption of a Recommendation is the only alternative. Thus though a Recommendation does not create binding obligations, yet it is in no way an inferior form of standard. On the other hand, it serves an extensive variety of functions and fulfils a different purpose.
There has also been increasing recourse to ‘promotional’ Conventions calling for the pursuit of a national policy in the field dealt with rather than laying down precise standards. But they tend to create difficulties to ratifying States to know what measures of implementation are required of them and for the ILO supervisory bodies to evaluate compliance with international commitments.
Once a Convention is adopted, two copies of it are authenticated by the President of the Conference and the Director-General of the ILO: one of them is deposited in the archives of the ILO and the other is registered with the Secretary-General of the United Nations. The Director-General also furnishes every member State with a certified copy of it. The omission of signature by member states, which normally forms an invariable part of multilateral treaty-making process, is perhaps designed to remove the delay that usually occurs in the ratifications of general multilateral treaties, which adopt the dual procedure of signature and ratification. The adoption by the collective act of an international conference, by a two third majority, dispensing with the signature of the plenipotentiaries of individual member states, as the means of fixing the form of, and giving legal existence to, a Convention is an unique innovation introduced by the ILO. This substitution of the formality of adoption for that of signature is not a mere change in formalities which have no substantial content, but is an important stage in the development of a procedure of collective international decision or proposals of a legislative character.
The standard-setting process does not stop with the adoption of Conventions and Recommendations. Conventions have no automatic binding force, but only come into force in any member State through an act of ratification by the State. However, in the case of both Conventions and Recommendaations, member States are obliged to bring the texts “before the authority or authorities within whose competence the matter lies, for the enactment of legislation or other action” within a period of 12 to 18 months of its adoption. In the case of a Convention if the competent authority consents, the member Government communicates the fact to the Director-General, who registers the ratification and notifies it to the United Nations and other member-States. Even when a member-State votes against the adoption of a Convention, it is still under an obligation to place it before the appropriate authority for ratification. The eagerness of the ILO to ensure prompt action by national authorities is reflected in the fixing of a definite time limit of 18 months. The Constitution stipulates further obligations, which are:
Members shall inform the Director-General of the measures taken to bring conventions and recommendations before the competent auhtority or authorities, with particulars of the authority or authorities regarded as competent of the action taken by them.
If a Convention fails to obtain the consent of the competent authority, no further obligation shall rest upon the member-State except that it shall report to the Director-General, at appropriate intervals as requested by the Governing Body, the position of its law and practice in regard to the matters dealt with in the Convention and showing the extent to which effect has been given or is proposed to be given to any of the provisions of the Convention by legislation, administrative action, collective agreement, or otherwise and stating the difficulties which prevent or delay the ratification of such Convention.
If no legislative or other action is taken to make a Recommendation effective no further obligation shall rest upon the member-State except that it shall report to the Director-General, at appropriate intervals as requested by the Governing Body, the position of the law and practice in the country in regard to the matters dealt with the Recommendation and showing the extent to which effect has been given or is proposed to be given to the provisions of the Recommendation and such modifications of these provisions as it has been found or may be found necessary to make in adopting or applying them.
The underlying purpose of these requirements is to ensure that all reasonable measures are taken by member-States to give due consideration to the provision of the convention. This facilitates establishing a channel of communication between the International Labour Conference and national policy makers, even prior to ratification, which would obviously have an important bearing on promotion and implementation of Conventions once they are ratified.
It is well-known fact that any legislation will prove ineffective unless there is an appropriate machinery for the supervision of its implementation. States are, of course, expected to carry out their obligations in good faith and the principle “pacta sunt servanda” has long been considered as a fundamental rule of international law. But mere reliance on this rule, however, generally it may be accepted, ‘still represents a rather frail basis on which to found a durable system of global rights and duties’. The system of supervision enunciated by the ILO is considered to be one of the most advanced of its kind. Therefore, it will be worthwhile to examine it in some detail.
Though setting up of an international supervisory machinery involves problems of respect for national sovereignty, the framers of the Constitution of ILO took the bold step of including in the constitution itself provisions for supervision of the application of ratified Conventions. A Member is required “to make an annual report to the International Labour Office on the measures it has taken to give effect to the provisions of Conventions to which it is a party.” But mere submission of annual reports does not guarantee implementation of the provisions of the Conventions. The first few years experience showed that the summary of the reports placed before the Conference, as envisaged in Article. 23, “failed to provide an automatic stimulus for supervision through discussion.” Therefore, in 1926, the Conference recommended that each session of the Conference should appoint a special committee to examine the summaries of the reports and envisaged appointment by the Governing Body of a “Committee of experts” entrusted with the advance examination of the reports. The two Committees which originated ‘as an experiment’ have met since then on an annual basis and have become integral features of the organisation. The Committee of experts was renamed as “Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations” in 1949 when it was entrusted with the examination of information and reports on unratified Conventions and on Recommendations, supplied under article. 19 of the Constitution. Until 1958 reports on ratified Conventions had to be submitted every year. Then the periodicity of detailed reporting was changed to a two yearly pattern. In 1977, the system was changed again to detailed reporting at two-yearly intervals according to the subject-matter of the Convention with the possiblity of more frequent report depending upon and the nature of any problems of implementation.
The members of the Committee of Experts are 20 number, and they are chosen for their special experience and competence in the sphere of international labour laws and personal independence. The Committee examines the report from governments under articles. 22 and 35 of the Constitution on the Conventions they have ratified and the information from governments under article. 19 of the Constitution on the measures taken by them to bring the Conventions and Recommendations before the competent authorities for the enactment of legislation or other action. Member States are also called upon to report to the ILO on the implementation of certaain unratified Conventions and of certain Recommendations, selected each year for this purpose by the Governing Body. This provides a further opportunity for governments to review the position in regard to such instruments and to determine what action is possible and called for to give fuller effect to them.
The observations of the Committee of Experts are considered by the Conference Committee on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations. The Conference Committee, consisting of workers’, employers’ and Government representatives, is set up at every general session of the Conference. The special stake of the representative organisations in supervision was formally recognised in 1946, when the amended Constitution made it incumbent on governments to send them (Employers’ and Workers’ organisations) copies of reports, on which they are allowed to make their own comments. The implication is significant, as this provision gives a powerful lever for non-governmental representatives to press their claims. The report of this Conference Committee, which has been called the “conscience of the ILO”, is then submitted to the Conference.
Special Procedures of Supervision: Besides these general procedures on supervision, a special procedure was introduced in 1950 to deal with cases involving freedom of association. A separate machinery was set up to examine complaints which might be submitted either by governments or by employers’ and workers’ organisations and might be lodged even against States that had not ratified the Conventions on Freedom of Association. The machinery comprises two bodies–the Governing Body Committee on Freedom of Association and the Fact-Finding and Conciliation Commission on Freedom of Association.
Reference may also be made to the formal compalints procedure’s laid down in the Constitution. Under Article. 24 of the Constitution, a representation may be made by any employers’ or workers’ organisations, whereas under Article. 26, the complaints procedure may be initiated by a State which has ratifed the Convention; or by the Governing Body, acting on its own initiative or on a complaint from a delegate to the Conference. Even though only limited recourse had been and to these procedures, they provide a useful means for thorough examination of important cases, irrespective of whether they have been examined within the frame-work of regular supervision.
There are further innovations in the system. The first innovation consists of the establishment of direct contacts with governments encountering particular difficulties.
The Committee of Experts suggested, in 1968 the initiation of a procedure for direct contacts between a government and a representative of the Director-General of the ILO and a procedure estabished for this purpose has been in operation since 1969. The direct contacts involve a visit to the country in question and discussion of the discrepancies noted or the difficulties encountered with government representatives with the necessary degree of experience, responsibility and authority. A further principle, endorsed by the committee of experts and already applied in practice, concerns the desirability of associating employers’ and workers’ organisations with the direct contacts, by keeping them informed of the topics discussed and by eliciting their point of view.
The second innovation is the possibility of carrying out special surveys of the situation and problems of a country as concerns discrimination in employment and occupation, with a view to making an impartial evaluation of the facts, providing the government with a view to making an impartial evaluation of the facts, providing the government with technical aid to clarify uncertain or disputed situations and overcoming the difficulties encountered. This procedure is in fact in many ways similar to the procedure of direct contacts. Both procedures can be used only with the consent of the government concerned, both aim essentially at helping governments to achieve fuller compliance with ILO standards. However, there are certain differences between the two, notably the fact that the special surveys can be initiated not only at the request of the government concerned but also at the request of another member state or of any employers’ or workers’ organisation on questions of specific concern to them.
Thus we see that to meet the variety of situations and needs encountered in the implementation of international labour standards, the supervisory procedures themselves have developed and diversified.
The effectiveness of the ILO supervisory system is influenced by anumber of distinctive features. They are:
ILO standards–and therefore the obligations resulting from their ratification–are generally defined in a precise manner as compared with a number of instruments adopted both at the universal and at the regional levels.
ILO supervision is cohesive. A unified set of procedures (routine supervision by a Committee of Experts and a Tripartite Conference Committee, supplemented by machinery for examining complaints and representations) operates in respect of all Conventions.
The ILO system makes provision both for regular supervision on the basis of reports and for the examination complaints and representation.
ILO supervisory bodies enjoy the technical support of a qualified staff. This permits not only a more thorough analysis of implementation, but also uniformity in the treatment of cases, by making documentation and information available to the supervisory bodies in a systematic manner, as a basis for their decisions.
The ILO system combines technical evaluation by independent experts and tripartite review. The former is designed to obtain an impartial, objective assessment of compliance with obligations. The latter enables those directly concerned to examine the situation, make known their views an suggest solutions to problems.
The ILO system involves the active participation of employers’ and workers’ organisations in the implementation of standards. Their representatives participate directly in the work of supervision especially in the Tripartite Conference Committee.
The uniform system applicable to all ILO standards is supplemented by several special procedures in specific areas, such as the freedom of association complaints machinery and the possiblity of special studies concerning discrimination in employment and occupation. There is also the general competence of the International Labour Office, under Article. 10 of the Constitution, to carry out special investigations which has been resorted to in a number of instances as a basis for important ad hoc studies. All these specal procedures may be invoked even when the country concerned has not ratified the relevant ILO Conventions.
H. FLEXIBILITY MEASURES.
Implementation of the ILO Conventions uniformly in a word full of disparities in economic and social conditions is indeed difficult. The difficulty is further accentuated by the fact that technological advancement is leading to fast economc changes.which in their turn are affecting social conditions. Can the substance of Conventions in such circumstances remain static? This is especially important since ILO conventions may not be satisfied with reservations. The answer is provided in the “flexibility measures” adopted by the ILO. The ILO Constitution provides that in framing any Convention, the Conference “shall have due regard to those countries in which climatic conditions, the imperfect development of industrial organisations, or other special circumstances make the industrial conditions, substantially different and shall suggest the modifications, if any, which it considers may be required to meet the case of such countries.”
The practice of incorporating special clauses named countries was soon abandoned in view of the difficulty in getting general approval of the Conference for different standards for different parts of the world. However, in view of the world-wide differences in the conditions determining economic and social policy, flexibility had to be secured by other means. Therefore, while framing a convention, care is taken to use “flexible language” to facilitate widespread ratification of Conventions under widely desperate conditions. Prominent among the flexibility devices are:
Excluded Area Clause
States, the territories of which include large and thinly populated areas or regions at a less advanced stage of development, are permitted to exclude such areas from the application of the Convention.
Through escalator clauses a ratifying State is permitted when ratifying to exclude certain parts of a convention from implementation. The parts so excluded may be covered subsequently. Alternatively, lower standards may be set in the Convention for developing countries. There is an obligation to report on the progress made towards complete application.
Adoption of Convention with a Complementary Recommendation
In an effort to avoid excessive detail in the text of Conventions, often a Convention is supplemented by a Recommendation. The Convention is drafted so as to make it is as widely acceptable as possible, while technical and other matters often are dealt with at greater length in the Recommendation.
While there is general agreement on the need for flexibility in ILO standards, opinions tend to vary, both among the different groups represented at the Conference and among delegations from different countries, as to the precise degree of flexibility to be permitted in any given case. Ultimately, this is a matter of judgment. It must also be recognised that the scope for flexibility will depend on the subject-matter to be regulated. Subject to these qualifications, certain questions would merit discussion. Are some conventions unduly detailed, and should a greater effort be made in future to limit conventions to essential principles and to leave matters of detail to be taken up in supplementary recommendations? Do the procedures for the drawing up of standards provide adequate opportunities for all member-states, both at the stage of prior consultations and during discussions at the Conference, to make known their views and special problems? Should the Office do more to initiate suggestions concerning flexibility devices, either in the initial questionnaires or at later stages?
These questions make it necessary for the ILO to examine the procedures through which standards are drawn up, and possible improvements in those procedures, periodically.
I. REVISION, CONSOLIDATION AND ABROGATION
Though there is no specific provision in the Constitution for the revision of Conventions, the Governing Body considers from time to time whether the working of a Convention warrants revision. Revision is effected either to reflect changes in economic or special conditions or to facilitate their ratification and application. Over the years, a considerable effort has been made to this end. Suggestions have been made to consolidate the existing ILO instruments or group of instruments and to draft suitable procedures to abrogate Conventions that have become obsolete. A certain number of Conventions have been still born in the sense that they have not received the ratifications necessary for their entry into force. Some conventions are no longer open to ratification. Others, even though in principle still open to ratification are unlikely to be further ratified. But there is no procedure for abrogating ILO Conventions. These issues have been debated upon and the consensus seems to be that is not provided for abrogation. ILO Conventions and Recommendations are not the same as national legislation. To be effective, Conventions envisage ratification and subsequent incorporation in national laws and practice, which process varies amongst member countries. Therefore, consolidation or abrogation of instruments which have no binding force, will not yield desired results, as the ratification stage of these instruments would differ from country to country. In the alternative, practical and simpler measures like revision of the classification of ILO instruments, omission of out-of-date standards, or not calling for detailed reports from member States on a number of Conventions are adopted by the ILO periodically.
It must be recognised that, the standard setting process is also subject to limitations. Not all the social problems which call for ILO action necessarily lend themselves to standard-setting. (Rural development programmes and work in unorganised sector are examples).
Further, while ILO standard setting must be responsive to economic, social and technological changes, it cannot in itself determine the cause of these changes.
J. INTERNATIONAL LABOUR CODE.
The body of Conventions and Recommendations adopted by the International Labour Conference constitutes the International Labour Code. As on 1st January, 1992, 172 Conventions and 179 Recommendations have been adopted by the Conference. The code has become for labour lawyers throughout the world what the Corpus Juris Civils or the works of authority of the common lawyers are for other lawyers. The International Labour Code covers an enormous range of important subjects in the labour and social fields, which have been re-classified recently by the Working Party on International Labour Standards and approved by the ILO Governing Body in 1987 as under:
Basic Human Rights–11 Conventions 7 Recommendations
Employment Policy and Human Resources Development–8 C’s 25 R’s
Industrial Relations–1 C 7 R’s
General Conditions of Employment–27 C’s 27 R’s
Occupational safety, health and welfare–14 C’s 23 R’s
Children and Young Persons–13 C’s 9 R’s
Women–6 C’s 4 R’s.
Older Workers–Nil C’s 1 R.
Social Security–21 C’s 15 R’s.
Migrant Workers–4 C’s 7 R’s.
Nursing Personnel–1 C 1 R.
Seafarers–41 C’s and 28 R’s.
Offshore Industrial Activities–Nil C’s Nil R’s.
Indigenous and Tribal Population–7 C’s 3 R’s.
Dock Workers–5 C’s 5 R’s.
Plantations–1 C and 1 R.
Labour Administration–7 C’s 12 R’s.
Social Policy (Miscellaneous)–2 C’s 4 R’s.
Total Number of Conventions and recommendations: 169 Conventions and 179 Reccommendations.
Three Conventions, that is, Convention Nos. 80, 116 and 83 are not included in the above classification, as they are only procedural.
Convention Nos. 80 and 116 relate to Revision of Final Articles of Conventions. Convention No. 80 was adopted “for the purpose of making provisions for the future discharge of certain chancery functions entrusted by the earlier Conventions in question to the Secretary-General of the League of Nations and introducing therein certain further amendment of the Constitution of the International Labour Organisation”. It came into force on 28th May, 1947.
Convention No. 116 revised the Conventions adopted at the first 32 sessions of the Conference so as to provide for the presentation to the Conference by the Governing Body of the International Labour Office of a report on the workingof the Convention at such time as the Governing Body might consider necessary, instead of at specified intervals. It came into force on 5th February, 1962.
Convention No. 83 contains proposals concerning the application of international labour standards in non-metropolitan territories. The Conventions set forth in the schedule are: Convention Nos. 58, 59, 15, 77, 16, 6, 3, 41, 17, 14. The Convention was amended by the Labour Standards (Non-Metropolitan Territories) Convention instrument of Amendment, 1948, which envisages substitution of provisions of Convention Nos. 6 and 41 set forth in the schedule of Convention No. 83 by provision of Convention Nos. 90 and 89.
BASIC HUMAN RIGHTS
Much before the United Nations proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, the International Labour Organisation had enshrined many principles in its Constitution. The Preamble to the Constitution of the International Labour Organisation decares “recognition of the principle of freedom of association” and of establishing peace. The Declaration of Philadelphia reaffirms that “freedom of expression and of association are essential to sustained progress, and that all human beings, irresepective of race, creed or sex, have the right to pursue both their material well-being and their spiritual development in conditions of freedom and dignity, of economic security and equal opportunity…”
As far as action by the ILO itself is concerned, virtually all of its activities under its different programmes are aimed at making a reality of the rights and freedoms proclaimed in the Constitution of the ILO, they also are effective means of implementing many of the rights mentioned in the Universal Declaration of Human rights and the international covenants of human rights which concern of ILO.ILO’s work in the field of Human Rights aims inter alia at safeguarding freedom of association; abolition of forced labour; elimination of discrimination in employment; promotion of equality of opportunity, protection of children from economic exploitation, minimum wages, social security, and adequate conditions of work and life. During the year 1988, which marked a series of significant human rights anniversaries, the Director-General of the ILO presented a report on Human Rights issues to International Labour Conference.