The 326th session of the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO’s) governing body is currently in progress in Geneva, Switzerland, and the focus is reportedly on several labour-related issues, including powerful global trade unions demanding the setting up of enquiries against countries that are being perceived as being guilty for not observing prescribed reform measures.
The tripartite congress, representing workers, employers and governments, will end on March 24.
The complaints range from Guatemala and Fiji not observing the Freedom of Association, to Venezuela not complying with the ILO’s decision to have minimum wage-fixing machinery in place, to Qatar not observing a convention on forced labour convention.
While the ILO’s governing body is expected to vote on whether commissions of enquiry are required to be set up in each case, sources have revealed that global trade unions are lobbying hard for it without acknowledging any reform measures undertaken by the allegedly guilty countries.
A source closely related to ITUC Brussels cautiously pointed out: “Sure I mind some of the stuff that’s going on in the organisation. I don’t agree with every decision that the ITUC makes, with every decision of management. Sometimes we want to talk about concerns, but realise it’s of no use.”
Regarding the recent issue of leaked emails from ITUC, he did not comment.
Several other stakeholders have spoken on this issue, but on the condition of anonymity. They said it’s not wise to come out in the open and share feelings while still being part of the union.
A leading ILO governing body member from Pakistan hinted “there may be some kind of interference by ITUC and its dominant general secretary, Ms Sharan Burrow.”
He added: “I am affiliated to the Brussels-based trade union so I can’t really say much, but it’s also true that Asian countries are targeted more.”
It is important to raise voice against a country which exploits workers, but it is equally critical to recognize reform measures. There have been modifications to existing laws in these countries that are beginning to reflect change. Unless the trade unions and the others start accepting these amendments, indicted countries will have little inspiration to carry out the good work feel some of these stakeholders.
A Brussels-based former ITUC senior lady member indicated that “the trade union must make changes and debate on measures that are balanced in nature.” She also said that she is “not sure about the impact Ms Sharan Burrow’s unyielding campaign against a few countries is having.”
Sanjeeva Reddy, ITUC vice-president, had earlier pointed out how ITUC and Ms Burrow have gone off track and are simply carrying out their own agenda, leaving workers to their own fate.
Most who spoke on condition of anonymity said they were restrained by either non-disclosure contracts, or the usual tendency of “why get involved”.