Date: Tue, 23 Jun 98 17:20:43 CDT
From: (Rich Winkel)
Organization: PACH
Subject: LABOUR: ILO Conference Reaffirms Basic Rights in the Workplace
Article: 37491
To: undisclosed-recipients:;
Message-ID: <>

/** ips.english: 494.0 **/
** Topic: LABOUR: ILO Conference Reaffirms Basic Rights in the Workplace **
** Written 4:09 PM Jun 22, 1998 by newsdesk in cdp:ips.english **

ILO Conference Reaffirms Basic Rights in the Workplace

By Gustavo Capdevila, InterPress Service, 19 June 1998

GENEVA, Jun 19 (IPS)—After three weeks of deliberations, the International Labour Conference approved a non-binding declaration reaffirming fundamental rights in the workplace, threatened by the phenomenon of globalisation.

The declaration, approved by an overwhelming majority of the government, business and union delegates to the Conference, is related to the debate on subordinating trade to compliance with labour standards.

The declaration specifies that labour standards should not be used for protectionist trade purposes.

And a clause that a large number of developing nations insisted on states that “the comparative advantage of any country should in no way be called into question by this declaration and its follow-up.”

Nevertheless, the governments of 19 developing countries - including Egypt, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mexico, Burma, Pakistan, Peru, Sudan, Syria and Vietnam—abstained from voting Thursday, which is interpreted in the International Labour Organisation (ILO) as a “no” vote.

In the past few years, countries and labour federations of the industrialised North, which favour a closer relationship between the ILO and the World Trade Organisation (WTO), have demanded that trade be conditioned on compliance with basic labour standards.

U.S. Secretary of Labour Alexis Herman said the new declaration “firmly demonstrates that we can and will move forward in an effort to see trade and labour concerns as mutually supportive - not mutually exclusive.”

He added that “we must continue to forge a working relationship between the ILO and the WTO. We continue to see it as vitally important to a strengthened trading system that we advance the effort to protect basic workers rights.”

The declaration commits governments to respecting the fundamental principles and rights at work, including freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining; the elimination of all forms of forced or compulsory labour; the effective abolition of child labour; and the elimination of discrimination with respect to employment and occupation.

The Conference also adopted a follow-up mechanism, which calls for an annual report on ratification of the declaration, and compliance with the basic principles and rights embodied therein.

The follow-up mechanism was one of the aspects most highly questioned by developing countries, which expressed their fears of extrenal interference in social questions.

ILO director-general Michel Hansenne of Belgium—who leaves the leadership of the ILO in the hands of director-elect Juan Somavia of Chile next March—said “the follow-up does not aim at punishing, or condemning, anyone. It serves, on the contrary, to promote the fundamental rights and principles embodied in the declaration: nothing more, nothing less.”

The Mexican delegation stressed the non-binding nature of the declaration.

The International Labour Conference concluded three weeks of deliberations Thursday, during which it also debated a draft Convention and recommendations concerning child labour.

Debate on that initiative, which aims at eradicating the exploitation of some 250 million five to 14-year-olds worldwide, will conclude in the Conference's next session, scheduled for 1999.