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Monday, December 4, 2023

International Labour Conference

The 111th session of the International Labor Conference, organized by the International Labor Organization (ILO), was held in Geneva from June 5 to 16. The meeting brought together some 5,000 delegates representing governments, workers and employers from the ILO's 187 member states. Chaired by Qatar's Minister of Labor, the conference addressed a wide range of issues that will have a long-term impact on the world of work. The meeting was marked by the adoption of a new recommendation on quality apprenticeships, resolutions, the 2024-2025 program and budget, not without problems. A Summit on the World of Work, on the theme of "Social Justice for All", was held on June 14 and 15 in the presence of Heads of State and Government.

The 111th session of the International Labour Conference (ILC) opened on Monday June 5 in Geneva, Switzerland. At the opening of the event, organized by the only tripartite UN agency (workers, employers and governments), the Director-General, Togolese Gilbert Houngbo, stressed the need to create a coalition for social justice to combat growing inequalities.

Conference chaired by Qatar

Qatar's Minister of Labor, Dr. Ali bin Samikh Al Marri, was elected President of the 111th ILO Conference by consensus, as is customary, despite criticism from some trade unions. Qatar was chosen because, in accordance with the regional rotation system, it was the turn of a country from the Asia-Pacific region to chair the conference. The states in this part of the world had designated the small Gulf state to represent them, which is why its representative already held the post of vice-president in 2022. The chair of the ILO's Workers' Group, Catelene Passchier from the Netherlands, acknowledged Qatar's progress and congratulated the country on "strengthening its commitment to the International Labour Organization and the international trade union movement". But she stressed the importance of speeding up reforms.

Importance of the ILO

The ILO, with its 189 conventions and treaties, plays an essential role in setting global labor standards and protecting workers' rights. These standards cover fundamental principles such as freedom of association, collective bargaining, the elimination of forced and child labor, and the elimination of discrimination in employment. The ILO's contribution to international labor law is widely recognized, and its conferences serve as crucial platforms for exchanging knowledge, sharing best practices and developing policies that benefit workers worldwide.

Benefits for workers

By addressing key labor issues, the conference aimed to foster sustainable economies that prioritize workers' rights and well-being. The discussions and recommendations made during the ILC helped shape policies and practices that improve working conditions, ensure fair wages and strengthen social protection. It has also given workers' representatives the opportunity to voice their concerns and defend their rights, thereby contributing to the global trade union movement.

A new standard

Delegates adopted a recommendation on quality apprenticeships. This new labor standard aims to support "opportunities for people of all ages to acquire skills, retrain and continuously develop" in rapidly changing labor markets. It provides a clear definition of apprenticeships, specifying ambitious standards for quality apprenticeships, including the rights and protection of apprentices.

A just transition

The general discussion committee on just transition has adopted conclusions that underline the imperative need for progress to achieve social justice, eradicate poverty and support decent work. The ILO DG reiterated the organization's responsibility to "ensure that the just transition to a more sustainable economy takes place in an equitable manner". He explained that this involved "building a greener economy while creating opportunities and preserving social well-being, where sustainable enterprises, productivity and skills development can play a crucial role".

Gender equality

Conference participants examined the general study of the Commission of Experts on Achieving Equality between Men and Women at Work. In their conclusions, the tripartite members of the Commission stressed the urgent need to eliminate all forms of discrimination in employment and occupation, to guarantee full and effective maternity protection and to ensure the right of workers with family responsibilities to work.

Program & budget 2024-2025

Differences of opinion between ILO member states on the LGBT issue initially prevented the adoption of the program and budget (2024-2025) equivalent to $885 million. The main differences of opinion concerned the reference in the texts to "sexual orientation and gender identity". Agreement was finally reached. The document and resolution reaffirm the commitment expressed by all the ILO's tripartite constituents to "combat all forms of discrimination and exclusion, on whatever grounds, for the benefit of all", while acknowledging the "different positions expressed on certain issues".

Summit on the world of work

On June 14 and 15, 16 heads of state and government took part in a high-level summit on the world of work on the theme of "social justice for all" (Switzerland, South Africa, Barbados, Bangladesh, Fiji, Equatorial Guinea, Kenya, Madagascar, Malta, Central African Republic, Togo, Tunisia... ). This was an opportunity to discuss the project to create a global coalition for social justice, which the ILO Governing Body had welcomed with interest last March.