Employers attack workers’ rights at ILO

Trade unions expressed outrage at the actions of the employers’ group at the International Labour Organisation Conference for blocking any debate and discussion on some of the worst cases of worker rights violations at the meeting in Geneva on 4th June.

Since 1926, the ILO conference has discussed the most serious cases of violations of workers rights which are included in the annual report of the ILO’s Committee of Experts, a seventeen member committee of eminent and independent international jurists. Appallingly this year the International Organisation of Employers (IOE) has refused to discuss any cases.

It would appear that employers globally are taking advantage of the economic crisis to challenge the workers rights with what International Trade Union Congress General Secretary Sharan Burrow, described as “a misplaced ideological conviction that the right to strike, guaranteed under numerous laws, domestic constitutions and international instruments, poses a threat to corporate greed”.

The decision of the IOE led Ms. Burrow to go on the attack describing employers as siding with the military and fundamentalist forces in Egypt – both of which want to deprive workers of a voice at work. She said: “Employers at the ILO are trying to keep the worst abuses under wraps and avoid the international scrutiny which could help save lives and tackle some of the most appalling attacks on the rights of working people”

On Colombia she said: “Last year, 29 trade unionists were murdered in Colombia, but employers don’t think the ILO should even discuss that, nor the terrible campaign of violence against trade unionists in Guatemala or Swaziland.”

On the withdrawal of collecting bargaining rights in Spain and Greece Ms Burrows said: The IOE has also refused to allow discussion of the withdrawal of collective bargaining rights in Greece and Spain, where plummeting incomes are worsening the country’s economic plight and other serious cases where decent labour laws are under attack”.

She warned employers to stop “playing a dangerous political game at the ILO. The ILO was established on the basis of social justice and a commitment to respect for the rule of law as it applies to working people. The world’s most eminent labour law jurists have presented their findings to the ILO Conference, but the IOE is refusing to allow their findings to be examined.

“Employer groups are trying to undermine one of the most effective human rights mechanisms in the international system. This might help some of their least responsible member companies make some more profit and sustain governments which allow or even encourage violence against working people, but this will be at the cost of lives and livelihoods of some of the world’s most vulnerable workers,” said Burrow.

This blog first appeared on Amnesty International blogsite on June 7th.

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