Saturday, June 16, 2012


Guy Rider sitting on the left side of Luc Cortebeeck during an ILO meeting.

The election of the Director General of the ILO is like in all other UN institutions a complex matter involving many national and international interests. Because of its tripartite character, elections in the ILO are even more complex. Not only governments are involved but also workers’ and employers’ groups. Therefore it is very interesting to read some background information written by a high level official from the workers’ group who was involved in the election of Guy Ryder as ILO Director General on May 28.

I am referring to the blog of Luc Cortebeeck ('How the impossible became possible'), former President of the Belgian Christian Trade Union Confederation ACV/CSC and still President of the ILO Workers’ Group and Vice President of the ILO.  It is no secret that the candidacy of Guy Ryder was launched from within the ITUC, the international Trade Union Confederation founded by Guy Ryder himself as ICFTU leader and Luc Cortebeeck as the president of the Belgian ACV/CSC, the most powerful member organisation of the WCL (World Confederation of Labor), the former merger partner of the ICFTU. Cortebeeck refers to this period of time when he writes that he “learned to know him especially during the merger and the founding of the ITUC.”

Therefore it is no surprise that Luc Cortebeeck himself together with President Michael Sommer of the powerful German Trade Union Confederation DGB presented the candidacy of Ryder to the ILO Governing Body. It is also not surprising that “his campaign, which consisted of visits to voters all over the world, was supported financially by several organizations, including ACV/CSC.”

The move to present Ryder as a strongly identified candidate with the ITUC was not without risks. Never before an International Trade Union had presented a candidate for the election of Director General of the ILO. Candidates always had been presented by Governments or were coming from inside the ILO. The latter is to a certain extent also the case with Ryder. In 2010 he returned to the ILO as an executive director, the second in command of the International Labour Organisation. Of course his candidacy took this position in jeopardy, but surely the ITUC leadership calculated this as a risk worth to be taken.

Cortebeeck refers to Ryder’s election as an exiting knock-out race between nine candidates (see ‘9 candidates for the ILO post of Director General'). First the Africans voted for Africans but divided because there were 3 African candidates. The same happened with Europe that was represented by 4 candidates, including the British Guy Ryder. The Latin Americans voted for the Colombian Vice President Garzon. At the end it was a race between the French employers’ candidate Gilles de Robain and Guy Rider. The latter won the elections because he got more votes of governments.

Cortebeeck reports that “Garzon gave his vote and support to Guy Ryder, as also did some Africans. Guy Ryder was elected in the sixth round with 30 votes. He was supported by the USA, China, Japan and probably Russia. In the final rounds developing countries and emerging economies like Brazil played a strong role together with the Colombian vice-president Garzon. Europe stayed behind, alone and divided ...

Although Guy Ryder has been nominated and promoted by Europeans (Belgium, Germany and Great Britain) Cortebeeck emphasizes that to become Director General of the ILO Guy Ryder has been supported by what he calls the South (a political correct term for developing countries) and that Ryder himself is ‘not typical British’ but a man who is also interested in the people of the South. “I see that the people from the south feel respected by him and they like to see him. That empathy is not only appreciated by trade unionists, but also by many leaders from governments and employers, you feel it also in the corridors of the ILO and the UN”, he writes in his blog.

Cortebeeck concludes at the end of his blog that “What was considered by many as too big a risk and as impossible, became possible because the focus of the world moves to the South. Never before there were so many candidates, never before a workers’ representative was elected. He is a white man, but a man who more than others has proven to understand and to feel the South. I have a very special feeling, I nominated him, he is a friend and a companion on the road. I can work with him as President of the workers' group and Vice-President of the ILO. In these difficult times the mission is immense. But only when we can coordinate governments, employers and workers we shall succeed.”

1 comment:

  1. Guy Ryder was in his period in the ITUC and before in the ICFTU the most prominent defender of the idea that there should be just a one union system.
    In my view a one union system is the first step on the road that leads to bureaucracy. And even worse, it will lead to top-down decisions and as a consequent, less democracy.
    That's why I wish and hope that Guy Ryder will be in his period as general director of the ILO an open minded man who will be open to all unions, all confederations and all federations, no matter if they are in favor or against the one union system.
    But any way, I do congratulate him with his election.

    Roel Rotshuizen
    President of the World Organisation of Workers