Social dialogue is like peace, everybody wants it but how do you get it? For global peace the global community disposes of the United Nations. For the Social Dialogue it is the ILO, the oldest and only tripartite UN organisation, with its annual peak of the International Labour Conference, held in Geneva. There Workers’, Employers’ and Government representatives discuss rules that should govern labour relation worldwide.
Besides the yearly special topics, like this year for example youth employment and social security, there is the regular Committee on the Application of Standards, shortly called the ‘Norms Committee’. Every year complaints of labour right violations in different countries, mostly presented by Workers’ Organisations, are debated in this Committee. The facts are presented in the Report of the Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations.
Because it is not possible to debate all cases presented the Committee starts with debates on the list of countries that should be treated during the sessions. For the first time in ILO history employer’s representatives refused to come to an agreement on this list of the 25 ILO member countries where labour rights were violated. This refusal touches the heart of the ILO since without checking their compliance the ILO conventions and recommendations are meaningless. If these violations cannot be discussed anymore the future of the ILO will be in danger.
There have been always tensions between Workers’ and Employers’ representatives regarding the Global Social Dialogue, especially on global rules regarding the right to strike. While employers prefer national laws and rules above an international Convention, workers’ organisations are promoting international law on the right to strike.
But today there are other motives why employers refuse to agree. According to observers the Norms Committee is used to send the message to the recently elected ILO Director General Guy Rider, a former trade union leader, that the ILO is not only a workers’ organisation. They even expressed doubts whether ILO experts and staff are objective in compiling the annual report on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations. Some press releases speak of blackmailing the ILO using those who suffer most of the violation of labour rights like for example in Guatemala, where recently a trade unionist has been shot to death.