ILO Director-General calls for diplomacy to deal with labour issues
Mr. Gilbert F. Houngbo, Director-General of the International Labour Organization (ILO), says labour unions have a duty and moral obligation to maximise the use of diplomacy to bring the points of view of different groups closer together.
Presenting his report, “Advancing Social Justice,” at the ongoing 111th International Labour Conference in Geneva, the Director-General stressed that, faced with the risks of division, entrenchment, and polarisation of different opinions, labour unions must use diplomacy to resolve disputes.
The conference is being attended by workers, employers, and government delegates from the ILO’s 187 Member States, fully face-to-face for the first time since 2019.
The delegates will address a wide range of issues that have a long-term impact on the world of work.
He said the ILO’s tripartite composition and function as a normative institution gave it distinct advantages in highlighting priorities, advancing social justice, and renewing the social contract through processes of social dialogue at the national level.
In past instances where positions seemed to be diametrically opposed and difficult decisions were unavoidable, governments and employers’ and workers’ organizations have often been able to reach consensus through social dialogue, he said.
The ILO Director-General stressed that the tripartite consensus had been borne out in the trust created and the inclusivity and effective implementation of the policies subsequently adopted.
“That model of governance has been instrumental in ensuring respect for fundamental workers’ rights, developing functioning labour market institutions, and creating favourable conditions for job creation, inclusive growth, and sustainable development,” he said.
Mr. Houngbo emphasized the urgent need to reinvigorate tripartism and renew commitments to social dialogue so that choices on policy design and implementation, on investments in capabilities, and on public services and their financing give primacy to social justice.
“Employers’ and workers’ organizations will need the requisite recognition and support to enable them to render significant contributions and provide shared solutions.
“They are the conduits for renewing the social contract through their engagement in social dialogue with governments and other employers,” he noted.
The ILO Director-General noted: “The capacity of the ILO to advance social justice depends on governments and employers’ and workers’ organizations coming together to shape policy and determine the priorities that will frame national and global action.
He stressed that, in spite of the tremendous achievements, much remains to be done to advance social justice and promote decent work by furthering a human-centred approach.
Mr. Houngbo said continuous and concerted action, both public and private, is essential to creating the conditions in which all people can work in freedom and dignity and enjoy equal access to opportunities for full, productive, and freely chosen employment that provides economic security and enables them to thrive.
Renate Hornung-Draus, spokesperson of the Employers’ Group at the conference, emphasized that achieving tripartite consensus is the foundation both for fair and equitable outcomes and for effective implementation, since it creates ownership for all actors concerned.
“Diversity and the resulting divergencies can and must be bridged with good will and in a spirit of consensus based on respect for all constituents of this organization,” a spokesperson for the employers stated.
Catelene Passchier, spokesperson of the Workers’ Group, called on all parties not to lose sight of the challenges workers are facing in everyday life, as well as the challenges before employers and governments to achieve just transitions to a peaceful and prosperous future.