Tripartism and international labour standards

Foundations of inclusive and sustainable growth

The ILO, through its tripartite structure, ensures that the views and priorities of governments, employers and workers are reflected in international labour standards, policies and programmes, thus achieving ownership, effective development results and lasting human impact.

Aung San Suu Kyi

The International Labour Conference is a pioneer and an example of inclusiveness. Delegates of workers and employers, as well as governments coming together to find effective solutions to complex problems demonstrate the value of meaningful exchange between relevant stakeholders.

Aung San Suu Kyi
Address to the International Labour Conference, 2012

The ILO’s body of international labour standards provides a comprehensive framework regulating all aspects of the world of work, including the fight against child labour and for the rights of domestic workers, seafarers and indigenous and tribal peoples. The ILO has one of the most thorough supervisory systems of standards which keeps track of the implementation of ratified Conventions and brings good practices and violations to the attention of all Member States.

The ILO works to strengthen representative, independent and democratic trade unions and employers’ organizations in all countries. Some examples of the work and results are given below.

We are a values-led, an advocacy and a standard setting organization and have to be responsive to what our constituents need from us.

Guy Ryder, ILO Director-General

Strengthening employers’ organizations

The ILO strengthened employers’ organizations in all regions to improve their institutional and technical capacities, their service provision to existing and potential members, and capacity to engage in evidence-based policy processes.

In Cambodia the Cambodian Federation of Employers and Business Associations (CAMFEBA) and the ILO jointly developed a code of practice and a series of guides for employers on promoting equality and preventing discrimination at work, enabling CAMFEBA to provide technical assistance to members on discrimination-related legislation.

In order to create an environment conducive to business, the Serbian Association of Employers (SAE) conducted research on the costs of doing business and organized round-table discussions and meetings with employers throughout Serbia in order to formulate its policy position and priorities for its advocacy agenda. Specific policy recommendations were developed and launched through a media campaign and press conference. This enabled the SAE to influence changes in the legislation in December 2012, resulting in the abolition of local taxes (estimated at EUR 600–1,000 per year per company) that affected 90 per cent of businesses; the removal of the obligation for various small businesses to operate a fiscal cash register, an easement that resulted in significant savings for 16 per cent of businesses in Serbia; and the doubling of the value-added tax (VAT) registration threshold which yielded significant savings in bookkeeping fees for micro- and small businesses.

The ILO provided technical and advisory services for the development and adoption of a strategy by the General Confederation of Algerian Companies (CGEA) to enhance its visibility in the country and to improve dialogue and services between its local offices and headquarters. In collaboration with the ILO International Training Centre in Turin, training was provided for local staff in basic management skills based on the Effective Employers’ Organizations Toolkit. The CGEA increased its membership from 1,476 in January 2012 to 1,823 in April 2013 and opened 16 new district offices.

Strengthening workers’ organizations

The ILO provided policy advice and technical support to unions in all regions with the objective of fostering a united labour movement at the national level. In India, for example, the ILO provided institutional capacity-building support for the establishment of a joint platform for eleven national trade union confederations in order to negotiate a ten-point list of issues with the Government. The list included ratification of the Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise Convention, 1948 (No. 87), and the Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining Convention, 1951 (No. 98), the establishment of minimum wages and improvements to the social security system.

In the United Republic of Tanzania the ILO provided financial and technical support for capacity building of the Trade Union Congress of Tanzania (TUCTA) on labour laws and international labour standards, involving representatives from all TUCTA affiliates. As a result of awareness raising on labour law and workers’ rights, five new trade unions were registered in mainland Tanzania.

In the Russian Federation trade unions played a vital role in promoting the Decent Work Agenda at the national and subnational levels. The Federation of Independent Trade Unions of the Russian Federation (FNPR), with a membership of more than 23 million, is one of the most representative and influential members of the international trade union movement, covering the major sectors of the economy. In 2012 and 2013 and with ILO support, the trade unions significantly helped promote ratification of the Protection of Workers’ Claims (Employer’s Insolvency) Convention, 1992 (No. 173), the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 (MLC, 2006), the Prevention of Major Industrial Accidents Convention, 1993 (No. 174), and the Safety and Health in Mines Convention, 1995 (No. 176).

The Master’s degree programmes and short-term postgraduate programmes (ENGAGE) for trade unionists on labour and globalization, run by the Global Labour University in Brazil, Germany, India and South Africa, are the fruit of institutionalized cooperation between partner universities, national and international trade union organizations, and the ILO. They offer a one-world study and research environment conducive to the fostering of social justice and decent work. In an externally conducted survey of the 430 alumni of the Global Labour University (2004–12), 83 per cent responded that their analytical capacities had been enhanced after the programme and 87 per cent said that they were now more confident to contribute to discussions and projects of a political or international nature.