The 110th International Labour Conference made history with its work on safety and health, apprenticeships, and labour standards. The Conference Committee on the Application of Standards (CAS) took a number of decisions to address the shortage of nursing personnel and ensure that they, as well as domestic workers many of whom are migrants, receive the full protection of organising, collective bargaining and other fundamental rights. The CAS also adopted strong conclusions on Myanmar, as well as on Belarus. Both Belarus and Myanmar were given ‘special paragraphs’ in the CAS report, which is the highest sanction available. As to this year's Arthur Svensson prize winner, the CAS urges the Government to resolve the registration of the National Health Workers’ Union of Liberia (NAHWUL) as a trade union organization without further delay as well as ensure that public sector workers enjoy the protection of the freedom of association rights
Occupational health and safety included in the fundamental rights
The decision by the Conference that occupational health and safety is included in the fundamental rights at work enshrined in the 1998 Declaration reflects the impact of international trade union campaigning and advocacy in particular in the last three years and will hold governments, and thus employers, to much stronger account at the ILO.
Technical committees at the conference covered a range of topics,laying important groundwork for the adoption of an ILO standard on quality apprenticeships.
The independent trade unions received the Arthur Svensson Prize last year. Today, the situation for independent trade unions, their leaders and members in Belarus has deteriorated dramatically. The Government is engaging in the repression and intentional and systematic destruction of independent trade unions in Belarus. All independent trade unions, their leaders and members are under relentless attack.
The CAS Committee deplored and deeply regretted the allegations of extreme violence to repress peaceful protests and assembly, and the detention, imprisonment and violent treatment of workers while in custody. The Committee deplored the escalating measures deployed to repress trade union activities, as well as the systemic destruction of independent trade unions. The Committee expressed its deep concern that, 18 years after the Commission of Inquiry’s report, the Government had failed to take measures to address most of the Commission’s recommendations. The Committee recalled the recommendations of the 2004 Commission of Inquiry noting the failure to make progress on its implementation and the need for their full and effective implementation, without further delay.
Taking into account the discussion, the Committee urges the Government, in consultation with the social partners, to:
• restore without delay full respect for workers’ rights in respect of freedom of association;
• refrain from the arrest, detention, violent treatment, intimidation or harassment, including judicial harassment, of trade union leaders and members conducting lawful trade union activities;
• investigate without delay alleged instances of intimidation or physical violence through an independent judicial inquiry;
• immediately release all trade union leaders and members arrested for participating in peaceful assemblies or arrested for exercising their civil liberties pursuant to their legitimate trade union activities and drop all related charges, including for the following persons: Aliaksandr Yarashuk – a member of the Governing Body of the ILO; Siarhei Antusevich, Vice-President of the Belarus Congress of Democratic Trade Unions (BKDP); Gennadiy Fedynich, leader of the Belarusian Union of Radio and Electronics Workers (REP); Mikalai Sharakh, President of the Belarusian Free Trade Union (SPB); Aliaksandr Bukhvostov, President of the Free Trade Union of Metal Workers (SPM); and Zinaida Mikhniuk, Vice-Chairperson of the Belarusian Union of Radio and Electronics Workers (REP);
• give access, as a matter of urgency, to visitors, including officials of the ILO, to ascertain the conditions of arrest and detention and the welfare of the abovementioned persons;
• take immediate action to implement fully the 2004 report of the Commission of Inquiry and the conclusions of the Conference Committee on the Application of Standards, including the conclusions adopted by the Committee in 2021. The Committee also refers this matter to the Governing Body to follow up at its June 2022 session and consider, at that time, any further measures, including those foreseen in the ILO Constitution, to secure compliance with the recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry.
In addition, the Committee reproduces its 2021 conclusions in full.
The Committee invites the Government to avail itself of technical assistance from the Office. The Committee requests the Government to submit a report to the Committee of Experts by 1 September 2022 communicating information on the application of the Convention in law and practice, in consultation with the social partners. The Committee decides to include its conclusions in a special paragraph of the report and to mention this case as a case of continued failure to implement the Convention. See report here.
The Myanmar trade unions were among the nominated organizations for this year's Arthur Svensson Prize. Since the military coup 1st February last year, the military regime has engaged in several severe violations of the right to freedom of association.
The CAS Committee deplored the removal of the civilian Government by the military coup in Myanmar on 1 February 2021 and the subsequent declaration of the state of emergency depriving citizens of their civil liberties.
The Committee deplored the total disregard for human rights, civil liberties and the rule of law in Myanmar.
The Committee expressed its grave concern at the lack of progress in restoring civilian rule and the failure of the military authorities to implement:
• the resolution for a return to democracy and respect for fundamental rights in Myanmar adopted by the International Labour Conference at its 109th Session (2021); and
• the decision establishing a Commission of Inquiry adopted by the Governing Body at its 344th Session (March 2022).
Taking into account the discussion, the Committee urges the military authorities to:
• fully implement the resolution of the International Labour Conference and the decision of the Governing Body adopted in 2021 and 2022, respectively;
• refrain from the arrest, detention or engagement in violence, intimidation or harassment of workers and trade unionists exercising their rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly, and immediately and effectively undertake independent investigation s into these crimes with a view to establishing the facts, determining culpability and punishing the perpetrators, including members of the police and the armed forces, and pay reparations to the victims and their families;
• release unconditionally all workers and trade unionists who have been arrested and detained for having exercised their rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly, and cancel any outstanding warrants for the same;
• immediately return passports and reinstate the citizenship to those trade unionists who have had them revoked;
• immediately reinstate the registration of trade unions whose registration has been revoked since the military coup;
• ensure that workers are able to carry out their trade union activities without interference, and without threats of violence or other violations of their civil liberties;
• revoke all decrees and laws introduced by the military authorities following the coup of 1 February 2021;
• and ensure that the ILO Commission of Inquiry established by the Governing Body in March 2022 is allowed to enter the country and carry out its mandate freely without interference.
The Committee decided to include its conclusions in a special paragraph of the report.
See the report here.
The health workers union NAHWUL received this year's Arthur Svensson Prize, honouring their fight for basic trade union rights.
The CAS Committee urges the Government, in consultation with the social partners, to:
• ensure that all workers are able to exercise their labour rights under the Convention in an environment of respect for civil liberties, including freedom of association, freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and protest without interference and fear for their personal safety and bodily integrity;
• ensure that trade union leaders and members are not jailed for engaging in trade union activities and that threats against trade union leaders for their activities are fully investigated and the perpetrators duly punished;
• enact measures, including dissuasive sanctions, to ensure that trade unions can only be dissolved by a judicial authority, only as a last resort for serious violations of law;
• resolve the registration of the National Health Workers’ Union of Liberia (NAHWUL) as a trade union organization without further delay and provide additional information on any pending allegations
• review the Decent Work Act and any other related legislation to ensure that all workers, including foreign workers, are able to exercise the right to form or join a trade union of their choice; and
• ensure that public sector workers enjoy the protection of the freedom of association rights under the Convention.
The Committee invites the Government to avail itself of technical assistance from the Office. The Committee requests the Government to submit a report to the Committee of Experts by 1 September 2022 providing information on the application of the Convention in law and practice, in consultation with the social partners. See report here.
Nursing personnel and domestic workers
The CAS committee took a number of decisions to address the shortage of nursing personnel and ensure that they, as well as domestic workers many of whom are migrants, receive the full protection of organizing, collective bargaining and other fundamental rights. See the report on Securing decent work for nursing personnel and domestic workers, key actors in the care economy.