Amendment of Constitution of ILO: adoption; ILO 2007 Conference Agenda: Labour Department

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Meeting Summary

A summary of this committee meeting is not yet available.

Meeting report

27 February 2007

Chairperson:  Ms P Temba (ANC, Mpumalanga)

Documents handed out:
Instruments for the Amendment of the Constitution of the International Labour Organisation Presentation [please email [email protected]]

Audio Recording of the Meeting

The Committee adopted an amendment to the Constitution of the International Labour Organisation proposing that redundant recommendations and conventions be removed from its Body of Standards. 

The Department of Labour also briefed the Committee about the May 2007 Annual Conference of the Organisation, including that the aborted fishing sector recommendation will again form part of this year’s agenda.

Department of Labour (DOL) presentation

Mr Les Kettledas, Deputy Director-General: Labour Policy and Labour Market Programmes, presented the amendments to the constitution of the International Labour Organisation (ILO). The ILO had been in existence for a long time and some conventions were no longer considered as relevant today as they once were as circumstances have changed to accommodate the changing world.  The ILO has had to move with the times and therefore the Abrogation Amendment was introduced. Abrogation ultimately means that obsolete conventions would no longer apply in the ILO.

The amendment satisfies legal requirements and constitutes an effective way of updating the Body of Standards while still contributing to the overall objectives of the ILO.  It provides a system that is up to date, coherent and relevant.  The effect of abrogation is simply to eliminate all legal effects definitively arising out of the convention that has been abrogated between the organisation and its members. Therefore member states that have ratified the relevant conventions need not submit reports and need not be subjected to compliance with these conventions. The legal ramifications associated with the convention then falls away. No complaints can be heard for non-observance of the conventions that have fallen under the abrogation rule. Support for the abrogation rule does not imply that member states who have inserted those conventions into their laws have to amend their laws.

The amendment will only enter into force after 120 member states, including five of the ten members of Chief Industrial Importance, have ratified it. Six of the ten important members have ratified, while another thirty or so ordinary members were required.  Although, this is a constitutional requirement for some reason or other member states have ignored the importance of ratifying the amendment.

The process for abrogation is that the Governing Body of the ILO meets in between conferences to recommend which conventions should be abrogated. A majority of two thirds of delegates present at the conference may abrogate any convention if it appears that the convention is no longer necessary.

The Chairperson put the Amendment to the vote and it was unanimously adopted.

Department of Labour briefing on ILO Conference (May 2007) agenda

Mr Kettledas said the standing items were the Report of the Chairperson of the Governing Body, the Annual Report of the Minister of Labour of South Africa and the Report of the Director General: Labour. A Global Report is also tabled which is a follow up to the ILO’s Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work. This year the report will be on the Elimination of Discrimination in Respect to Employment and Occupation.  The agenda will also include the ILO’s Programme and Budget proposal for 2008\9.

The Conference also set parts of the agenda. This would include a recommendation and convention covering standards for the fishing sector; the ability of the ILO to assist member states with globalisation; the ILO’s functionality and sustainable enterprises. The Chairperson will submit a report to the conference on the work carried out by the Governing Body for the year. The conference will then debate the report.

The follow-up report, Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, which was instituted in 1998, calls for the Directors General to issue a report providing a dynamic global picture relating to the four pillars; namely the abolition of forced labour, eliminating child labour, rights at work, and social protection. This year the global report will focus on both member states that have and have not ratified the relevant ratified conventions. All 179 member states would have to submit reports on this. There will also be a discussion on the implementation of these conventions.

In 2005 the fishing sector convention was not adopted because of a lack of quorum and employers seemed reluctant to agree.  The accompanying recommendation was however adopted. The conference requested that the governing body place this item on the agenda again. It would deal with all the issues that are pertinent to employees in the fishing sector.


Mr D Gamede (ANC, KwaZulu-Natal) enquired about the differences between federal and non-federal states’ contributions.  

Mr Kettledas responded that federal and non-federal states are treated equally on contributions, and the only difference is the amount of time that is allowed for the member states to guide the recommendations or conventions through their relevant competent authorities.  Federal states are allowed 12 months whereas non-federal states are allowed 18 months for this.

Mr J Sibiya (ANC, Limpopo) asked if any members of the ILO had veto powers.

Mr Kettledas responded that even though the ILO is an agency of the United Nations (UN) no member had veto power. All were considered equal.

The Chairperson wanted to know how members planned to deal with casualisation of labour.

Mr Kettledas replied that the ILO was promoting the Decent Work Agenda which constitutes of four pillars: the rights, social protection, social dialogue and employment.  South Africa had done a lot to facilitate this agenda. 

Mr Sibiya wanted to know if the ILO had adopted existing South African labour practices.

Mr Kettledas said South Africa has had quite an influence on the ILO in terms of our practices.

Mr Sibiya asked how the Director-General report would deal with those members that have not ratified a recommendation or convention.

Mr Kettledas said that the global report deals with the follow-ups to Principles and Rights to Work.  All member states should adopt all eight of the principles and conventions, whether they ratified them or not.  The global report will reflect those that did not adopt the mechanism and identifies the problems that could have led to non-ratification.

Mr M Mzondeki  (ANC, National Assembly) wanted to know what happened to members that did not comply with conventions.

Mr Kettledas replied that usually moral pressure would be applied for non-compliance, but the ILO could also use the International Criminal Court to enforce compliance.

Mr Mzondeki asked for more information about the participation of Parliament in the ILO.

Mr Kettledas indicated that only a few MPs usually attended the conference as observers, basically just familiarising themselves with the process. He encouraged more parliamentarians to attend.

Mr Mzondeki asked if Parliament appropriated money for SA’s membership of the ILO.

Mr Kettledas responded that member states contribute according to their Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The amount also corresponds to the contribution made to the UN.  The budget runs over a two-year period.  The ILO budget faced some challenges because of greater demands made on it.

Ms N Ntwanambi  (ANC, Western Cape) asked if the conference location is moved around.

Mr Kettledas said the annual meetings always take place in Geneva.  The regional meetings moved around however.

Ms Matlhoahela (ID, Northern Cape) asked why the fishing sector recommendation was changed after the legal advisor reviewed it.

Mr Kettledas replied that on that specific subject, the Fishing Sector Recommendation, there was initially a quorum, but not later. It was then viewed as an illegal recommendation and had to be reviewed.

Mr Sibiya asked what role regional organisations played in the ILO.

Mr Kettledas said that regional organisations looked at the issues raised by the ILO and then adopted a co-coordinated regional perspective or view on the issue.  For example, regional organisations would meet decide jointly on an African perspective of a particular issue.

The meeting was adjourned.



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