Message from Minister of Labour and Social Partnership Relations, Colin E. Jordan, to mark the Centenary of the International Labour Organization.
The International Labour Organization (ILO), the only tripartite agency of the United Nations bringing together government, worker and employer representatives, was created in 1919 under the Versailles Peace Treaty, which ended World War I. With 187 member states today, the ILO has the responsibility of developing international labour standards, policies and programmes aimed at improving worker-management co-operation.
This year, 2019, the ILO celebrates its 100th anniversary under the theme Advancing Social Justice, Promoting Decent Work. Social justice and decent work are synonymous with the work of the ILO as articulated firstly by The Philadelphia Declaration of 1944. As a consequence, member states are required to respect, promote and realise the intent of four fundamental rights and principles at work, namely:
- freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining;
- the elimination of all forms of forced or compulsory labour;
- the effective abolition of child labour; and
- the elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation.
During this year’s Centenary International Labour Conference, the ILO adopted the landmark Centenary Declaration for the Future of Work. The Declaration underscores the resolve of the ILO to enter its second century with the determination to continue pursuit of social justice and decent work for all. Central to the Declaration is the human-centered approach to the future of work where social, economic and environmental policies facilitate workers’ rights, needs and aspirations while at the same time, creating an enabling environment for the sustainability of enterprises and livelihoods.
Barbados lauds the involvement of the ILO in programmes which are aimed at addressing the effects of climate change as well as the recognition that the matter is important to small, developing nations such as ours. The fostering of an enabling environment for the creation of green jobs and the preparation of the workforce for the decent employment opportunities in the new technology-driven economy are two current areas of focus for the organisation.
In the life of any entity, reaching 100 years is a significant achievement. The ILO was established at a time when the world had not long seen the end of global conflict. The founders recognised the importance of social justice in securing peace, particularly against the background where there was significant exploitation of workers in the industrialised nations. In response, the ideal of social justice was subsequently enshrined in the Preamble to the Constitution of the ILO, the tenets of which are still relevant today.
In the course of its existence, the ILO has played a pivotal role in major world events, all of which have had varying effects on the labour landscape. Those events included the Great Depression of the 1930s, decolonisation, and the dismantling of apartheid in South Africa.
As it did then, today, the ILO continues to provide that environment within which member states, with varying characteristics, find a common framework for managing the dynamics of the world of work. The ILO, by its existence for 100 years, demonstrates the ability to respond to the needs of member states in ways that are relevant, timely and effective.
Barbados, over the course of the last 52 years, has benefitted significantly from its association with the ILO and currently sits on the Governing Body. This allows us to actively participate in decision-making processes and ensures that the English-speaking Caribbean and Cuba, have a voice.
To date, the ILO has facilitated our participation in numerous training and developmental programmes, leading to capacity building. Areas of benefit include training on: labour inspection; conciliation; the management of labour statistics; and assistance with the reform of labour legislation. As recently as August 2019, we partnered with the ILO to host a tripartite five-day workshop on the conduct of the conciliation process.
During the recently concluded annual International Labour Conference in Geneva, Barbados made a sterling contribution to the discussions on, and the final adoption of, a new Convention on Violence and Harassment. This exemplified our commitment to the ideals of the ILO and has paved the way for further collaboration.
The Government of Barbados is proud that two of our revered sons and trade unionists, National Hero the Right Excellent Sir Frank Walcott and Sir Roy Trotman, have been in the forefront of some of the leading reforms introduced by the ILO within the last three decades.
We remain committed to the ideals of the ILO, and recognise that constant enhancement of the tripartite framework, a hallmark of the organisation, is even more critical at this juncture of our development. As a member of the ILO, we will continue to build on the strong foundation that has been laid for the governance of worker-management relations, as we seek to advance social justice and promote decent work.
The Government and people of Barbados highly commend the ILO on reaching its 100th anniversary.