The roles of the CEC within the structure of the ILO
The structure of the ILO has three major components:
1. The International Labour Conference and Special Meetings on specific Industries and Issues.
The International Labour Conference is the forum through which the three stakeholders of the ILO, governments, employers and workers meet to draft and discuss international instruments. The Conference takes place over a three week period in June every year. Information pertaining to the subject matters discussed at past and present Conferences can be found at www.ilo.org
The ILO Conference also adopts the budget and elects the members of its Governing Body.
The CEC represents Canadian employers at the ILO Conference and arranges for business representatives to attend.
In addition, the CEC participates regularly in special ILO meetings that are specific to certain industries or issues. Recent industries covered have included construction, transportation, banking, mining, postal and telecommunications services, media and broadcasting, electronics, utilities and fisheries. Non industry specific topics included management of disabilities in the workplace, health and safety, labour statistics, labour market flexibility and micro financing for self employment.
2. The International Labour Office is the permanent secretariat of the International Labour Organization. It is the focal point for the overall activities of the ILO and is under the scrutiny of the Governing Body and under the leadership of a Director-General. The Office is responsible for running the program of technical cooperation. It also constitutes a research and documentation centre and prints a broad range of specialized studies, reports and periodicals.
Employers' groups (including Canadian employers through its membership in the International Organization of Employers - IOE) are represented at the International Labour Office through the Bureau for Employers' Activities. The Bureau's tasks are to make resources of the ILO available to employers' organizations and to keep these employers groups aware of the ILO's activities.
3. The Governing Body is the executive body of the International Labour Office. It meets three times per year and makes decisions on ILO policy, decides the agenda for the International Labour Conference, adopts the draft program and budget of the ILO for submission to the Conference and elects the Director General for a five-year renewable term.
The Governing Body is composed of 56 titular as well as 66 deputy members, 10 of whom are permanent while the others are gained through elections during the Conference. Workers and business have fourteen titular members each. Canadian Employers have had a longstanding history of participation on the Governing Body. Canadians have been represented on the Governing Body since 1945, at either the titular or deputy level. Andrew Finlay, Past Chair of the CEC, is the most recent Canadian employer representative on the Governing Body, having been elected in 2004.
The Role of the CEC in the Drafting of International Labour Standards:
The ILO is responsible for setting international labour standards, which take the form of Conventions and Recommendations - collectively referred to as instruments. ILO Conventions are international treaties, subject to ratification by ILO member States. Recommendations are non-binding instruments, typically dealing with the same subjects as Conventions–which set out guidelines, which can orient national policy and action.
There are currently over 184 Conventions and 185 Recommendations that have been agreed to by the ILO.
The process of drafting and passing labour standards generally takes place over a two year period. The CEC actively solicits the input of Canadian business.
During the first year of the process, the Governing Body places an item on the agenda of the Conference. The International Labour Office prepares and transmits to the governments a law and practice report as well as the possible outline of a text for the Convention. The Office requests comments. Governments are then expected to consult with employer and worker organizations in their own countries and provide detailed responses.
At the annual International Labour Conference, a special committee of governments, employers and workers meet to hold the first discussion on the subject. This tripartite committee produces a report at the end of the Conference.
During the second year, and before the annual Conference, the International Labour Office prepares and transmits to the governments a summary of the previous year's Conference discussion as well as the proposed conclusions. Using the written comments of governments, worker and employers organizations, the International Labour Office prepares a revised draft instrument.
At the next Conference, a special tripartite Committee is again formed to complete the second and final discussions. During the discussions, government, workers and employers suggest changes and amendments.
Throughout this process, the CEC solicits the views of Canadian business regarding the issues addressed in the various committees. The Canadian business representatives who are assigned to the different committees then actively convey these views. These business representatives are chosen from experts among the members of the CEC.
The final text of the Convention and/or a Recommendation must be adopted by a two-thirds majority of votes cast by delegates of the Conference.
The Importance of International Standards to Canadian Employers:
International standards often find their way into domestic law and domestic collective bargaining discussions. It is essential that these instruments be shaped by Canadian business to ensure that standards are not developed that adversely affect their ability to operate reasonably and freely.
Conventions must be ratified before they are in force and effect in a member State. The ILO Constitution only requires that member States bring Convention before the authority “within whose competence the matter lies, for the enactment of legislation and other actions.” The CEC lobbies on the application of conventions, both at the ILO and in Canada.
Where Conventions are not ratified, governments, like in Canada, receive pressure from domestic players, like labour unions, and from the ILO to ratify.
Once a country ratifies an ILO Convention, it implicitly agrees to two important things.
First it agrees to implement the Convention in accordance with the wording contained therein. A government is not allowed to pick and choose at its own discretion among the articles of a Convention that it undertakes to apply. Some Conventions provide for certain exclusions, exceptions, or options but this is only permitted where explicitly allowed by the wording of the Convention.
Secondly, by ratifying a Convention, a member State agrees to submit itself to the ILO's supervisory authorities in ensuring that the provisions of the Conventions are being strictly followed.
For those Conventions that are not ratified by a member State, it is still expected to provide a report in accordance with the ILO Constitution
The Significance of Supervisory Mechanism of the ILO to Canadian Employers - Ratified Conventions:
The process begins with Member countries' submissions of reports relating to ratified Conventions, which are reviewed by the Committee of Experts. The Committee of Experts is comprised of judges and other legal professionals from various countries. In addition to the reports, the Committee of Experts reviews any representations made by worker or employer groups that a member State is not adhering to the terms of a particular Convention.
The Committee of Experts then publishes an annual report that contains observations about a country's failure to follow ratified Conventions. The Committee on the Application of Standards then reviews the report.
The Committee on the Application of Standards (the “Applications Committee”) is a standing tripartite committee of the International Labour Conference. Every year, the Applications Committee reviews the report generated by the Committee of Experts and chooses approximately 25 specific cases to be debated during the course of the International Labour Conference. The worker, employer and government delegates of the Applications Committee debate these cases.
Using the comments of the workers, employers and governments, the Applications Committee drafts conclusions that form part of the International Labour Conference report. These conclusions may include rebuking a government for its public policy on a particular issue. For example, provincial governments in Canada are often criticized for limiting the right to free collective bargaining in essential services industries. Such action can lead to Canadian governments changing their public policy, possibly contrary to the interests of business.
The CEC has recently taken a leadership role in the Applications Committee, encouraging the international employer community to more actively support government policy that is balanced and conducive to the operation of business.
The Committee on Freedom of Association:
Though a member State such as Canada is not bound by the terms of the Conventions it does not ratify, the exception are those implied obligations with respect to Freedom of Association. ILO member States agreed approximately 50 years ago that respect for freedom of association was an obligation implied through membership. This means that member State will be subject to the ILO's supervisory mechanisms when in breach of a freedom of association Convention, regardless of whether they have ratified the Convention.
The Committee of Freedom of Association (CFA) is the branch of the Governing Body that addresses cases relating to breaches of freedom of association Conventions. The mandate of the CFA is to receive all cases dealing with those Conventions related to Freedom of Association, even where the government of the member State concerned has not ratified the said Conventions.
As in the case of ratified Conventions, it is important for Canadian employers to be involved in the CFA. Cases in which provincial or federal governments are found to have violated the principles of freedom of association could result in legislative changes that could affect employers negatively.
Complaints against Canada:
In relation to Canada, for information on:
- Conventions that were ratified by Canada;
- Comments made by the Committee of Experts in relation to Canada's failure to follow terms of ratified Conventions;
- The debate about specific cases related to Canada before the Applications Committee;
- Complaints and conclusions received by the CFA regarding Freedom of Association principles.
See www.ilo.org, which allows you to conduct a search of cases by country.
BACK TO TOP OF PAGE ......
BACK TO PAGE 1 OF 2.