International Labor Organization ILO
International Labor Organization (ILO)
a specialized agency of the United Nations; now one of the largest international organizations. The ILO was founded in 1919 under the Versailles Treaty as part of the League of Nations. As of Jan. 1, 1974, 123 states were members of the organization. The USSR belonged to the ILO from 1934 to 1940. In order to broaden cooperation in the solution of problems facing the ILO, the Soviet Union rejoined the organization in 1954. The Byelorussian SSR and the Ukrainian SSR are also members.
According to its constitution, the aims of the ILO are to achieve universal and lasting peace “on the basis of social justice” and to improve existing labor conditions. ILO measures to improve labor conditions include regulation of work time (for example, the establishment of a maximum workday and work week), regulation of the recruitment of the labor force by means of a struggle against unemployment, and the establishment of guaranteed wages that ensure satisfactory living conditions. These clauses of the ILO constitution were approved in a declaration concerning the tasks and objectives of the ILO that was adopted at the General Conference of the ILO in Philadelphia in 1944. The agency’s headquarters are in Geneva.
The ILO constitution rests on two principles—universality and tripartite representation. Above all, universality means that membership is open to any state that accepts the obligations of the ILO constitution. This principle obliges ILO members to help improve the working conditions and standard of living of working people in every country and to provide them with equal rights to take advantage of the benefits offered by membership in the organization. Unlike the principle of universality, which is typical of most international organizations, the principle of tripartite representation is a feature of the ILO alone. Essentially, this principle provides that every member of the ILO is represented in the organization by delegates of the government, the working people, and the employers. Each group of representatives has the right to take an independent position on labor problems. The principle of tripartite representation is based on the reformist idea of collaboration between labor and capital, which is the guiding principle of the bourgeois representatives in the ILO.
The main bodies of the ILO are the International Labor Conference, the Governing Body, and the International Labor Office. The International Labor Conference is the supreme body of the ILO. Its annual sessions are attended by four delegates from each member state (two from government and one each from the working people and employers). According to the ILO constitution, all delegates enjoy equal rights, including the right to take part in the voting. In practice, however, the principle of equality is not always observed.
The Governing Body, the executive agency of the ILO, has 48 members (24 government representatives, ten of whom are appointed by the major industrial states; 12 employers’ representatives; and 12 representatives of the working people). Except for the ten delegates from the major industrial states, all members of the executive body are elected’to a three-year term at the general conference by the government delegates, the employers’ delegates, and the working people’s delegates, respectively. The Governing Body draws up the agendas for sessions of the International Labor Conference and other ILO bodies, appoints the general director of the International Labor Office, establishes auxiliary agencies and commissions, and coordinates the work of the ILO with that of other international organizations.
The International Labor Office is the permanent secretariat of the ILO. The ILO also establishes various committees, commissions, and regional conferences. The composition of ILO agencies is supposed to allow for a fair geographic representation in the distribution of offices and posts, as well as for equal representation of different socioeconomic systems, but in practice this is not always the case. For example, the overwhelming majority of responsible positions in the International Labor Office are held by representatives of the capitalist states.
The ILO focuses its efforts on drafting conventions and recommendations concerning labor, expanding education and training in matters within its competence, and providing technical assistance to the developing countries of Asia, Africa, and Latin America. The drafting of conventions and recommendations on labor is the most important ILO activity. As of Jan. 1, 1974, 136 conventions and 144 recommendations had been adopted. The international norms contained in them cover the most varied aspects of labor relations and are intended, for example, to prohibit forced labor or discrimination against workers, to provide maternity benefits and protect child labor, and to guarantee trade union freedoms, equal pay for men and women, and minimum wages.
Once they are ratified, ILO conventions are binding on member states. In ratifying a convention, a state assumes the obligation to take the measures necessary to have the terms of the convention put into effect. Recommendations do not have to be ratified and do not call for the member states to assume any obligations other than procedural ones that are provided for in the ILO constitution. The ILO has established no legal obligations for the ratification of conventions by its members. However, in joining the organization a state assumes a certain moral obligation in this respect. The Soviet Union has ratified 40 ILO conventions, including a number of the most important ones: No. 29, on forced labor; No. 87, on freedom of association and protection of the right to organize; and No. 111, on discrimination in hiring and employment. Many bourgeois states have refused to ratify the most important ILO conventions. For example, the USA has ratified only seven conventions.
International labor norms are codified in the International Labor Code (published in Geneva; 2 vols.), which systematizes the regulations stated in the conventions and recommendations of the ILO. However, the Code is not binding on ILO members.
The ILO provision of technical assistance to developing countries, which was greatly amplified in the 1950’s and 1960’s, includes sending experts in labor organization and business management, in drafting labor legislation, and in similar fields to interested states at their request.
The ILO’S main achievement in education and training has been the founding of the International Institute for Labor Studies in Geneva (1960). Its organizers conceived of the institute as a university-level educational facility specializing in labor and social policy.
By participating in the ILO the USSR and other socialist countries support the working class in the capitalist countries in its struggle to improve the condition of working people and in its effort to make use of every means in this struggle, including international organizations. The Soviet Union vigorously supports ILO measures aimed at promoting international cooperation that contributes to the improvement of conditions for working people and to the strengthening of peace among nations.
S. A. IVANOV