FEDERATION OF TRADE UNIONS Athens, Greece 17.05.2012

May 28
This is the date for the elections at the International Labour Organization (ILO) to elect a new Director General to replace the Chilean Juan Somavia.

The World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU), representing 82 million workers and affiliates in 120 countries, considers that instead of referring to the characteristics of each of the candidates, the most important aspects to take into account are the following:


If we ask the millions of employees and unemployed workers in every country of the five continents about their views on the impact of the ILO in their countries and the benefits for workers, the answer will be almost unanimous: it is useless for them. In the last decades the workers have been deprived of their rights and conquests and fundamental ILO conventions are blatantly violated. What will the new Director General of the ILO do to reverse this situation?


In the Governing Body of the ILO there are representatives of governments and employers that have imposed neoliberal policies and adjustment plans in their respective countries, undermining the rights of workers and violating the international labor standards (ILS). For this reason, the ILO is not reflected as an organization in defense of workers. What is the position of the new Director-General on these issues?


The current situation of precariousness for workers requires a Director General free of the influence and pressure from such governments and employers that undermine the ILS, acting against the values of the ILO. Does the new Director General intend to take a truly independent attitude?


Under the current structure of the ILO, in the decision-making bodies and the Governing Body, there is a monopoly of a single trend of interests of neoliberal governments, employers and the leaderships of one part of the workers representation. Would the new Director General be willing to drive the changes needed to break the monopoly and allow plural participation in the Governing Body with proportional representation of the other group of opinion in the workers group?


The WFTU considers it necessary to modify the structure and regulations of the ILO to adapt them to the current conditions in order to be an efficient instrument to guarantee unconditional respect for the conventions and fundamental rights of workers. Does the new Director General intend to promote such changes?


The ILO at central and regional level as well as the new Director General must respect the autonomy and self determination of the unions. They must respect the decisions, the foundations and the democratic functioning of trade unions. Unfortunately, lately these principles are being violated and the management and administration services of the ILO intervene in the internal affairs of unions, trying to support some of them over the others, promoting some unions and unfairly blaming others, etc. This phenomenon is against the founding objectives of the ILO. The WFTU condemns such phenomenon and it will continue the struggle for equality among all unions, equality irrespective of ideological, political and trade union differences.


Just as the peoples of the planet demand the democratization of the Organization of the United Nations (UN), all of us who from the WFTU demand the democratization of the ILO. Would the new Director General be willing to promote a true democratization of the ILO?


The WFTU considers that under the conditions of the deep crisis of the capitalist system and the intensification of the imperialist aggression, the ILO should support the struggles of workers, pensioners, unemployed workers, poor people and immigrants; it should defend trade union rights, democratic and trade union freedoms and free collective bargaining. The challenges for the ILO, its cadres and its new Director General are enormous.


The geographical composition represented by the General Directors of the ILO throughout history, shows that for 78 years
, 8 General Directors were from developed capitalist countries (2 respectively from United States, Britain and France) (1 respectively from Belgium and Ireland). The first Latin American Director-General was the Chilean Juan Somavia, elected in 1999 to the present.
The WFTU and its affiliates are willing to work with the ILO in order to clear our concerns and questions; to implement these aspirations, guided by the Athens Pact, the central document adopted by the XVI World Trade Union Congress.