The social dialogue in Europe and its role in international labour policy and social policy

What is needed in Europe and all over the world is strong social dialogue to enable green jobs to become a key element for the future of work, as we would have it. That was what the President of the European Centre for Workers’ Questions (EZA), Bartho Pronk, said in the plenary at the International Labour Organisation (ILO) International Labour Conference (ILC) this year, held in Geneva in June 2017. He was commenting on the ILO General Director’s report “Work in a changing climate: The Green Initiative”.

Bartho Pronk is the first EZA President to have spoken before the ILC, during which the roughly 4,000 delegates reach international agreements, monitor their implementation, and discuss international issues relating to the world of work.

Since 2016 the EZA has enjoyed observer status in the ILC, followed the debates, exchanged ideas and opinions with its EZA partners in the ILC, and held talks with ILO leaders.

Dealing with and steering labour migration was one of the major issues this year. The focus was on how to better manage labour migration in national, neighbouring, regional and supra-regional contexts, and to recruit workers in a fair way.

In the discussions and also in the talks held by the EZA it became clear time and again that refugees needed not only protection from armed conflicts, but also medium and long-term prospects in life for themselves and their families. Employment is a key factor in this. However, positive effects can only be achieved if there are the right general political conditions and access to labour markets. Besides the migration flows from African countries widely reported in the media, the ILO estimates that in the future there will also be increased migration to Europe from Central Asia.

Adopting the title “Employment and Decent Work for Peace and Resilience”, the ILC accepted a recommendation updating a document from 1944 and keeping more robustly abreast of current and future circumstances.

In a further discussion, progress made in the fundamental rights and principles of labour was subjected to critical analysis. Time and again the ILO scrutinises the development in compliance with the core labour standards in the four fundamental areas of freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining, the elimination of forced labour, the abolition of child labour, and the prohibition of discrimination in employment and at the workplace.

In addition to observing the ongoing debates, Bartho Pronk and Norbert Klein also had talks with leading figures in the ILO. Besides the Vice-Chairperson of the ILO Governing Body Luc Cortebeeck, who has since been elected President, they included the Regional Director of the ILO for Europe and Central Asia, Heinz Koller, and the Deputy Director of the Department for Workers’ Activities (ACTRAV), Anna Biondi.

They are all preparing the ILO anniversary in 2019. In that year the United Nations Labour Organisation will be 100 years old. Looking back over the ILO’s work in the last century, the idea is to initiate a debate on the “future of labour”, to which the EZA would also like to contribute.

Once again an exchange was organised between the EZA member centres that had delegates at the ILC. The 16 conference-goers who gathered for a lunch at the ILO building were evidently delighted to have this opportunity to exchange thoughts and experiences; it was also attended by Anna Biondi and the socio-religious adviser to the General Director of the ILO, Pierre Martinot-Lagarde. 

 

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