Future of work initiative announced at ILO conference

In June, PSA national secretary Richard Wagstaff and New Zealand Council of Trade Unions general counsel Jeff Sissons represented the NZCTU at the 104th International Labour Conference that was held in Geneva.

The opening of the ILO conference.

The opening of the ILO conference.

Richard said, “One of the things that has struck me at the conference is the number of developed nations grappling with many of the same issues that New Zealand faces, such as growing disparity between rich and poor, chronic gender pay equity issues, youth employment, parental leave, and rights for immigrant workers. It’s also been a stark reminder of how far we still have to go in terms of human and worker rights in many places in the world.”

During his opening address at the conference, ILO director-general Guy Ryder called for a global debate on the future of work.

“The issues of jobs, equity, sustainability, human security, labour mobility, social dialogue, which need to be tackled in a future of work initiative, are almost by definition the key policy issues of our time,” he said.

The initiative comes at a critical time with the latest World Employment and Social Outlook report noting that global unemployment reached 201 million in 2014, over 30 million higher than before the start of the global financial crisis.

As noted in The future of work centenary initiative report released at the conference:

“What gives it [the initiative] particular significance, and perhaps explains the great interest it has evoked, is that it is launched in a context of great uncertainty and insecurity, and of fear that the direction of change in the world of work is away from, not towards, the achievement of social justice.

“This is to be found in growing inequality – widely commented on but much less acted upon – and in the paradox that the extraordinary advances in the productive capacity of the global economy now provide
the material means to eliminate poverty and meet human needs as never before, but are singularly failing to do so. At the same time, the workings of that economy are generating mass unemployment and
underemployment and large-scale exclusion, as well as great prosperity and social advances, which are present in tense coexistence within and between our societies.”

The annual ILO conference brought together about 4000 government, worker and employer representatives. Other topics addressed at the conference included climate change; the role of small and medium enterprises in creating jobs; and how to ensure labour protection.

The ILO is a United Nations agency that brings together governments, employers and workers to advance opportunities for women and men to obtain decent and productive work in conditions of freedom, equity, security and human dignity. New Zealand was one of the founding members of the ILO in 1919 and as the first country to legislate for an eight-hour working day paved the way for the ILO’s Hours of Work (Industry) Convention in 1919.

To learn more visit www.ilo.org.