The 100th anniversary of the International Labour Organisation this year is a timely reminder of its continued relevance.
Its constitution still strikes a chord for those of us fighting for workers' rights:
Whereas universal and lasting peace can be established only if it is based upon social justice; And whereas conditions of labour exist involving such injustice, hardship and privation to large numbers of people as to produce unrest so great that the peace and harmony of the world are imperilled; and an improvement of those conditions is urgently required; … by the regulation of the hours of work, … the provision of an adequate living wage, the protection of the worker against sickness, disease and injury arising out of his employment, the protection of children, young persons and women, provision for old age and injury, … recognition of the principle of equal remuneration for work of equal value…
In 1944, the Philadelphia Declaration confirmed the vision of the ILO in a few simple words: Labour is not a commodity.
Since then the organisation has played a role at key historical junctures – the Great Depression, decolonisation, the creation of Solidarność in Poland, the victory over apartheid in South Africa.
Each year the NZ Council of Trade Unions participates in ILO conferences, which adopt international labour standards. They are a crucial building block towards achieving fair globalisation, which delivers social justice and lasting peace. In 1999 the ILO proposed the decent work agenda, which encompasses the creation of employment, respect and fulfilment of rights at work, ensuring social security, and negotiation between unions and employers.
Twenty years on a landmark report entitled ‘Work for a Brighter Future’, addresses today’s challenges to decent work including unprecedented transformational and technological change. This year’s annual ILO conference adopted the Centenary Declaration for the Future of Work.
It underlines the importance of taking a human-centred approach. Technology needs to benefit human beings - not the other way around.
The declaration also promotes workers’ rights as key to achieving inclusive growth, and the importance of the public sector. The declaration recognises contractors and self-employed people must enjoy adequate protection like all other workers.
This Declaration was adopted by the New Zealand government, its employer and union representatives. It therefore guides our goals, work relationships, and negotiations in this country. The PSA is also supporting a CTU campaign for New Zealand to ratify ILO convention 87, which sets out the rights of unions to exist and organise, and Convention 151 which extends union rights to public service workers.
We would also like this country to put into practice the protections in a new ILO convention, which recognises that violence and harassment at work are human rights violations.
Although 100 years old, the ILO is not a lame duck but a grand dame able to influence the world of work, yet relying on all of us to make decent work a reality in the 21st century.
A survey of wāhine Māori in the PSA has drawn a fantastic response - with more than 900 members taking the time to tell us about their employment experiences.
Your salaries generally reflect the gender and ethnic pay gaps seen in the wider workforce with Pākeha men well out in front of other groups.
That’s why we’ve made a submission on the Government’s new discussion document on FPAs and have been encouraging members to make sure their voices are heard.
Their role is to organise and advocate for Māori members in their sectors. They also represent their sectors on Te Kōmiti o Te Rūnanga o Ngā Toa Awhina and on sector committees.
Staff from the Ministry’s policy teams have attended UN indigenous rights forums in Geneva and New York.