Since 1919, the ILO has sought to define and guarantee labour rights and improve conditions for working people by building a system of international labour standards expressed in the form of Conventions, Recommendations and Codes of Practice. The ILO has since adopted more than 180 Conventions and 190 Recommendations covering all aspects of the world of work. In addition, dozens of Codes of Practice have been developed. In areas as varied as maternity leave, occupational safety and health, and protection of migrants, these standards play an important role in the drawing up of national legislation.
A supervisory process helps to ensure that standards ratified by individual member States are applied in law and practice and the ILO provides advice in the drafting of national labour laws. The Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations is the body responsible for overseeing the application of standards. It examines government's reports for compliance with ratified Conventions and produces an annual report which is then submitted to the annual International Labour Conference.
With the adoption of the Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work in 1998, ILO member States decided to uphold a set of core labour standards regardless of whether they had ratified the relevant Conventions. These are basic human rights and a central plank of decent work. These rights have been endorsed at several international fora.
The Declaration covers four areas - freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining, forced labour, equality of opportunity and treatment, and child labour. Under each area, there are two ILO Conventions which further stipulate and define these rights.
1. Freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining
ILO Convention No. 87 - Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize, 1948
ILO Convention No. 98 - Right to Organize and Collective Bargaining, 1949
2. Forced labour
ILO Convention No. 29 - Forced Labour, 1930
ILO Convention No. 105 - Abolition of Forced Labour, 1957
3. Equality of opportunity and treatment
ILO Convention No. 111 - Discrimination (Employment and Occupation), 1958
ILO Convention No. 100 - Equal Remuneration, 1951
4. Child Labour
ILO Convention No. 138 - Minimum Age Convention, 1973
ILO Convention No. 182 - Worst Forms of Child Labour, 1999
ILO and International Labour Standards in the Caribbean
In the Caribbean, the ILO promotes a greater understanding of international labour standards among its constituents - governments, employers' and workers' organizations - and assists in improving the application of and reporting on ratified Conventions. Through its team of specialists, the ILO has, for instance, facilitated regional training workshops on the requirements of specific ILO Conventions for its constituents as well as training on the reporting on the implementation of international labour standards. The Office continues to strengthen the capacity of governments, employers' and workers' organizations for the effective use of international labour standards. In September 2007, judges of national courts, industrial courts and tribunals benefited from a seminar on how to apply international labour standards into their domestic labour law and practice.
The ILO continues to provide valuable technical assistance in the development and revision of labour laws based on ratified ILO Conventions. Its work in the Caribbean has included:
- A review of the laws on child labour in six Caribbean countries within the context of ILO Convention No. 138 on Minimum Age and ILO Convention No. 182 on the Worst Forms of Child Labour. The review identified gaps and inconsistencies and served to guide legislative reform to ensure compliance with the requirements of the ILO Conventions.
- The drafting of four CARICOM model legislation in the areas of termination of employment; registration, status and recognition of trade unions and employers’ organizations; equality of opportunity and treatment in employment and occupation; and occupational safety and health and the working environment. The laws were subsequently accepted by the CARICOM Standing Committee of Ministers responsible for Labour in 1995 and 1997. The model laws are being used as a point of reference for the development of national laws, particularly as the region gears up for the free movement of labour within the CARICOM Single Market and Economy.
- Technical assistance in the drafting of national legislation. For example, Guyana's Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act was developed with ILO's assistance.