Application of standards: Committee considers Belarus, Colombia, Myanmar, other developments

As part of ILO efforts to end the use of forced labour in Myanmar, the ILO Committee on the Application of Standards had a special sitting following up on measures taken in the context of Article 33 of the ILO Constitution. The Committee also discussed the events which have taken place since its December 2002 session, including the appointment of a facilitator for complaints of forced labour, and a recent agreement on a plan of action to eradicate forced labour.

Opening the debate at the Plenary session of the International Labour Conference on 9 June, the Director-General urged authorities in Myanmar to take immediate measures to release Aung San Suu Kyi and her supporters and guarantee their freedom, as well as to continue, in collaboration with the ILO, to end forced labour in the country.

The Committee considered cases in 25 countries and drew the special attention of the Conference to its discussions of Belarus and Myanmar. The Committee cited both countries for nonobservance of the Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize Convention, 1948 (No. 87) and "continued failure over several years" to implement the Convention. Regarding Belarus, the Committee firmly urged the Government "to take all the necessary measures in the near future" to bring an end to "its interference in the internal affairs of trade unions".

The Committee also urged the Government of Colombia to take the necessary measures immediately to put an end to the situation of insecurity, so that workers' and employers' organizations could fully exercise the rights they are entitled to under the Convention, by restoring respect for fundamental human rights; in particular, the right to life and security.

In its report, the Committee also expressed special concern over the situation in Cameroon, Libya, Mauritania and Zimbabwe. The Committee urged the government of Libya "to adopt specific and concrete measures" with a view to achieving full conformity of the legislation with the ILO Equality of Treatment (Social Security) Convention, 1962 (No. 118), ensuring "full observance of the principles of equality of treatment in the area of social security".

As regards the application by Mauritania of the Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29), the Committee expressed "deep concern at the persistence of situations which constituted grave violations of the prohibition of forced labour".

In the case of Cameroon, the Committee urged the Government "to ensure that workers in both the private and the public sectors could establish and freely administer their organizations without the intervention of the public authorities".

Finally, the Committee noted "persistent violations" of the Right to Organize and Collective Bargaining Convention, 1949 (No. 98) in Zimbabwe, and requested the Government to accept an ILO direct-contacts mission to examine the whole situation on the spot, and inform the Committee on legislative developments and on the outstanding issues.

The Committee also highlighted persistent situations of deferred payment of wages, abusive practices of payment of wages in kind, or the gradual erosion of the privileged protection of workers' wage claims in bankruptcy procedures in several countries. The discussion of a general survey on the issue by the Committee of Experts confirmed the continued relevance of ILO standards, such as Convention No. 95 and Recommendation No. 85, and the need to promote related instruments, such as Convention No. 173.