At this year’s session on labour during the Global Compact Leaders’ Summit 2007, participants heard directly from both the CEOs and representatives of labour, employers and civil society as they discussed the relationship between business and labour principles.
Moderating a panel that included representatives from the private sector, international and major trade union and employer organizations, ILO Director-General Juan Somavia emphasized the role of labour principles in business, saying “Many will attest that respect for fundamental rights at work, sound industrial relations and collective bargaining are all part of being a successful and sustainable enterprise.”
“They have proven to be excellent instruments of management,” he added.
In response to a question regarding what resources the ILO could provide to businesses and labour, the ILO Director-General cited the ILO’s Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work or what he called “the Four Freedoms of Labour”: workplaces free from child labour, forced labour, discrimination and that promote freedom of association and collective bargaining.
Other ILO tools to assist in promoting decent workplaces include the ILO’s Tripartite Declaration on Multinational Enterprises and Social Policy, which is to mark its 30th anniversary this year; the recent tripartite agreement at the International Labour Conference in June on what constitutes sustainable enterprises and how to promote them and a series of “action programmes” organized by sector where employers, unions and governments work together in industries such as tourism and textiles.
Session panellists included Dr. Thomas Wellauer, Head of Corporate Services for Novartis International; Mr. Roland Conus representing the International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers’ Unions; Mr. Guy Ryder, Secretary-General of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC); and Mr. Antonio Penalosa, Secretary-General of the International Organization of Employers (IOE).
Mr. Penalosa of the IOE underscored employer support for the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work and said that in “defending these principles, we defend ourselves”. Noting that global supply chains have seen the weakening of the employment relationship, the ITUC’s Mr. Ryder went on to add that there was positive change in the fact that more employers are recognizing their responsibilities towards workers in that supply chain.
“The trust that is built up over time, through labour management dialogue is one of the most valuable assets that companies have when they’re faced with adjustments as a result of new market or technological challenges or in defining their strategic outlook,” Mr. Somavia said in conclusion.