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International Labour Movement, the ILO & ACTRAV. Objectives of this Session. We will discuss on: Brief history of the Labour Movement Structure of Int’l Labour Movement ILO: Principles, Structure & Functions Role of ACTRAV (Bureau for Workers’ Activities) Current Issues facing Actrav-ILO.

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Objectives of this session
Objectives of this Session

  • We willdiscuss on:

  • Brief history of the Labour Movement

  • Structure of Int’l Labour Movement

  • ILO: Principles, Structure & Functions

  • Role of ACTRAV (Bureau for Workers’ Activities)

  • Current Issues facing Actrav-ILO

Origins of the labour movement
Origins of the Labour Movement

  • UK (1770 – 1850) – shift from agriculture to industry - Textiles, Coal & later Railways after 1847

  • Exploitative work conditions – workers organising illegal (Combination Acts of 1799) – Tolpuddle Martyrs, Crafts Organisations & Unions, GNCTU (1834), Chartist movement - NCA (1840)

  • Post 1850s – Unions grew, ASE (1851), Voting Rights achieved (1867), TUC formed in 1868, Unions legalised by 1871 TU Act, in 1875-Employer & Workmen Act, Factory Act 1874

Origins of the labour movement1
Origins of the Labour Movement

  • In continental Europe- Socialist movement gave rise to unions from 1880s onwards.

  • South Asia: TUs illegal till late 19thC; 1st formal TU in 1905 (textiles in India) – TUs linked to national struggle for independence later,

  • Japan: labour unions started in late 19thC by social reformers; conditions bad – high mobility, union memberships fluctuated, till 1945, no legal protection; US influence; enterprise family concept (welfare, steady (life time) employment, loyalty);

Origins of african labour movement
Origins of African Labour Movement

  • Transformation from agriculturists to wage labourers began in early 1900s – need of colonial powers to mine & export resources led to development of mines, railroads, commercial farming & processing plants – emergence of wage labour also aided by the taxation system (each household or village had to pay high cash taxes) – forced & indentured labour – slave-like conditions of work

  • 1920s - Emergenceof TUs in Tunisia, Zambia (Northern Rhodesia) & South Africa – to demand for end of slave-like conditions & better wages – TUs considered illegal & viciously crushed

Origins of african labour movement1
Origins of African Labour Movement

  • WW II - a turning point – Greater demand for raw materials, mining & production in Africa – impetus to urbanization & working class – many Africans fought in the war - stimulated also the struggles against racism & colonialism – Ban on TUs lifted in 1940s by Britain

  • Post war: rise of communist - socialist movements, return of African soldiers & support of British, French & other TUs strengthened labour movement in Africa – 1946 strike of 75,000 mine workers in SA – inspired TU struggles all over – Tunisia, Zambia, Kenya, Sierra Leone & Guinea – for better wages & working conditions

Origins of african labour movement2
Origins of African Labour Movement

  • Strike by Railway workers in French West Africa led to abolishment of forced labour by France in 1946

  • Workers movement soon went beyond wage issues and economic & political struggles (for freedom) became linked - 1950 General Strike in Ghana ended with autonomy & promise of full independence by the British (which came in 1957) – same thing happened in Sierra Leone, Gambia, etc – same role played by TUs in SA to end Apartheid.

  • Of course the struggle of African workers continues…

Women workers tus
Women Workers & TUs

  • Women contributed to industrial revolution in many countries – textiles, coal mines, laundry,

  • But women not well represented; Crafts Unions excluded them mostly;

  • Attempts to organise women came from outside the labour movement - philanthropists;

  • 1874 : Women's Protective and Provident League formed in UK (later called the Women's Trade Union League)

Why international movement
Why International Movement?

Post WW 1 – emergence of International Labour Movement

  • Solidarity & Unity - the source of strength for workers – the ideals of social justice

  • Response to Globalization of Capital

  • To ensure application of basic labour standards globally

Need to create a global voice of workers

International tu organizations
International TU Organizations


World Confederation of Labour, [1920 & 1968]





Global Union Federations




World Federation of Trade Unions, [1945]








International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (1949)



ICFTU & WCL merged in Nov 2006

Fundamental goal of ilo
Fundamental Goal of ILO


Better Working Conditions

Standard Setting

Technical Co-operation



Meetings - Information - Research - Expertise

Tripartism fundamental principle of the ilo
Tripartism:Fundamental Principle of the ILO

“Tripartism” is :

  • The active interactions among the government, workers and employers as representative, equal and independent social partners.

To seek mutually agreeable solutions for issues of common concerns.

Tripartism how it works
Tripartism: How it works?

Active Interaction in order to seek joint solutions

Partners must be committed, competent and active

Partners must be willing to reach, and respect, agreements

Pre-condition: Respect for Freedom of Association & Right to Collective Bargaining


International Labour Conference

4 delegates per Member State

1 Workers’


2 Governments’


1 Employers’


Governing Body

14 Workers’


28 Governments’


14 Employers’


International Labour Office

International labour conference
International Labour Conference

  • Meets every year in Geneva in June – It is an international forum for debate on social and labour questions of worldwide importance;

  • Besides 4 delegates, a country can also bring in advisors;

    Main Tasks:

  • Adopt and oversee compliance with international labour standards,

  • Set policy for the Organization,

  • Establish the budget of the Organization,

  • Elect members of the Governing Body,

  • Discuss &/or follow up on issues of major concern.

Governing body of ilo
Governing Body of ILO

  • The executive body of the ILO

    • Meets three times a year (in March, June & November); takes decisions on ILO policy, decides the agenda of the ILC and elects the Director-General.

  • Composition

    • 56 titular (28 G, 14 E and 14 W) & 66 deputy (28 G, 19 E and 19 W);

    • Ten titular government seats permanently held by States of chief industrial importance

    • The Employer & Worker members are elected in their individual capacity;

    • GB Election is held every three years

International labour office
International Labour Office

  • The permanent secretariat of the ILO, located in Geneva, with Regional, Sub-Regional & Area Offices located in different parts of the world + ITC-Turin.

  • Focal point for the overall activities, under the supervision of the Governing Body 6 under the leadership of a Director-General.

  • About 1,900 officials of over 110 nationalities at the headquarters & in 40 field offices around the world.

  • ACTRAV – has about 40 people working

Major functions of ilo
Major Functions of ILO

  • Standard Setting - Adoption of Conventions & Recommendations in the ILC;

  • Assistance in applications of ILS at national level after ratification by the countries;

  • Technical Cooperation – Advisory functions, Action Programs/Projects, Training of Social Partners;

  • Advocacy for promotion of Decent Work

Areas of the ils
Areas of the ILS

Basic human rights

Conditions of work


Social security

Social policy


Labor administration

Industrial relations

Children and young persons

Protection of special groups

Ils core labour standards

C. 87

C. 98

C. 100

C. 111

Freedom of Association, 1948

Right to Collective Bargaining, 1949

Equal Remuneration, 1951

Discrimination (Employment and Occupation), 1958

C. 29

C. 105

C. 138

C. 182

Forced Labour, 1930

Abolition of Forced Labour, 1957

Minimum Age, 1973

Elimination of Worst Forms of Child Labour, 1999

ILS : Core Labour Standards

Freedom of Association

Freedom from Discrimination

Standards concerning fundamental human/social rights

Freedom from Forced Labour

Minimum Age for Employment

Role of bureau for workers activities actrav
Role of Bureau for Workers' Activities (ACTRAV)

What does actrav do
What does ACTRAV do?

  • Main link between ILO & the Trade Unions;

  • Develops activities to strengthen TUs & Workers Rights at the international & national levels;

  • Disseminates policies & programmes of the ILO to trade unions;

  • Reflects interests of TUs in the programmes & actions of the ILO;

  • Supports workers’ Group in ILO’s decision making bodies & other activities;

  • Promotes Decent Work and the ratification & implementation of ILO Conventions

Structure of actrav

Structure of ACTRAV

Bureau for Workers’ Activities


African Desk



(International Training Center of the ILO)


I.Ben Said DIA

Field Specialists

(RO, SRO and AO)

Nairobi, Dakar, Harare

  • Direct contact with unions

  • Implementation of ACTRAV policies and strategies in each country

  • Dissemination of information

  • Implementation of training programmes

Current issues before actrav ilo
Current Issues Before ACTRAV-ILO

Major Difficulty in protecting the rights and economic well-being of its members”

WeakeningOrganizing & BargainingPower of Unions

Free Trade



FlexibleLabour Policy

Free CapitalFlow


Revolution inIT & Transport

Attack onunionism


Way forward
Way Forward

Trade unions must strengthen their organizing and bargaining power.


Challenge 1:

Creating an“Enabling Environment”

for Trade UnionActivities

Challenge 2:

Building Capacity ofUnions in Organizingand CollectiveBargaining

Thank you for your attention

Thank you for your attention!

Programme for Workers’ Activities (ACTRAV)