What is the ILO?

The ILO is a UN agency devoted to promoting social justice and labour rights. It is the only tripartite UN agency with representatives of governments, employers and workers in its governance structure. This tripartite structure makes the ILO a unique forum in which the governments and social partners of its 187 member states can freely and openly debate to stimulate decent employment growth through sustainable enterprises; promote rights at work; enhance social protection; and strengthen social dialogue.

The International Labour Office is the ILO’s permanent secretariat. It is the focal point for the ILO’s overall activities, which it prepares under the scrutiny of the Governing Body (GB). The GB is the ILO’s executive body. It meets three times a year (March, June and October/November). It takes decisions on ILO policy, decides the agenda of the International Labour Conference (ILC), adopts the draft programme and budget of the organisation for submission to the ILC, and elects the Director General.

The ILO tripartite constituents meet at the ILC, which is held every year in Geneva. Each member state is represented by a delegation consisting of at least two government delegates, an employer delegate, a worker delegate, and their respective advisers. The ILC, which is often called an international parliament of labour, has several main tasks. First, there is the drafting and adoption of new international labour standards (ILS) and the revision, withdrawal and abrogation of outdated ILS. The ILC also supervises in the Committee on the Application of Standards (CAS) the application of Conventions and Recommendations at the national level. In addition, the Conference is a forum where social and labour questions of importance to the entire world, such as the Future of Work, are discussed. Furthermore, the ILC can pass resolutions that provide guidelines for the ILO’s general policy and future activities. Finally, every two years, the ILC adopts the ILO’s biennial work programme and budget, which is financed by member states.

Why is the ILO relevant to business?

Any ILO international labour standard, resolution, declaration, initiative, policy, programme, outcome of the supervisory system and of experts and sectoral meetings, can have an indirect or direct impact on national and regional policy discussions and regulatory frameworks, day-to-day management decisions and future business projects.

It is, therefore, of the utmost importance for companies to play a central role, through their representative organisations, in leading, guiding and influencing the policy and technical work of the ILO so that the needs and priorities of business of all sizes operating in different geographies, economic sectors and frameworks, are fully reflected in ILO technical and policy work

What is the IOE’s position on the ILO?

IOE believes that the ILO must provide practical assistance to its tripartite constituents in facing the enormous challenges and opportunities in the world of work - an Organization that is focused on achieving its goals and capable of adapting to changing realities; that can promote difficult policy choices and is prepared to question itself.

The IOE believes the ILO requires without delay:

  • A balanced approach in its technical and policy work, taking into account the needs and opportunities of sustainable business for the creation of employment opportunities in the new world of work;
  • Solid research, data and analysis in alliance with other relevant international organisations and partners;
  • Thinking “out-of-the box” to bring real change in influencing the design of effective and balanced future-proof policies, institutions, and regulations.

How does the IOE’s work in the ILO advance the agenda for business?

The IOE has consultative status with the UN and the ILO. The IOE has acted since its establishment as the Secretariat for the Employers’ Group in all of the ILO’s tripartite bodies. IOE provides technical and political support to the Employers’ Group in ILO governance structures and ILO meetings, including the ILC, the Governing Body (GB), tripartite technical, sectoral and expert meetings, and regional and country-level meetings. Also, the IOE participates actively in the various meetings of the ILO’s supervisory bodies and has submitted complaints and representations against certain governments for violations of ratified Conventions with a view to achieving compliance with the rights of national employers’ organisations. In its relations with the ILO, the IOE’s member organisations nominate employer representatives to participate in all the debates at the ILO, and particularly in the GB and the ILC. The IOE works in close cooperation with the ILO Bureau for Employers' Activities (ACT/EMP) which is a specialised unit within the ILO Office.