A Movement to Transform our Workplace, and to Revive Social Dialogue

Social dialogue has been always a core value promoted by our Organization, to implement social justice and decent work for all across the globe. Meanwhile, recent events during the Governing Body in March 2018 demonstrate to all ILO Staff that social dialogue is under threat, and we must stand for this value within the ILO….

When trust is broken between two parties in the context of industrial relations, divorce is not a viable option. Instead, each party must reassess the state of the relationship, and determine how best to restore it, in a manner in which one’s own interests are more secure.

As ILO Staff, we still feel the pain and disappointment from the events of the Governing Body, during which we were witnesses to a surreal series of events that have made many of us question whether the principles of tripartism and social dialogue will continue to be upheld by our organization. UN Staff in other organizations felt our disappointment as well, as they witnessed the ILO, which had been leading the effort to advance International Civil Service Commission (ICSC) Reform over the past year, buckle under the pressure of a small number of Member states, and abandon the central tenant of tripartism:  consensus-based decision making by the constituents.

It is these principles of social dialogue and tripartism, which the Director General acknowledged « are tested in difficult times », which we must embody as staff, and in our union movement, if we are to play our part in restoring Social Dialogue within the ILO.

In a campaign that began against a Pay Cut , but which transformed into a global movement of No Confidence in the ICSC, we built an even stronger ILO Staff Union, which has the potential to truly transform our workplace, and to advance Freedom of Association and Collective Bargaining within the UN System.

Social dialogue in the aftermath of the events at the Governing Body in March

It is not enough to maintain Social Dialogue at the Official Level in the Joint Negotiating Committee (JNC). We must practice social dialogue in every unit, and in every duty station,  so that more workplace concerns and problems can be resolved at the lowest possible level.

We cannot rely on a wave of new Paternalism to secure the rights of staff, or to restore social dialogue in the ILO.  We can only rely on ourselves, and the support of our allies in the global labour movement.

In the short-term:

If we start by filing appeals against the ILO implementation of contested ICSC Decisions, wherever they are implemented, we’ll help build more transparent industrial relations in our house.

If we do more to mobilize staff in the field and in HQ in support of our negotiating agenda, we can be stronger in backing up our position at the bargaining table.

By standing firm against the implementation of other flawed ICSC decisions in ILO or elsewhere in the UN, whether that be in Bangkok, or Tokyo, we will build more momentum for changing the system.

In the medium term, and in the lead up to the Centenary:

We need to reiterate our challenge to the Director General: that he work to restore the ILO as a role model for social dialogue within the UN Common System.

Through efforts to chip away at the number of member States who have embraced the Austerity Agenda as a key driver of UN Reform, we have the opportunity to create the space for an alternative way forward.

By empowering and building the representative strength of our fellow unions in the UN Common System, to stand with us in common battles, we will be more prepared for the realization of Collective Bargaining in the UN Common System.

In all of these objectives, we will do well to remember the solidarity and common values of social justice that bind us together.

We are one Staff Union for one ILO Staff, and we must not stand still in realizing our agreed Vision and Mission.

We should be bold in restoring a new equilibrium in Industrial Relations within our workplace that builds a stronger voice for staff, and we must be resolute in our efforts to promote and practice social dialogue across the UN, in time for our Organization’s Centenary.


By Daniel Cork, 2nd Vice Chair, ILO Staff Union



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