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News & Events

Ireland agrees to ratify the 1986 Instrument for the amendment of the Constitution of the International Labour Organisation (ILO)

As Ireland marks the end of its first ever term as a Titulaire (full member) of the Governing Body of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the Minister for Business, Employment and Retail, Damien English TD today announced the Government’s decision to ratify the 1986 Instrument for the Amendment of the ILO Constitution.

The ILO, founded in 1919 and one of the UN’s oldest agencies, has a unique tripartite structure bringing together governments, employer and worker representatives of 187 countries to develop international Labour Standards and policies to promote decent work and social justice.

Minister English in announcing the Government decision said “Ireland has a rich history with the ILO, as the first international organisation we joined as a free State. Many of the employment rights which we currently benefit from, such as minimum working age, maternity leave, maximum weekly working hours and annual leave, are the result of negotiations over the past 100 years by the constituents of the ILO. It was a great source of pride for us when Ireland became a full member of the Governing Body for the first time in 2017 and, as we vacate that role, our commitment to this organisation is as strong now as it was when we joined in 1923.”

The Instrument for the Amendment to the ILO Constitution was adopted at the 1986 annual International Labour Conference, the principal aim of which is to make the ILO’s executive body, the Governing Body, more representative. It proposes to do this by providing a means of appointment to the Governing Body that takes into account the various geographic, economic and social interests of its constituent groups.

Currently the Governing Body comprises 56 Titulaire (full) members of which 28 are Government members. Ten of the Titulaire government seats are permanently held by States of chief industrial importance (Brazil, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, the Russian Federation, UK and USA). The African Region currently has no permanent Titulaire seats on the Governing Body. Ratification of the Instrument would double the number of Titulaire members to 112 including 56 Governments seats and notably, would remove the permanently held seats.

In order to enter into force, the Amendment needs to be ratified by 125 Member States, including 5 of the 10 permanent members. Currently, 116 member States have ratified it, including 2 permanent members, India and Italy. Another, Brazil, has just announced that they also intend to ratify.

Minister English thanked ICTU and Ibec for their support for the ratification of the Amendment adding “It is clear that the constitutional amendment with its revised criteria for electing members to the ILO Governing body would ensure that the current underrepresentation of the African region is addressed, and it would increase the opportunities for smaller countries such as Ireland to secure a seat on the Governing Body in future.”

He continued “We are committed to supporting the necessary reforms and changes to the ILO Governing Body, now long overdue. We want to improve the representativeness and legitimacy of the Governing Body so that it can properly fulfil the expectations of all ILO constituents and members. I consider ratification by Ireland of the 1986 Amendment to the ILO Constitution represents a tangible demonstration of our commitment to a strong multilateral system to work toward a more even world representation on global bodies. It is in line with Ireland’s advocacy for an increase in the size of the Security Council, in order to ensure all regions are fairly represented and Africa’s historic under-representation is addressed.”

Minister English concluded “Over 100 years on since its inception, the ILO, as a unique tripartite organisation, continues to play a leading role in shaping policy on the major international issues of the day in the world of work. A role never more relevant than at present, given the devastating impact of COVID-19 on the labour market. Ireland is ready to continue to play its role in supporting the International Labour Organisation in this vital task of ensuring that the future of work is one which ensures decent and sustainable work for all on the basis of equality.

The instrument of ratification will be presented to the Director-General of the ILO in Geneva, Mr Guy Ryder.

Notes for Editors

The International Labour Organisation (ILO)

The ILO is a United Nations agency which brings together government, employer and worker representatives of 187 member States, to develop International Labour Standards, policies and programmes promoting decent work for all. Its tripartite nature is unique in the UN system.

1986 Instrument of Amendment

In 1986 the annual International Labour Conference adopted an Instrument of Amendment with proposed changes which affect 11 of the 40 articles in the ILO’s constitution.  

The 1986 Instrument of Amendment addresses four main areas:

(1) The composition and governance of the Governing Body of the Office.

(2) The procedure for appointment of the Director-General.

(3) Voting at the International Labour Conference; and,

(4) Rules governing how the Constitution may be amended.

1) The composition and governance of the Governing Body

The principal aim of the Amendment is to make the ILO’s executive body, the Governing Body (GB), more representative.  It does this by providing a means of appointment to the GB that takes into account the various geographic, economic and social interests of its constituent groups.

Currently the GB comprises 56 Titulaire members (28 Governments, 14 Employers and 14 Workers) and 66 deputy members (28 Governments, 19 Employers and 19 Workers).  Ten of the Titulaire government seats are permanently held by States of chief industrial importance (Brazil, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, the Russian Federation, UK and USA). The African Region currently has no permanent Titulaire seats on the Governing Body. The other Government members are elected by the ILC every three years. Ireland was elected to a Titulaire seat in 2017 for the first time since we joined the Organisation in 1923.  The Employer and Worker members are elected in their individual, rather than national, capacity.

Ratification of the Instrument would double the number of Titulaire members to 112 (56 Governments, 28 each for Workers and Employers).  Notably, it would remove the permanently held seats. The regional split of the increased number of seats would be made based on the application of equal rating of the number of member States within the region, their total population and their economic activity assessed by appropriate criteria (gross national product or contributions to the budget of the ILO).  It is clear that under these geographic, economic and social criteria the current underrepresentation of the African region would be redressed. 

The 1986 Amendment states that, under the application of these criteria, the initial distribution of seats would be Africa 13 seats; America 12 seats; Asia and Europe alternatively 15 and 14 seats.  This compares with the current regional split of Africa 6, of which no permanent members; Americas 7, of which 2 permanent members; Asia and the Pacific, 7 of which 3 permanent members; Europe 8, of which 5 permanent members.    

2) The procedure for appointment of the Director-General

Under the Amendment, the Director-General of the ILO would continue to be appointed by the Governing Body but the appointment would be submitted to the International Labour Conference for approval, which is not currently the case.

3) Voting at the International Labour Conference

The Amendment introduces a number of technical changes to the quorum for voting at the Conference to ensure decisions reflect the composition of the ILC. 

4) Rules governing how the Constitution may be amended

The 1986 Amendment provides that adoption of any amendment relating to the fundamental purposes of the ILO, the permanent establishment of the ILO, the composition and functions of its collegiate organs, the appointment and responsibilities of the Director-General, the constitutional provisions relating to international labour conventions and recommendations, and the provisions of article 36 of the Constitution, would require three-fourths of the votes cast and would have to be ratified or accepted by three-quarters of member States in order to come into effect.

For any other amendment to the Constitution, two-thirds of the votes cast and ratification by two-thirds of the Members would be required to take effect.

Entry into Force of 1986 Amendment

To enter into force, the 1986 Amendment must be ratified or accepted by two-thirds of ILO member States, including at least five of the 10 Members of chief industrial importance who currently hold permanent seats on the GB.  The ILO has 187 member States, consequently the 1986 Amendment needs to be ratified by 125 of them. 

Currently, 116 member States have ratified it, of which two were Members of chief industrial importance (India and Italy).  Of the EU Member States, 17 have already ratified the Amendment.

Ireland and the ILO

Ireland became a member of the ILO in 1923, this was the first international organisation which the new State joined. Ireland’s links with the ILO can be traced back to Edward Phelan, fa Waterford born civil servant who became the ILO’s first official and went on to become the ILO’s Director General in 1941 and was the principle author of the 1944 Philadelphia Declaration.

In June 2017 Ireland was elected to a Titulaire (speaking and voting) seat for the first time since we joined the ILO in 1923. We held a deputy seat (speaking but no voting rights) on four previous occasions: 1938-40, 1972-1975, 1990-1995, and 2005-2008.

ENDS

The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment (DETE) plays a key role in implementing the Government’s policies of stimulating the productive capacity of the economy and creating an environment which supports job creation and maintenance. The Department has lead responsibility for Irish policy on global trade and inward investment and a remit to promote fair competition in the marketplace, protect consumers and safeguard workers.

For further information please contact Press Office, D/Enterprise, Trade and Employment, press.office@enterprise.gov.ie or (01) 631-2200