International Labour Conference opens with calls to address migration and forced labour

The 103rd annual International Labour Conference began Wednesday in Geneva. Thousands of delegates representing governments, employees and employers have gathered to discuss and address issues surrounding migration, forced labour and the formalization of the global workforce.

Audio | 28 May 2014
The 103rd International Labour Conference opened Wednesday with a call to focus on the impact of migration on global labour conditions. In opening remarks the Director General of the International Labour Organisation ILO, Guy Ryder, noted that almost all countries can be described as an origin, transit or destination for migration and that the phenomenon comes with often negative impacts for workers…

"...lamentably it continues in too many cases to be associated with the unacceptable treatment and abuse of the most vulnerable women and men in our labour markets".

The International Labour Conference is an annual event hosted by the ILO and receives delegates from employers, workers and government. Also on the agenda this year, so called “forced labour”

"Today there are 21 million victims of forced labour in the world. If we take a hard look at this disturbing reality we have to conclude that this is not simply the residue of abuse from a past era. Forced labour is mutating, recreating itself in the most virilent of forms..." Guy Ryder.

While the issues of migration and forced labour are key topics this year, the representative of employers, Mr Jorgen Ronnest, reminded the delegates that tackling global unemployment remains a priority.

"Employment remains a key challenge. Given the central role the private sector plays in job creation the key focus on work and job creation needs to be on the creation of an environment needed to create and support enterprise. We need more business if we want jobs”.

The conference elected Mr Daniel Funes de Rioja as president of the conference. Mr Funes de Rioja is the first employer representative to hold the position since 1998. For his part Mr Funes de Rioja highlighted a third theme of this years conference, the effort to move workers from the informal to the formal sector of the economy:

“The matter of informality and the promotion of formalization is not a mere theoretical discussion. It is clear, and at the same time, disturbing that the large proportion of employment positions in the world are informal and lack legal and social protection”

Wrapping up the ceremony Mr Luc Cortebeeck, workers spokesperson, noted connections between the themes to be tackled in coming weeks: Migration, formalistion and forced labour:

“Migrant workers, domestic workers, workers in informal and precarious employment are the most vulnerable and left completely unprotected from abuses that can not be tolerated.”

The conference continues until June 12th. Reporting from the Palais de Nations in Geneva this is Pete Forster.