The Cook Islands became the 186th ILO Member State in June 2015. The Cook Islands is a self-governing Parliamentary democracy in free association with New Zealand. It comprises 15 islands in the South Pacific Ocean with a population of 10,500 people (as at 2013) although some estimates suggest the resident population is closer to 13,700. While the country’s defense and foreign affairs are the responsibility of New Zealand, which is exercised in consultation with the Cook Islands, the Cook Islands Government has full oversight of domestic matters. Although the Cook Islands is not a United Nations Member State, it works with several UN agencies including the WHO and UNESCO, as well as having diplomatic relations in its own name with 43 other countries.
Impact and strategic significance of the ILO
The ILO has provided some of technical support following a formal request by the Cook Islands Government for a technical review of a new draft labour law in September 2011. The review was undertaken by the Governance and Tripartism Department and supplied to the Government. In 2012 the Employment Relations Act 2012 was passed which made some notable progress in relation to providing for minimum standards of employment and strengthening the right to freedom of association and right to bargain collectively.
There are no formal tripartite arrangements in place in the Cook Islands. However, the government has adopted tripartite processes for the purpose of annual minimum wage reviews under the Employment Relations Act 2012. The most recent minimum wage review in April 2015 comprised a tripartite advisory panel (including representatives of the Government, Cook Islands Chamber of Commerce and Cook Islands Workers Association).