The ILO Credentials Committee has expressed concern the Cook Islands delegation did not include worker and employer representatives at an international labour conference last month.
The Cook Islands delegations had just two government representatives at the conference in Geneva.
Cook Islands Chamber of Commerce described the action of the Credentials Committee as censuring the government for sending only its own two representatives to the conference.
“The committee received two objections presented separately by the Employers’ group of the Conference and the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), concerning the nomination of an incomplete delegation on the employers’ and the workers’ side by the government of Cook Islands,” the Credentials Committee report said.
“The employers’ group viewed the case as a serious violation of the government’s obligation to nominate non-government delegates and advisers in agreement with the most representative industrial organizations in the country under article 3(5) of the ILO Constitution.”
The ITUC submitted the government had failed to fulfil its obligation under article 3(1) of the ILO Constitution as it had not accredited a complete delegation to the conference.
They asked the committee to call upon the government to explain the situation and to recommend that the government fulfil its constitutional obligations.
The censure has been downplayed by Internal Affairs Labour director Sandrina Thondoo, who says the government delegation retained voting rights and participated in all sessions throughout the conference. This was not mentioned in the committee report.
The government had clarified that it had been unable, despite all its efforts, to send an employers’ and a workers’ delegate to this year’s conference due to “financial constraints”, the report said.
“It regretted that the amount of travel and subsistence expenses for a full tripartite delegation was disproportionate in comparison to its annual operational budget.”
“It provided information as to the cost and its budget proposals for 2017–18. It added that it had sought consensus at the national level to participate every two years to the conference, as did other Pacific microstates,” the report said.
“The government explained that its attendance this year was possible only due to exceptional circumstances, namely the nomination of a permanent representative in Geneva and because the attendance of the Director of Labour, a Swiss national, did not give rise to accommodation costs.
“While the government had offered alternative solutions to attending the conference, such as representation by proxy or exceptional self-funding options, the (Cook Islands) employers’ and workers’ organisations had declined.
“The Chamber of Commerce is not impressed that the country has been reprimanded by the ILO Credentials Committee because a representative from the workers and employers sector did not accompany the delegation to the conference.”