Govt knew of conference obligations

Monday July 17, 2017 Written by Published in Local

The Cook Islands government has confirmed that it was aware of its constitutional obligation to send a full tripartite delegation to an International Labour Organisation conference.


But it still it didn’t comply, citing funding constraints.

A Cook Islands delegation to the Geneva, Switzerland conference was supposed to include a representative from the workers’ and employers’ sectors here. Instead, just two government officials attended the high level conference.

The ILO Credentials Committee in reprimanding the Cook Islands noted the effort made by the government with previous sessions of the conference as well as its mindfulness, in principle, of its constitutional obligations.

“The committee remains concerned in view of the fact that the government has still not secured financing for the next session of the conference, as indicated in its submission, and has proposed solutions incompatible with its obligations.”

The committee report continued: “The committee recalls the importance of respect for the principles of tripartism which requires a balanced representation of employers and workers so as to permit their effective participation at meetings and urges the government to ensure annual funding for an Employers’ and Workers’ delegate to the Conference, thus permitting it to act in accordance with its obligations as set out under articles 3(1) and 13(2)(a) of the ILO Constitution, read the report.”

The committee said that without the participation of government, employer and worker representatives, the conference could not function properly or attain its objectives.

Cook Islands Internal Affairs Labour director Sandrina Thondoo says the government was asked to provide a written statement explaining why the Cook Islands delegation was only made up of two government delegates, without delegates representing workers and employers.

“As the report from the committee underlines, as a member state of the ILO, the government should cover all financial costs of subsistence, accommodation and travels for a tripartite delegation to attend the international labour conference every year. Unfortunately, this year, the government was unable to do so and the reasons were clearly exposed to the committee with supporting evidence.”

Thondoo added that in the Cook Islands case, “…despite the social partners being made aware of the financial constraints of government to cover costs for this year and this topic has been discussed at length with them prior to the ILC, they still went ahead and deposited their objections, which is fair enough.”

With the cost of sending a full delegation estimated at $50,000, Thondoo says the alternative is biannual attendance.

“Unfortunately, the national budget select committee refused this proposal in the last budget appropriation.”

Thondoo added her efforts to continue requesting support from government to attend the ILC as a tripartite delegation, whether yearly or biennially will continue.

“But it is really up to the central agencies to approve such a spending.”

Chamber of Commerce Employers’ representative Mike Pynenburg said the Chamber had shown considerable faith in supporting the government’s application to join the ILO in 2015. This was despite concerns around the cost of that membership to the country, and government not being prepared, even then, to meet its obligation to fund an employer or worker delegate, said Pynenburg.

“At the time the Chamber believed the overall benefit of ILO membership, in having the government, workers and employers commit to the principles of tripartism, was of greater benefit to the Chamber, it’s members and employers in general.

“The Chamber continues to believe ILO membership means all future labour-related discussions and matters should involve all parties working together as one.”

He said the formation of the Cook Islands Labour Advisory Council, in December 2016, was a step in this direction.

“Government’s decision to then attend the ILO International Labour Conference without its social partners was not.”

 Pynenburg said the Chamber now questioned government’s commitment to the principles of the ILO and tripartism and was concerned that perhaps it sought ILO membership for reasons other than meeting international standards in Labour relations but rather, “… just being a member of another UN organisation.”

            - FSB/ILO report


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