The ILO consists of three different parts: the International Labor Conference, the Board and the International Labor Office. All have a unique three-tier structure for the ILO, with each Member State represented by representatives of the government, employers and workers.
The International Labor Conference is the ILO’s highest decision – making body, which, among other things, adopts conventions and recommendations and approves the budget. The Labor Conference meets every year in June, at its headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland.
Each Member State is represented by four delegates: two representatives of the government, one for employers and one for workers. Each delegate has the right to speak and vote. There is a strong cohesion within both the employer and employee groups. Sometimes they vote against each other, or together against the often more divided group of government representatives.
The board is the executive body. It consists of 28 government representatives and 14 representatives each from employees and employers. Ten of the government seats are weighted for “industrially important” countries, the others are elected in three years by the labor conference.
The Board leads the ILO’s work between the meetings of the Labor Conference. Every five years, it appoints the Director-General of the ILO, who is the head of the International Labor Office. Juan Somavía from Chile was re-elected in 2003 for a second term as CEO.
The International Labor Office is the ILO’s secretariat. It prepares the organization’s activities and also conducts research and publishes various publications on the ILO’s subject areas.
The Geneva Employment Agency and the ILO’s more than 40 regional offices employ a total of around 1,900 people. In addition, about 600 experts work with the ILO’s technical assistance to member countries. The regional offices in different states handle regional information and are responsible for monitoring and some development assistance.
Sweden has had a special ILO committee since 1927. A similar committee exists in the other Nordic states, but not generally among ILO members.
The Swedish ILO Committee consists of nine members, three of whom represent the government, three employers and three employees.
The committee’s tasks include participating in the preparation of conventions and recommendations, reporting to the ILO on the application of the conventions that Sweden has ratified (see Glossary) and disseminating knowledge about the ILO in Sweden. Another important task is to examine whether the submitted national bills are compatible with Sweden’s commitments to the ILO.
Standing for International Labor Organization according to Abbreviationfinder, the ILO cannot punish Member States that violate ratified conventions. However, each Member State is required to report to the ILO on compliance with the Convention.
There are two bodies working on the verification of these reports. One is an independent expert committee that presents an annual report on how the conventions are complied with by the states. The second is a tripartite committee which, during the working conference, publicly deals with the most urgent cases where the laws and policies of states differ from the conventions entered into.
Sweden was criticized, for example, in 1994 after the decision to introduce a qualifying period day in health insurance. Swedish trade unions had accused the government of thereby violating a convention on benefits in the event of occupational injuries. An investigation within the ILO gave the trade unions the right; a state that has ratified this convention may have qualifying days in the health insurance, but then these must have been there from the beginning. A deterioration in the form of qualifying days is contrary to the content of the convention.
A special committee under the ILO’s board is investigating complaints about violations of association law. Following union complaints, the committee criticized Sweden in 2003 for enacting laws that violated existing collective agreements. This applied to the law on flexible retirement age, which, in violation of some collective agreements, gave the employee the right to work until the age of 67.
Aid and research
The ILO’s extensive technical assistance goes mainly to Africa, Asia and Latin America. The assistance accounts for about a third of the ILO’s total budget, but is almost entirely funded by voluntary contributions from Member States and from other international organizations.
The goal of “decent work” has increasingly become the guiding light for efforts in the field. The largest individual program has in a short time become one that is focused on stopping child labor.
Aid projects are often carried out in close cooperation with other UN bodies such as the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). Some of the development assistance projects are aimed at reducing unemployment and increasing economic development, for example by combating rural poverty. Many projects promote vocational training, for example through support for the development of teaching materials, rehabilitation of the disabled and education of women and young people who do not go to school.
The ILO also conducts special support projects for a number of professional industries. There are also various forms of support projects for the social partners. Another area is improved working conditions and an improved working environment.
The ILO’s activities also include research and investigative work, mainly on various problems in the labor market.
At the International Institute for Labor Market Studies in Geneva and at the International Institute for Technical and Other Education in Turin, Italy, the ILO organizes courses where most participants come from the Third World.