Q&A with Corinne Vargha on launch of 2021 CEACR Report

1. ILO News: What were the key findings and recommendations of the report? The key message is that the COVID-19 crisis did not suspend obligations under ratified international labour standards (ILS) and the concrete commitments made by ILO Member States to protect the dignity and freedom of people at work remained during the current pandemic, and will strengthen the resilience of societies in building back better. Any derogations should be exercised within clearly defined limits of legality, necessity, proportionality and non-discrimination.

The CEACR also identified some specific challenges resulting from the pandemic:

  • First, as countries have taken exceptional measures to safeguard national security and public health, the power of the executive has grown exponentially. But this does not remove the need to comply with international law.
  • Second, human rights and ILS remain universal.
  • Thirdly, the pandemic has exacerbated the plight of many vulnerable and marginalized groups. This will create an increase in inequality and needs to be properly addressed by policy makers.
  • Finally, the pandemic has severely disrupted the maritime sector (which employs nearly two million seafarers worldwide and handles more than 90 per cent of world trade). The CEACR noted with deep concern that while ports around the world continued to operate uninterrupted, seafarers face extreme difficulties in disembarking and transiting through countries during their repatriation.

2. ILO News: What challenges has the CEACR faced in maintaining its supervisory function during the pandemic?

During its 2020 session the CEACR formulated some 1,700 comments related to compliance with ILS. These consistently urged ILO Member States to prevent a downward spiral in labour conditions and pursue a virtuous cycle of recovery and development, consistent with lawful measures to protect the health of the public. ILS, coupled with effective and authoritative supervision can be a fundamental part of the solution to this crisis, while recovery measures that weaken labour law protection would further undermine social cohesion and stability and erode public confidence that policy-makers understand their needs.

3. ILO News: Normally, ILO Member States submit reports detailing how Conventions they have ratified are being applied. Were Member States able to fulfill this obligation in 2020?

Knowing it was very challenging for countries to meet their reporting obligations, the ILO’s Governing Body requested Member States to provide supplementary information on reports submitted last year. Nearly 900 reports were received by the start of the CEACR session.

4. ILO News: The CEACR also released an addendum to its previous General Survey of some ILO instruments related to employment policy.

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