ILO Should Concentrate On Principles Not Process

  • Max Bradford

Labour Minister Max Bradford has called for a fundamental reassessment of the International Labour Organisation's labour standards and processes.

Delivering New Zealand's statement to the ILO in Geneva yesterday (subs June 10), Mr Bradford said the ILO had to reform and modernise if it was to be relevant to today's world.

"New Zealand supports the ideals and objectives of the ILO," Mr Bradford said.

Since 1991 New Zealand had implemented labour legislation consistent with ILO principles, but not always in a way which satisfied the printed letter of ILO conventions.

"We simply deliver the principles of the ILO in a different way than ILO processes slavishly require," Mr Bradford told the ILO.

"For the ILO to be relevant in today's world, where increasing diversity and changing economic systems are the norm, New Zealand strongly believes the ILO must adjust to the reality around it."

Mr Bradford said New Zealand supported three initiatives:

Existing standards should be reviewed and tested for effectiveness and relevance

The appropriateness of the ILO's approach needed to be reviewed to achieve more focus on outcomes rather than prescriptive processes. "We must avoid the "death by a thousand cuts" of bureaucratic intervention telling member countries not only what to do but how to do it."

Improve ILO evaluation procedures: "The ILO needs to evaluate outcomes against its principles rather than assess and criticise compliance with labour standards of questionable moment in a modern world."
Mr Bradford said New Zealand could not support all the ideas put forward in the ILO Director General's report.

Social labelling (a proposal to label tradeable products according to whether manufacturers meet ILO standards) was a suggestion New Zealand could not accept.

Restrictions on trade would rebound against social progress, because such progress could only be made in conjunction with economic growth, Mr Bradford said.

Mr Bradford told the ILO New Zealand was prepared to consider establishment of a Statement of Principles to strengthen the universal application of workers rights, but wanted to make sure the objectives were clear and were achieved in a flexible way.

"The core conventions have to be fit for the challenges of globalisation and the Twenty-first Century, not the wish for a past long gone."