By celebrating its 100 years anniversary, the ILO is putting its mark on one of the most celebrated pages of human history, illustrated by its fundamental declarations for a world where “work is not a commodity” and in which there is “no lasting peace without social justice” !

The 200 international labour standards, established in the tripartite system of Governments – Employers – Workers, are testimonies of the lucidity, courage and fertility of this “participative democracy”, unique within the United Nations. The eight ILO Fundamental Conventions set clearly as “banned by humanity” the “children and forced labour”, “disrespect of the collective bargaining rights” and “discriminations” of all sorts. The fruits collected from this ILO’s centenary are an invaluable set of tools that have been created to develop “decent work” in the 187 member countries !

Nevertheless, at the dawn of this second ILO’s century, the challenges faced by decent work are totally immune to borders between States and, as such, call for vigorous global actions in order that the “future of work” becomes truly “decent” for all. Indeed, worldwide subcontracting chains, as well as digitalisation and its uberized platforms, or environment responsibilities can “play” with national limitations. In the same way, “financial schemes”, “tax optimisation” and “informal work” find their way through every regulatory or geographical loopholes they can find, allowing very few to stockpile without limits … at the expenses of the universal common good.

The challenge for human dignity regarding work demands an active and unwavering awareness against all situations of social dumping and work deconstruction that take advantage of local or personal “disparities and selfishness” to circumvent the social justice so dearly built by ILO along the last 100 years.

Working on this global consolidation of “decent work” call us on treating the root causes of it and not limiting ourselves to the symptoms and lamenting about the consequences. ILO, WTO and IMF are called to build together, in the spirit of the United Nation “Sustainable Development Goals 2030”, a full coherence between regulations and governance of Work, Finance and Trade, serving humankind’s wellbeing. The regional states groups (In Europe, Asia, Africa and Americas) hold a key role to initiate the implementation of those transnational consistencies to encourage more solidarity and social justice. Finally, consumers must fully accept their immense, lucid and responsible, decisional power, which is the true engine of world economy, making it either “short lived and wasteful” or “sustainably social and inclusive”.

Powerful and concrete guidelines emerge, to empower this transition towards a true “ Future of work, decent for all ”:

  • ILO conventions are made to be enforced by all member countries -> WTO and its International Trade Regulations must penalize countries that have not ratified them, making this sort of “social dumping” unacceptable.
  • Establishing a Universal Social Protection system is a necessity for human dignity and social justice in all countries participating to the international trade system. It is also the clear sign of an economy evolving from informal to fair recognition of the social usefulness of services rendered through human work -> WTO and “International Free Trade Agreements” must promote and include such social protection requirements.
  • International Finance mechanisms must clearly serve dignified and sustainable human development. This virtuous involvement from actors of the financial industry is even more essential to ILO norms since their role as shareholders made them influential members of the “quadripartite” world of work. Furthermore, the international tax systems harmonization and the fight against tax evasion mechanisms are key to fair funding of social protection policies -> States (and their regional groups), WTO and IMF have a duty to put an end to practices of “financial voracity” and “tax dumping” which are preventing the global deployment of the values promoted by ILO.
  • “Global Value Chains” remain a privileged area for radically downgrading the decency of the subcontracted work, step after step along the chain. From the top contractor to the end supplier, price pressure and opacity of the ramifications between the stakeholders are powerful factors leading to work dehumanization. Accumulating global profit at the top of the chain and squeezing cost towards the bottom cannot be the “normal” way to structure these global chains -> ILO and WTO to promote the establishment of “cost and profits sharing criteria” allowing each member of the chain to valorise its supply in full consistency with “decent work” requirements.
  • A policy of “Minimum Decent Wages” (including its “social protection”) is the first step towards social justice in the work world. A reasonable range of salaries, respectful of everyone’s role in the company without exaggeration nor humiliation is its top keystone -> ILO, States and WTO must tackle this essential piece of the puzzle : the fair sharing of the richness created by a company teamwork.
  • In the face of constant acceleration of technologies and know-how, training along the whole professional career (especially for young workers accessing to first employment) is the key to useful skills and sustainable employability -> ILO and the States (with their regional groups) need to act together in the definition and implementation of efficient mechanisms for continuous professional training.
  • As an essential contributor to sustainable development, the world of work needs to quickly adjust to the new paradigms, calling for more “social solidarity” as well as “using and recycling” -> ILO / WTO / IMF have a common challenge to push the world economy in this direction, which is, by nature, genuinely oriented towards respecting humanity and the planet.

Far to be one more advocacy paper sent to our “leaders”, this list of actions calls for all of us. These challenges are, equally, opportunities to be seized because (as said by G Rider, President of BIT at the opening of the Centenary) nor the robots nor artificial intelligence will craft tomorrow’s world, but only our decisions and courage to shape it with our own hands. While it is true that the goal is not simply to “adapt” to changes but to “lead” them, then, let us build the future of work that we want and that will leave no one behind !

All of us being responsible consumers, engaged citizens, working Christians united by the desire for the common good, especially in our fraternity as CIO’s, let us pool our resources together, across borders, to devote ourselves to those big projects for everyone on earth enjoying human dignity at work.  And as the voice of Nelson Mandela reminded us during the centenary’s ceremony : ”May our choices reflect our hopes, not our fears”