International Labour Organization (ILO)

Recently I attended a conference on the International Labour Organization (ILO) and its history and expansion into the Pacific Rim. There were many interesting issues discussed at the conference by the various participants.

However, I felt wanting at the end of the three day event. I left feeling that the crux of the matter was never raised and contemplated. That is, can the ILO reinvent itself at this moment of global economic crisis to do politics beyond building accommodating structures for labour to ease into capital’s demands and priorities in an outdate corporative move?

In other words, given the current global political economy and the global crisis, there is a chance for the ILO to do its work differently and to positively push back on neoliberalism by acknowledging that it ought to no longer function neoliberally if it hopes to make a significant difference to workers’ lives across the globe.

This wasn’t at all discussed nor was there a discussion of the institutional changes afoot to revamp the organization into 21st century relevant and representative of the global working class’ issues and aspirations. Without such a discussion one is left to rely on history. And, the history of the ILO – especially in times of capitalist crisis – has been to support existing exploitative forces and disciplining workers through its various structures and programmes. Is the ILO, then, a case of “plus ca change, plus”…

February 14, 2011 by Luis LM Aguiar