Speech of Worker Delegate,
delivered to the 103rd Session of the International Labour Conference on Jun 5th 2014
On behalf of Polish Workers’ Delegation I congratulate you and the vice-presidents on your election to such important and responsible functions.
The International Labour Organisation exists and acts nearly one century. Its achievements in the area of creation as well as implementation of labour standards are unquestionable.
Despite this, the world is struggling continuously with serious problems: poverty, unemployment, child labour, discrimination at work and injustice. The present world looks for reasons of such state in wrong economic, financial or legislative decisions. One doesn’t seek why these wrong decisions were taken. The explanation of these reasons is, of course, neither simple nor easy, yet, at the same time, one can point out the main source of them.
The international community has recognized that labour is not a commodity, but this principle is not applied in the public space in practice. The Philadelphia Declaration statement wasn’t something new. For a long time it is accepted that a human being is a unique creature able to work and that labour is necessary for everybody to survive.
These two evident facts show that labour is an inseparable element of a human being. It means also that dignity of labour derives directly from human dignity and gives the inherent right to everybody to decide or to actively participate in decisions on conditions of their work as well as of distribution of its fruits. Nobody has the right to deprive this entitlement from a working man or woman, or to put a curb on it.
The right to create workers organizations called trade unions is also deeply rooted in these fundamental rights.
International conventions on freedom of association and, national legislations do not create such rights, they enact to protect them and provide adequate conditions for their observance. It is also evident that workers have the right to refuse to work in justified cases that arise directly from the inherent right of everybody to decide on conditions of their work. Thus the right to strike does not come either from adopted international conventions or other rules adopted by national authorities.
Since in some of the recent sessions of the ILC distinguished employers questioned workers’ right to strike, especially pointing out the lack of its roots in the Convention on Freedom of Association nr 87, one has to strongly underline that the right to strike is not based on any established law and the inherent workers’ right to have their work at their disposal is a natural source of the right to strike.
Due to development of civilisation, technology and changes in patterns of work, workers can agree to transmit a part of their inherent rights to others but only through observance of democratic procedures.
Lack of local or national regulations on strikes should never be interpreted as a ban on strikes. It is quite the opposite, the right to strike exists without any limitations. Analogically, the requirements for minimal wage in a specific area is not a demand for an extraordinary privilege. It is rather a fulfilment of the fundamental worker right to decide on the distribution of wealth of his or her work.
The lack of knowledge and a poor awareness in the area of fundamental, inherent workers rights result in very poor protection of the right to organise (more than half of the world working population is deprived of such protection), enormous exploitation of children ( some 170 million of them) , widely spread various forms of discrimination at work , new forms of slavery at work. Additionally, a social dialog very often seems to be an empty slogan or is distorted.
We, members of the ILO, have to resist pressures of pure economic arguments and we shouldn’t refer only to the economic principles. We have to base our activity on the inherent, fundamental workers’ rights. Only in this way one can correctly recognize and apply this fundamental principle that labour is not a commodity and consequently arrive at the right and adequate economic decisions.
Thank you for your kind attention.