Ladies and Gentlemen,
The International Association of Free Thought, which is committed to civil harmony, cannot but pay tribute to the hundred years of existence of an international structure where trade unions, governments and employers’ organizations meet to set up social progress rules.
The preamble of the ILO constitution asserts:
«Whereas also the failure of any nation to adopt humane conditions of labour is an obstacle in the way of other nations which desire to improve the conditions in their own countries»
The International Association of Free Thought delegates to the Labour Organization Conference want to insist on their commitment to these objectives.
As Marc Blondel, Force Ouvrière general secretary, International Labour Office Administrator, then National Federation of Free thought president and our International Association initiator said: « The international trade-union movement can express itself in the ILO, which was set up in 1919 soon after the 1914 war, under international pressure of workers and fear of the generalization of the October Revolution, as a decision ensuing from the Versailles Treaty. From the very beginning, it has been a three-party structure, governments and employers’ organizations representatives and trade unions representatives. This way of structuring the organization started then from a principle that acknowledged the various interests of the three elements. That is what is called handling the conflicts of interests which are the products of class struggle. That just shows how far the very nature of the ILO, then the IL Office was far from the Catholic Church social Doctrine and their “common good” that emerge into class collaboration. »
So the IL Office has no authority to open an institutional dialogue with religions in order to make them part of the established three-party dialogue.
Independently from political, philosophical or religious references, the working class establishes itself on the basis of their own interests, in the national frame of their own organisations. These trade unions are the only ones authorized to represent their constituents.
In a more general way, in a world where migrations are more and more important, the protection of workers requires that their freedom of conscience and their right to join a trade union should be safeguarded. They cannot be discriminated against because of their religious faith, their atheism or their agnosticism. Immigrants’ unemployment rate is more than twice as high as non-immigrants’ unemployment rate in countries like Austria, Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden. One cannot but establish a connection.
In a context of unemployment and the development of informal work, that is to say of lack of job security, religious, spiritual or philosophical issues should not become a pretext for employment or redundancy. This is particularly true when, as in health or education matter, in Germany or in France, for instance, governments entrust whole areas of public utilities to religious organizations.
To this end, the respect of the ILO standards, like the Convention (Co87) concerning Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to organize must remain common law, be applied and respected. Co87 says: «Workers and employers, without distinction whatsoever, shall have the right to establish and, subject only to the rules of the organization concerned, to join organizations of their own choosing without previous authorization. »
That is the spirit in which we greet all the delegates to this conference and the centenary of the ILO.
Social progress, education, eradication of poverty, emancipation of workers, protection of women and children, development of culture, guarantee of freedom of expression and of conscience are all issues that concern our Association.