From the TUC

Former global trade union leader and current Everton fan could lead key UN body

22 Feb 2012, By

Former ITUC General Secretary Guy Rider

Former ITUC General Secretary, and ILO Secretary General Candidate, Guy Rider

Guy Ryder the former head of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) is in the running to be the next Director General of the International Labour Organisation (ILO)  the part of the United Nations that deals with issues relating to the world of work.

As the Trades Union Congress representative on the ILO governing body, and someone holding one of the 56 votes that will decide the next DG, I’m giving my full support to Guy, notwithstanding his dodgy sporting allegiances.

The ILO is an important organisation for working people around the world, set up in the aftermath of the First World War to work for social justice by creating a level playing field of labour standards. It was seen as fundamental to building a fair and just peace, sadly as the outbreak of the Second World War showed this vision didn’t quite work out in practice. However in the years since WWII it has continued to build a base of globally agreed rights and backed them up with technical and policy support at a national level.

Under its current director general, Juan Somavia, the ILO has taken major strides in highlighting the key role of fundamental labour rights, in establishing the Decent Work Agenda and in putting forward the case for employment to be at the heart of polices for global economic recovery through the global jobs pact and securing a seat at the G20 table.

However the ILO is now 93 years old and needs a major shake-up. The task of ensuring that the ILO is fit for the purpose is a complex one, not least because there are many who would love to see it fail or at the very least fade into obscurity.

Guy has the ideal set of skills and ideas to make sure that this doesn’t happen. Guy is currently the ILO Executive Director responsible for standards and before this he was the General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) whose creation he successfully oversaw with the merger of the ICFTU and WCL. In both roles his calm and balanced approach coupled to an underlying unshakable belief in the need for people to work together to deliver practical results for workers have shone through.

Guy has already laid out his vision for the future direction of the ILO, including:

  • Putting Standards back at the centre of its mandate, with a  clear recognition that effective and implementable  conventions and recommendations must form the basis of the work of the ILO in helping to reshape the global economy
  • Reform of the internal management and structures of the ILO to ensure that its dedicated staff are able to work in an effective, and joined up way to deliver real results at ground level. Coupled with a more outward looking approach so people can access the knowledge and resources of the organisation without have to negotiate a sometimes Orwellian style bureaucracy.
  • Reasserting the ILO’s confidence in the core value of tripartism – bringing together worker, employer and government representatives on an equal basis to champion the needs of the real economy in the face of the crisis caused by the excess of financiers and bankers who are as removed from the needs of most business and enterprises as they are from workers.

Given the current state of the world, increasing levels of inequality, growing unemployment and the rush to austerity by many governments that could condemn a generation, we need the ILO more than ever. However to be an effective force that can take forward the fight for a better, fairer world it needs the kind of leadership that Guy is best placed to provide.