Articles 24 and 25 of the ILO Constitution provide for a representation process under which an employers’ or workers’ organisation may present a representation against any Member State that “has failed to secure in any respect the effective observance within its jurisdiction of any convention to which it is a party”. 1 Overall, 252 representations have been submitted to date. 2

Who can file a complaint?

An employers’ or workers’ organisation may make a representation. The representation must allege that a Member State has failed to adhere to a convention which it has ratified. 3

Process and outcome

Procedure for the examination of representations:

  1. The Office acknowledges receipt and informs the government concerned;
  2. The matter is brought before the Officers of the Governing Body;
  3. The Officers report to the Governing Body on the admissibility of the representation. To be admissible, the communication must:
    1. be communicated to the ILO in writing;
    2. come from an industrial association of employers or workers;
    3. make specific reference to article 24 of the Constitution;
    4. concern a Member of the ILO;
    5. refer to a Convention to which the Member in question is a party; and
    6. indicate in what respect it is alleged that that Member has failed to secure the effective observance within its jurisdiction of that Convention;
  4. The Governing Body reaches a decision on admissibility without discussing the substance of the matter;
  5. If the representation is admissible, the Governing Body either sets up a tripartite Committee to examine the matter according to rules laid down in the Standing Orders, or (if the matter relates to a convention concerning trade union rights) it may refer it to the Committee on Freedom of Association;
  6. The Committee reports to the Governing Body, describing the steps taken to examine the representation and giving its conclusions and recommendations for decisions to be taken by the Governing Body;
  7. The government concerned is invited to be represented during the Governing Body’s consideration of the matter;
  8. The Governing Body decides whether to publish the representation and any government statement in reply and notifies the association and government concerned.

Representations concerning the Fundamental Conventions on freedom of association and collective bargaining (Conventions Nos. 87 and 98) are usually referred to the Committee on Freedom of Association. 4

In general, follow-up of the recommendations of the ad hoc Committee is the responsibility of the Committee of experts.

The Representation Procedure in action

FAMIT against Greece

“Greece ratified the Labour Inspection Convention, 1947 (No. 81) in 1955. In 1994 it passed a law which decentralized the labour inspectorate and placed it under the responsibility of the autonomous prefectural administrations. The Federation of the Associations of the Public Servants of the Ministry of Labour of Greece (FAMIT) subsequently made a representation to the ILO claiming that the law contravened the principle of Convention No. 81, that labour inspection should be placed under the supervision and control of a central authority. The tripartite Committee set up to examine this representation agreed and urged the Greek government to amend its legislation to comply with the convention. In 1998, the Greek government adopted new laws, bringing the labour inspectorate under a central authority once again”. 5

Representation under convention No. 169

In 1999, the Single Confederation of Workers of Colombia (CUT) made a representation alleging that the government of Colombia had failed to secure the effective observance of Convention No. 169. The representation alleged three specific cases where the government had failed to uphold the Convention: “[1] the promulgation of Decree No. 1320 of July 1998 on prior consultation; [2] the work on the Troncal del Café highway, which cuts through the Cristianía Reservation, without previously consulting the indigenous community involved; and [3] the issuing of a petroleum exploration license to Occidental of Colombia (henceforth ’Occidental’) without conducting the requisite prior consultations with the U’wa indigenous community”.

The Governing Body established a tripartite Committee to investigate the representation and the Committee made findings concerning the three cases raised in the representation: The Committee held that Decree No. 1320 did not provide adequate opportunity for prior consultation and participation of indigenous peoples in “the formulation, application and evaluation of measures and programmes that directly affect them”.

Although work on the Troncal del Café highway began before the Convention came into effect in Colombia, work on the highway continued after the Convention came into effect, and the government had an obligation to consult the affected community from the time the Convention came into effect.

The government violated the convention when it granted environmental licenses to Occidental without first conducting prior consultation with the affected communities. 6

National confederation of Dominican Workers against Dominican Republic

In a communication dated 20 October 2010, the National Confederation of Dominican Workers (CNTD) submitted a representation to the International Labour Office, under article 24 of the ILO Constitution. The representation alleged the non-observance by the Government of the Dominican Republic of the Equality of Treatment (Accident Compensation) Convention, 1925 (No. 19). This convention had been ratified by the Dominican Republic on 5 December 1956 and is currently in force.

The complainant organisation considered that the government of the Dominican Republic was not complying satisfactorily with the Convention, both from a legislative and a practical point of view, and that it should take legal, institutional and administrative measures to guarantee equality of treatment between national and foreign workers in respect of compensation for occupational accidents.

The Committee recommended that the government request technical assistance from the ILO in order to take the necessary action:

  • fully include social partners in the implementation of requested actions;
  • provide detailed information on the measures adopted to give effect to the recommendations in a report to the Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations at its next session, so that the Committee could examine the issues raised in connection with the application of the Convention;
  • make this report publicly available; and
  • close the procedure initiated by the representation of the National Confederation of Dominican Workers (CNTD) alleging non-observance by the Dominican Republic of Convention No. 19.

Representations can only be made in relation to a convention that has been ratified. As with the complaints procedure before the Committee of Freedom of Association, it is not necessary to exhaust all domestic remedies before applying for representation with the ILO. If a case is pending before a national court, this will be taken into consideration by the ad hoc Committee. This procedure is particularly useful for conventions dealing with subjects other than freedom of association. 7

It should be noted that representation procedures may extend over several years without interim outcomes that can be used for advocacy. However, the process is perceived as “less political” and more achievable than, for instance, requesting a Commission of Inquiry. Thus, for example, a Committee was set up in 2014 to examine a representation alleging non-observance by Qatar of the Discrimination Convention.Representation (article 24) - QATAR - C029 - (Lodged: 2013 - Report: 2014), International Trade Union Confederation, Building and Wood Workers’ International,