BWI General Secretary Ambet Yuson on the 109th Session of the International Labour Conference

We meet in these times of post-pandemic healing and global turmoil in what Director-General Guy Ryder described as the “house of social justice”.

I would like to thank Guy for his essential role in holding this organisation together in difficult times. Even before the pandemic, authoritarians were on the rise. Tripartism and standards and the values that come with them could have easily ended up in the rubbish heap of history. 

Without Guy’s unflagging commitment to ILO principles, we would not have an ILO that had suffered some shocks, but where its fundamentals remain intact. 

BWI saw the power of ILO standards, the moral authority of the ILO, and the effect of the ILO supervisory machinery in Qatar.  There is progress in Qatar but the most transformative changes for migrant workers are yet to come. 

In 2018, the Government has committed with the ILO to align its laws and procedures with the fundamental principles and rights at work. Since then, the Government demonstrated willingness and ability to reform, reflect and engage in dialogue.

However, we are now in June, five months before the World Cup 2022, migrant workers still do not have the right to form trade unions; and to bargain collectively. Without those rights, we cannot claim that job is done. Those enabling rights are vital if progress on reforms is to be sustained, and if good and stable industrial relations are to be part of Qatar’s future.  

BWI is proposing a Workers’ Centre run by and for the migrant workers.  We look at the ILO to make history and help them realise their right speak for themselves and leverage their collective power.

At the first International Migration Review Forum, the trade unions were alarmed that so few governments seemed to understand the importance for migrants of being able to exercise those rights. We urge the ILO to seek a more prominent role in the global debate and action so that the protection and respect of trade union rights become central to a coherent, and rights-based migration governance.


Health and safety are a shared concern of governments, employers, and trade unions. Last year, BWI joined with employers to gather 445 Joint Declarations covering 489,000 workplaces and 18 million construction and wood workers - calling for the recognition of health and safety as a fundamental right at work.

Today in the 109th Session of the International Labor Conference, the General Affairs Committee is endorsing Convention 155 and 187 to be included in the Fundamental Principle and Right to Work. This is a win for all of us and a win for all workers.  On June 11, I urge all delegates to vote yes for health and safety as fundamental right.

This recognition by the ILC will be historic. Governments, employers and trade unions must work together to make this happen.  A world of safe and healthy workplaces depends on high standards and good enforcement, but also on trade union rights. 

Stand up. Speak out. Come home safe.