International Labour Organization (ILO) Technical Forum 

Samantha Peace, IALI Vice President, recently attended a first of its kind International Labour Organization (ILO) Technical Forum for senior officials from labour inspectorates. Over 100 countries, including many outside the European Union (EU), were represented at the event in Valencia, Spain.
Program for the ILO Technical Forum

The ILO used the event to launch the 2022 revised version of the Guidelines on general principles of labour inspection. In December 2021, 13-15 Samantha observed the ILO Technical meeting that took place to revise these.

The sessions followed the structure of the revised Guidelines.

Samantha has reflected on the event:

Many inspectorates have taken on even broader responsibilities and have new laws and sanctions regarding psychosocial risk and harassment in the workplace, contracts and the informal economy.

There was widespread agreement that labour inspectorates have not lost their “raison d’etre”, but to progress must be prepared to transform and adapt. This was matched with equally widespread concern about capacity, investment, de-skilling and de-regulation. In the opening contributors commented that few public service professions involve such a strong personal vocation.

The sessions illustrated that many inspectorates are changing structures and introducing new roles (e.g. new “sub inspectors” in Spain, a new 24/7 response team in Peru, and 3 classifications of inspector in the UAE) in the face of challenges in the capacity they have and growing responsibilities. Contributors suggested inspectorates should develop a much more detailed understanding of the labour markets they work in.

There was a significant focus on migrant workers, gender equality, the treatment of indigenous people (e.g. USA) and the informal work economy with many inspectorates using regularisation of employment contracts as a performance measure, and some examples of innovative activity (e.g. USA working with Mexico, Honduras and El Salvador to get “life saving” worker rights information to people under consular partnership programmes).

In discussing best use of labour inspection resources all agreed it was as much about effectiveness as efficiency (Latvia have compliance based KPIs to complement numbers of inspections etc). Some have introduced “distance inspections” and “contactless decision making” for issues that can be tackled in writing e.g. wages. Most acknowledged the important of achieving good initial training but also CPD (in Brazil inspectors do a minimum of 40 hours CPD, many up to 100, each year).

The EU average for number of inspections per inspector a month is 8-10.

Many inspectorates had made real advances in data handling. Latvia have “Zintis” a “virtual consultation” machine learning bot (with an image of a human) that operates 24/7 to help workers to understand their rights, simple queries and where to go for help. Several inspectorates have successful arrangements (some very recent) to share tax and other Government data to assist effective targeting. Many are exploiting new technologies to record inspection activity.

The Forum was closed by the President of the Government of the Region of Valencia, who jointly organised the event with ILO.