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The organization itself is divided into two parts: (i) The International Labor Conference; (2) The International Labor Office controlled by a Governing Body. (Article 2.)
1. International Labor Conference
This Conference will meet at least annually and will consist of delegates nominated by each of the High Contracting Parties, two of whom will be directly appointed by the Governments, and the other two will be chosen in agreement with the industrial organizations representative of their employers and workpeople respectively. (Article 3.)
Each delegate will vote individually (Article 4). It was strongly felt by the Commission that if the Conference was really to be representative of all those concerned with industry and to command their confidence, the employers and workpeople must be allowed to express their views with complete frankness and freedom, and that a departure from the traditional procedure of voting by national units was therefore necessary. It was accordingly thought that the employers' and workpeople's delegates should be entitled to speak and vote independently of their Governments. ,
Some difference of opinion made itself felt on the Commission as to the relative numbers of the delegates representing the Governments, the employers and the workpeople respectively. The French, American, Italian and Cuban Delegations contended that each of these three parties should have equal voting power. They maintained that the working classes would never be satisfied with a representation which left the Government and the employers combined in a majority of three to their one. In other words, the proposal amounted to giving the States a veto on the proceedings of the Conference which would create so much distrust of it among the workers that its influence would be seriously prejudiced from the start. This view was contested by the British, Belgian and other Delegations, who pointed out that as the Conference was not simply an assembly for the purpose of passing resolutions, but would draw up draft conventions which the States would have to present to their legislative authorities, it was essential that the Governments should have at least an equal voice. Otherwise, it might often happen that conventions adopted by a two-thirds majority of the Conference would be rejected by the legislatures of the various States, which would have the effect of rendering the proceedings of the Conference nugatory and would quickly destroy its influence and prestige. The adoption of a proposal to which the majority of the Governments were opposed would not lead to any practical result, as the legislative authorities of the Governments whose delegates were in the minority would in all probability refuse to accept it. Moreover, it was likely, especially in the future, that the Government delegates would vote more often with the workers than against them. If this were so, it was obviously to the advantage of the latter that the Governments should have two votes instead of one, as it would render it easier for them to obtain a two-thirds majority, which under the Franco-American proposal would be practically impossible, if the employers voted in a body against them.
The Commission finally decided by a narrow majority to maintain the proposal that each Government should have two delegates.
The Italian Delegation, which united with the French Delegation in urging the importance of securing representation for agricultural interests, were to some extent reconciled to the above decision by the consideration that, as the Governments would have two delegates, it would be easier to secure such representation. It should also be observed that, as different technical advisers may be appointed for each subject of discussion, agricultural advisers may be selected, when necessary.
2. International Labor Office (Articles 6 to 13)
This Office will be established at the seat of the League of Nations, as part of its administrative organization. It will be controlled by a Governing Body of twenty-four members, the composition of which is provided for in the Protocol to Article 7. Like the Conference, the Governing Body will consist of representatives of the Governments, employers and workpeople. It will include twelve representatives of the Governments, eight of whom will be nominated by the States of chief industrial importance, and the remaining twleve will consist of six members nominated by the employers' delegates to the Conference, and six nominated by the workers' delegates. The objects and functions of the Office are sufficiently explained in the articles referred to.
This portion of the Convention contains one article of vital importance, namely, Article 19, which treats of the obligations of the States concerned in regard to the adoption and ratification of draft conventions agreed upon by the International Conference.
The original draft proposed that any draft convention adopted by the Conference by a two-thirds majority must be ratified by every State participating, unless within one year the national legislature should have expressed its disapproval of the draft convention. This implied an obligation on every State to submit any draft convention approved by the Conference to its national legislature within one year, whether its own Government representatives had voted in favor of its adoption or not. This provision was inspired by the belief that, although the time had not yet come when anything in the nature of an international legislature, whose decisions should be binding on the different States was possible, yet it was essential for the progress of international labor legislation to require the Governments to give their national legislatures the opportunity of expressing their opinion on the measures favored by a two-thirds majority of the Labor Conference.
The French and Italian Delegations, on the other hand, desired that States should be under an obligation to ratify conventions so adopted, whether their legislative authorities approved them or not, subject to a right of appeal to the Executive Council of the League of Nations. The Council might invite the Conference to reconsider its decision, and in the event of its being reaffirmed there would be no further right of appeal.
Other Delegations, though not unsympathetic to the hope expressed in the first resolution printed at the end of the draft convention, that in course of time the Labor Conference might, through the growth of the spirit of internationality, acquire the powers of a truly legislative international assembly, felt that the time for such a development was not yet ripe. If an attempt were made at this stage to deprive States of a large measure of their sovereignty in regard to labor legislation, the result would be that a considerable number of States would either refuse to accept the present convention altogether, or, if they accepted it, would subsequently denounce it, and might even prefer to resign their membership of the League of Nations rather than jeopardize their national economic position by being obliged to carry out the decisions of the International Labor Conference. The majority of the Commission therefore decided in favor of making ratification of a convention subject to the approval of the national legislatures or other competent authorities.
The American Delegation, however, found themselves unable to accept the obligations implied in the British draft on account of the limitations imposed on the central executive and legislative powers by the constitution of certain federal States, and notably of the United States themselves. They pointed out that the Federal Government could not accept the obligation to ratify conventions dealing with matters within the competence of the forty-eight States of the Union, with which the power of Labor legislation for the most part rested. Further, the Federal Government could not guarantee that the constituent States, even if they passed the necessary legislation to give effect to a convention, would put it into effective operation, nor could it provide against the possibility of such legislation being declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Judicial Authorities. The Government could not therefore engage to do something which was not within their power to perform, and the non-performance of which would render them liable to complaint.
The Commission felt that they were here faced by a serious dilemma, which threatened to make the establishment of any real system of international labor legislation impossible. On the one hand, its range and effectiveness would be almost fatally limited if a country of such industrial importance as the United States did not participate. On the other hand, if the scheme were so weakened as to impose no obligation on States to give effect to, or even to bring before their legislative authorities, the decisions of the Labor Conference, it was clear that its work would tend to be confined to the mere passage of resolutions instead of resulting in the promotion of social reforms with the sanction of law behind them.
The Commission spent a considerable amount of time in attempting to devise a way out of this dilemma, and is glad to be able to record that it ultimately succeeded in doing so. Article 19 as now drafted represents a solution found by a Sub-Commission consisting of representatives of the American, British and Belgian Delegations specially appointed to consider the question. It provides that the decisions of the Labor Conference may take the form either of recommendations or of draft conventions. .Either must be deposited with the Secretary-General of the League of Nations and each State undertakes to bring it within one year before its competent authorities for the enactment of legislation or other action. If no legislation or other action to make a recommendation effective follows, or if a draft convention fails to obtain the consent of the competent authorities concerned, no further obligation will rest on the State in question. In the case of a federal State, however, whose power to enter into conventions on labor matters is subject to limitations, its Government may treat a draft convention to which such limitations apply as a recommendation only.
The Commission felt that there might in any event be instances in which the form of a recommendation affirming a principle would be more suitable than that of a draft convention, which must necessarily provide for the detailed application of principles in a form which would be generally applicable by every State concerned. Subjects will probably come before the Conference which, owing to their complexity and the wide differences in the circumstances of different countries, will be incapable of being reduced to any universal and uniform mode of application. In such cases a convention might prove impossible, but a recommendation of principles in more or less detail which left the individual States freedom to apply them in the manner best suited to their conditions would undoubtedly have considerable value.
The exception in the case of federal States is of greater importance. It places the United States and States which are in a similar position under a less degree of obligation than other States in regard to draft conventions. But it will be observed that the exception extends only to those Federal States which are subject to limitations in respect of their treaty-making powers on labor matters, and further that it only extends in so far as those limitations apply in any particular case. It will not apply in the case of a convention to which the limitations do not apply, or after any such limitations as may at present exist have been removed. Though reluctant to contemplate an arrangement under which all States would not be under identical obligations, the Commission felt that it was impossible not to recognize the constitutional difficulties which undoubtedly existed in the case of