Moscow faces double embarrassment at ILO meeting in Geneva
The annual conference here of the International Labor Organization is proving embarrassing to the Soviet Union. First, Lech Walesa, leader of Poland's free trade union, Solidarity, showed up as a member of the Polish delegation. He promptly showed off the independence of his union organization, an independence that troubles Moscow very much -- by holding a press conference.
Second, and even closer to home, the Soviet Union itself has been advised to alter its labor laws.
This recommendation was made by the so-called "committee of experts on the application of conventions." This is an international committee of jurists that investigates complaints that a government is in one way or another violating an ILO convention it has signed.
Mr. Walesa's appearance at the Palais des Nations in prosperous Geneva prompted considerable fuss at the opening of the three-week convention June 3. Government officials, trade unionists, capitalists, and the press crowded around this man with the walrus-style mustache who was helping change history.
Only 10 days earlier, ILO director-general Francis Blanchard had traveled to Warsaw to discuss the inclusion of Solidarity in the Polish delegation. Like all ILO delegations, the Polish group consists of representatives of government, employers, and trade unions.
Mr. Blanchard also reviewed draft labor legislation to be considered next week by the Polish parliament.
"The legislation which they are in the process of polishing up," Mr. Blanchard said in an interview, "is something which represents enormous progress . . . very much in line with Convention 87."
ILO Convention 87 deals with freedom of association -- the right of workers or others to form trade unions or other organizations as they wish.
The Soviet case deals with the same convention. The International Confederation of Free Trade Unions and the World Conference of Labor in its complaint to the ILO held that the Soviet labor law and Constitution violated this convention, which the USSR ratified in 1956. The committee of experts in essence agreed with the complaints.