At the commencement of the 2012 International Labour Conference (ILC), the spokespersons of the Employers’ Group and the Workers’ Group met to finalize a “short list” of 25 cases drawn from the Annual Report of the ILO Committee of Experts which would be discussed by the tripartite constituents the following week in the Conference Committee on the Application of Standards (CAS). Without warning, the Employers’ Group refused to agree to a negotiated final short list that included any case where the Committee of Experts’ Report contained observations regarding the right to strike. The Employers’ Group (EG) also sought a “disclaimer” on the Committee of Experts’ General Survey. The purpose of this disclaimer was two–fold – to diminish the persuasive authority of the Committee of Experts’ observations outside of the ILO and to attempt to establish a (non-existent) hierarchy of the political, tripartite body - the CAS - over the independent Committee of Experts.
The Employers’ Group makes three central claims. First, the mandate of the Committee of Experts is limited to commenting on the application of conventions, not to “interpret” them. They also argue that the General Survey and the Annual Report of the Committee of Experts are not agreed or authoritative texts of the ILO tripartite constituents. Specifically, they argue that the Committee of Experts does not supervise labour standards but rather the ILO tripartite constituents and thus the tripartite constituents ultimately decide upon the meaning of the ILO conventions. Finally, they argue that given the absence of any reference to a right to strike in the actual text of ILO Convention 87, the internationally accepted rules of interpretation require Convention 87 to be interpreted without a right to strike. As such, the right to strike is not an issue upon which the Committee of Experts should express an opinion.