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International Labor Organization/Bureau International Du Travail


The International Labor Organization/Bureau International du Travail (ILO/BIT) was established in 1919 at the Paris Peace Conference as an international organization working in cooperation with the League of Nations.  The goal of the ILO/BIT was stated in the Covenant of the League of Nations (Article 23a) which called for the maintenance of “fair and humane conditions of labor for men, women, and children.”  The membership of the ILO/BIT consisted of all of the member states of the League of Nations, plus the United States (which accepted membership in the organization on August 20, 1934).  In terms of administrative organization, the ILO/BIT included a general Conference (which met a least one time every year between 1919 and 1939) and the International Labor Office, which served as the secretariat of the organization under the control of the Governing Body.  Under Article XIII of the Versailles Treaty, the ILO/BIT differed significantly from the League in terms of representation and decision-making.  Whereas only governments held seats in the League of Nations Assembly and Council, the Conferences and Governing Body of the ILO/BIT included representatives of governments, employers, and workers.  Government officials served as the spokesmen for the national delegations (representing consumer interest and administrative responsibility, holding 50 percent of the delegation votes), employers held 25 percent, and labor controlled the remaining 25 percent of the votes for each national delegation.  This voting arrangement provided each group with an important voice in deliberations and decisions.  In Conferences, each national delegation consisted of four members (two government officials, one employer, and one worker).  The Governing Body of the International Labor Office numbered 24 members (twelve government, six employer, and six worker representatives) until June 4, 1934; the body was then increased to 32 members (sixteen government, eight employer, and eight worker delegates).  The decision-making arrangements in the ILO/BIT were unique in that voting was based on individual representatives rather than national delegations.  Decisions in the Conferences and the Governing Body were reached by either a simple or a two-thirds majority.

The ILO/BIT formulated labor policies at their annual Conferences.  The delegates at the Conference adopted draft conventions, for submission for ratification to their government, and recommendations.  The decisions of the Conferences were designed to establish and raise international social standards.  Draft conventions entered into force, between the member states which ratified the instruments, one year after the deposit of the ratifications with the ILO/BIT.  Recommendations dealt with peripheral issues which draft conventions addressed or with subjects which had not yet been considered by the delegates in a draft convention format. 

The ILO/BIT began operations in London in 1919 and moved to Geneva in July 1920.  The organization maintained operations in Geneva until the outbreak of World War II.  The administration transferred its activities to Montreal during the war and returned to Geneva in 1946.  Upon the dissolution of the League of Nations in April 1946, the ILO/BIT signed an agreement with the United Nations, establishing a cooperative relationship with that international organization. 

In this section, ILO/BIT information is divided into the following categories: International Labor Conference sessions; dates of each session; location of the session; the Conventions and Recommendations adopted at each session; and the date of entry into force of ratified Conventions.  In addition, lists of ILO/BIT directors and the presidents of the International Labor Conferences from 1919 to 1935 are included.




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League of Nations Archives, Palais des Nations, CH-1211, Geneva 10, Switzerland
Center for the Study of Global Change, 201 N. Indiana Avenue,  Bloomington, Indiana, 47408-4001,  USA
Last updated:  October, 2002 -  Send Comments to:
Blandine Blukacz-Louisfert, Chief, UNOG Registry, Records and Archives Unit, United Nations