The Preamble to the Constitution of ILO contains the basic purposes for the attainment of which ILO has been created.
The Preamble is stated as “Whereas universal and lasting peace can be established only if it is based upon social justice; and whereas conditions of labour exist involving such injustice, hardship, and privation to large number of people as to produce unrest so great that the peace and harmony of the world are imperiled; and an improvement of those conditions is urgently required: as, e.g., by the regulation of hours of work, including the establishment of a maximum working day and week, the regulation of the labour supply, the prevention of unemployment, the provision of an adequate living wage, the protection of the worker against sickness, disease, and injury arising out of his employment, the protection of children, young persons and women, provision for old age and injury, protection of the interests of workers when employed in countries other than their own, recognition of the principle of equal remuneration for work of equal value, recognition of the principle of freedom of association, the organisation of vocational and technical education, and other measures.
Whereas also the failure of any nation to adopt humane conditions of labour is an obstacle in the way of other nations which desire to improve the conditions in their own countries: the High Contracting Parties, moved by sentiments of justice and humanity as well as by the desire to secure the permanent peace of the world, and with a view to attaining objectives set forth in this Preamble, agree to the Constitution of the International Labour Organisation.”
The constitution of the ILO provides simple rules of procedures regarding admission of a State to the membership of the ILO. It provides that all those States, who were members of the ILO on 1st November, 1945, and any original member of the UN can become member of the ILO, by accepting the obligations of its constitution. Other States can also become members of the ILO by a vote concurred by 2/3 of the delegates attending the session including 2/3 of the government delegates present and voting.
In 1945, the constitution of the ILO was amended and the ILO entered into a relationship with the United Nations. The new rules say that:
- While membership of the UN does not mean membership of the ILO, any original member of the UN and any State subsequently admitted to membership of the UN may become a member of the ILO by communicating to the Director General, its formal acceptance of the obligations of the ILO;
- If a State is not a member of the UN, the ILO confers on the ILC (Parliamentary wing of the ILO) the right to admit that State to membership, which it had assumed de facto during the period of the relationship of the ILO with the League.
There were 45 States who were members of the ILO in 1919. By 1973 the ILO’s membership had risen to 119. The Constitution of the ILO contains the specific right of the member state to withdraw by giving notice to the Director General of the ILO. Such notice will take 2 years after the date of its receipt by the Director General, subject to the member having at that time fulfilled all its financial obligations. Since the Second World War, five members have given notice of withdrawal but in three cases the members have returned to the ILO.
The withdrawal of a member has been regarded by the ILO “as a serious matter, much more serious than the simple subtraction of one numerical unit. For the ILO is not merely the mathematical total of its members but a living association of these States, organised for a common purpose – the attainment of balanced economic and social progress in an expanding world economy”.