Former Global Union Leader To Head UN Labour Body

In a final ballot after seven people had been eliminated, Ryder, a Briton, defeated French candidate Gilles de Robien, a government minister under former president Nicolas Sarkozy, by 30 votes to 26 in the ILO’s 56-member Governing Council.

Ryder, 55, will be the first ILO head with a background as a labour union activist and will take up the post in October.

He will replace Chilean Juan Somavia, who has served two 5-year terms at the head of the tripartite body, linking governments, unions and employers, which sets the rules for labour and employment practices around the globe.

The director general has no substantive role in drawing up these rules but can strongly influence the direction the ILO takes, and attends key meetings like those of the G20, the world’s major economic powers.

“There are millions of working people who need this organisation. Our duty is to the poorest and most vulnerable. The fight for social justice must come first,” Ryder told delegates and ILO staff in a speech after the vote.

As general secretary of the Brussels-based International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) from 2006 to 2010, Ryder campaigned strongly against efforts by right-wing governments to reduce unions’ strength.

He also fought for the protection of workers’ rights, which he argued were being eroded by many Western governments and authoritarian regimes, and the raising of living standards at a time when the influence of labour unions was on the wane.

Ryder, 55, had close links with the United States’ AFL-CIO labour organisation at the ITUC, and diplomats and council sources said the United States and China both backed him.

De Robien lost out when votes for a Colombian swung to the Briton in the final ballot. A minister under Sarkozy, he had the

support of new socialist President Francois Hollande.

In his speech, Ryder recognised that his labour union background “may give rise to questions in some quarters,” but promised to represent “all partners in this organisation.”

Those eliminated in the first five rounds of voting were from the Netherlands, Malaysia, Niger, Senegal, Sweden and Benin. Reuters