Tribute to Robert Falaize (1925-2022)
Category : Message69
Robert Falaize’s coffin was bedecked with the tricolour of France at his funeral ceremony in the church of Notre Dame in Geneva on 8 March 2022. Robert had begun his life of activism at an early age: as mentioned in his ILO job application, at just 17 he became a member in 1942 of the civil and military organization known as the Resistance. Robert was born in Caen in 1925 and his city experienced weeks of fierce fighting and destruction after the June ’44 Normandy landings. He then volunteered for the Free French Forces and was a trainee pilot from 1944 to 1946.
As a teenager, Robert obtained a commercial education diploma. After his military service, he worked for various French local papers as a reporter and subeditor, as well as on the technical side and in sales, and held a press card. In 1949 he was accepted by the ILO for a job as a French-language shorthand typist, category III. In parallel, between 1953 and 1957 he resumed his studies in political science, obtaining a doctorate in Lausanne.
An article he wrote for a French newspaper in 1955 on working conditions in the textile industry brought him to the attention of his superiors. He became secretary/registrar of the ILO Administrative Tribunal. From 1960 onwards, he carried out several missions in Latin America, in particular to the Autonomous Trade Union School in Lima, then to Brazil, Argentina and Mexico, becoming a point of reference in the area of workers’ education through the publication of manuals and bulletins. In 1969 he was assigned to the Mexico Office, then returned to Geneva before being seconded in 1974 to the Paris Office as Deputy Director. He was appointed Director of the Mexico Office in 1979 and awarded the Medal of the Order of the Aztec Eagle of Mexico. In 1982 he retired.
I first met Robert when I joined the Bureau of the Former Officials Section. I was 60 and he was 85. Still a very active member of the ILO’s retiree structure, he had been a founding member of the Section in 1982, feeling the need with a few Union colleagues to set up a body where retired staff could voice their concerns as well as allowing a valuable link to be maintained with ILO employees, the Staff Union and the administration. Robert was, at the time I knew him, still a member of the Editorial Board of Union, the Staff Union magazine, and continued for several years until his strength began to fail him. In 1987 he was the first editor of the Letter to Former Officials, which was succeeded by Message. He was available in 2012 to help revamp the ILO Arts Circle whose president had just passed away. When he left the Bureau of the Former Officials Section in 2016, he was made an honorary member. His wife Carmen, a member of the Arts Circle, was always very much alongside him and a great support.
Robert leaves us at the age of 97 after a long and fulfilling life of service to others and many years of struggle with illness and the inexorable ageing process. His fight for life was the equal of all his engagement over the best part of a century. Robert has entered into our consciousness and remains the exemplar of a militant for us all to follow.
ILO Former Officials Section