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How the International Labour Office came to Geneva ? / Pierre Sayour

Category : Message68

“How the International Labour Office came to Geneva ?” first appeared in issue 48, Oct. 2019, of Passé Simple, a monthly journal of Swiss history and archaeology, under the title “Le Bureau international du Travail ancre la vocation internationale de Genève” : 

http://www.passesimple.ch/anciens_num.php

We publish it by kind permission of the journal.

In 2019, the International Labour Office (ILO) celebrated its 100th anniversary. The organization has been a feature of the Geneva landscape since 1920. After the First World War, the population of the canton was no more than 200,000. Why is the ILO based in Geneva and not in a major capital city like Paris, London or Brussels? The decision was a highly significant one because it forced the League of Nations, precursor of the United Nations, to take up residence in Geneva too.

The Treaty of Versailles – 1919

In 1919, following the First World War, the Allies and the defeated powers came together at the Paris Conference to draw up peace treaties. The discussions led to the signing of the Treaty of Versailles on 28 June 1919. At this conference, the Commission on International Labour Legislation drafted Part XIII of the Treaty, establishing the International Labour Organization. The commission comprised delegates from several countries. Particularly active and influential were those from France, the United Kingdom and the United States, all of them accompanied by representatives of workers’ and employers’ organizations. The Treaty of Versailles brought the Organization into being, with the International Labour Office as its secretariat and the International Labour Conference as its supreme body. The Treaty specifies that “the International Labour Office shall be established at the seat of the League of Nations as part of the organisation of the League” and that it “shall be under the control of a Governing Body”. The document also stipulates that the Organization will be tripartite, with representatives of governments and trade union and employers’ organizations included in its governance structures, and that “the first meeting of the Conference shall take place in October, 1919”.

Since the end of the nineteenth century, many institutions and individuals had focused on working conditions (working hours, factory safety, conditions of miners, seafarers, women, children, etc.). After the Great War, with its 18.5 million victims, and the Russian Revolution of 1917, discussions among the victorious powers could no longer ignore social issues. They knew there can be no lasting peace without social justice.

Albert Thomas

The first International Labour Conference was held in Washington in November 1919. In January 1920, the Governing Body elected Albert Thomas to be its Director. Thomas was French, a Socialist MP and former Minister of Munitions during the Great War. With his forceful personality, he breathed life into the new organization. The small team that moved into a private residence in London already included two future directors of the Office, Harold Butler (1883–1951) and Edward Phelan (1888–1967). They also played a leading role during this First Session of the Conference and had both been members of the United Kingdom delegation to the Paris Peace Conference. During this period, ILO officials had to move around in order to service meetings, whether in Washington, Paris or London.

Albert Thomas wished to put an end to this constant travelling by the Office. In the spring of 1920, according to his future chief of staff Marius Viple (1891–1949), “he had decided to make a stand to get it finally established in Geneva, cost what it might”. Albert Thomas gave his own analysis of the situation:

“It will not be easy, for the Secretary-General of the League of Nations and his political collaborators are against Geneva. So is the League Executive Council; and the Allied Supreme Council is in charge of the entire movement. I have the Peace Treaty on my side, because it is stated there (article 7) that the headquarters of the League of Nations shall be at Geneva, but it also provides that the League Council may at any time decide to set it up elsewhere. President Wilson is no longer there to defend the city of his choice. And it is now clear that the United States will not take part in the League, although they did so much to further its establishment. It is now the definite desire of the Governments that Brussels should be the headquarters instead of Geneva, because Brussels is nearer to London and Paris, and the British and French Cabinets have every intention to seize this opportunity to take charge of the international organizations now coming into being. This is what I am determined to avoid at all costs. The time has come for me to denounce all these intrigues publicly.”

The Treaty of Versailles stipulated that the ILO should be based in the same place as the League of Nations. Albert Thomas proposed to the League that the ILO’s headquarters be moved from London to Geneva, but Sir Eric Drummond, the League’s first Secretary General, opposed this option. Albert Thomas then forcefully defended his choice before the Governing Body: “It may well be asked whether this change of headquarters is likely to antagonize a number of powers which had interpreted the choice of Geneva as evidence of complete impartiality. We quite firmly state that we cannot sacrifice the future of the ILO or indeed its life to the hesitations and schemes of the League Secretariat and the Executive Council.”

In March 1920 at its Third Session, in London, the Governing Body approved a budget of £41,500 for the transfer of the Office to Geneva, and on 16 May 1920, the Swiss Confederation voted in favour of accession to the League of Nations. Nevertheless, the League and its Secretary General still preferred a different city for its headquarters, namely Brussels. The Peace Treaty stipulated that the first assembly of the League was to be convened by the President of the United States, Woodrow Wilson. On 16 July 1920, he sent Drummond a telegram: “At the request of the Council of the League of Nations that I summon a meeting of the Assembly of the League of Nations, I have the honor, in accordance with the provisions of Article 5 of the Covenant of the League of Nations, to summon the Assembly of the League to convene in the city of Geneva, the seat of the League, on the 15th day of November, 1920, at 11 o’clock.” Thus Geneva’s leading role as a city destined to host numerous international organizations and agencies asserted itself. Albert Thomas gave impetus to the process and in this way, the ILO also affirmed its independence in its relations with the League of Nations.

It is also true that both the creation in 1863 of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Geneva and its substantial development during the First World War paved the way.

So it was that in July 1920, the Office moved to the La Châtelaine building in Geneva, today occupied by the ICRC and at that time home to the Thudicum boarding school, named after the family that founded it. When this building became too small, a new one was constructed in 1926 on the shores of Lake Geneva. During the Second World War, under the direction of John Winant, part of the staff had to leave Geneva in May 1940 for security reasons, moving to premises at McGill University in Montreal, Canada. Under the terms of the Constitution, the Office could not legally leave Geneva and had to remain in the same city as the League of Nations. During the war it therefore adopted the name of ILO Working Centre while maintaining its relations with numerous countries. Edward Phelan became the fourth Director General of the Office in 1941.

By the 1960s, the Office comprised more than 2,000 staff, meaning the building on Rue de Lausanne was now quite cramped. The only option was to rent new premises, in Grand-Saconnex. In 1969, the Office began construction of the building it has occupied since 1973. Thirteen storeys high and 200 metres in length, it is in the shape of a diverging, concave lens. Designed by E. Beaudoin (France), P.L. Nervi (Italy) and A. Camenzind (Switzerland), the architecture remains highly original even today, its modernity reaffirmed by the recent renovations, while the location affords staff members a magnificent view of Geneva and its surroundings.

Sources

“The strange and wonderful early years of the ILO” by Marius Viple, in Message, No. 65, 2019.

“Le Bureau international du Travail à Genève a cinquante ans”, by Henri Villy, in Union, 1970.

“How the ILO led the League to Geneva” by Yvan Elsmark, in Lettre aux anciens fonctionnaires (ILO Staff Union Former Officials Section), No. 26 (Dec. 1999).

Minutes of the Third Session of the ILO Governing Body (March 1920).


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Covid-19 – Update from the Staff Union – 8 July 2020

Category : News

At headquarters, this week of July sees the start of phase 3 of the return to office and the building is finally coming back to life. After some discordance last week, the modalities of this phase 3 have been the subject of certain clarifications by the administration, at the request of the Staff Union. According to the latter, the key words for a successful phased return are: clarity, transparency and fairness. If, at your level, these three criteria are not being met, then take action: ask questions, ask to see the updated lists of who is supposed to return, and according to which criteria, as it seems that a communication deficit persists. And, most importantly, if you discover on the day you return to the ILO that the person with whom you are sharing an office is also present (which should not be the case as 2 or more people sharing an office is subject to a mandatory weekly rotation), then exercise your right of withdrawal.

An uncertain future for the Turin centre that requires our solidarity

You may not know it yet: the training centre in Turin is in turmoil. Its income is based mainly on training and a contribution from the Italian Government. Today the income is drying up and the Centre is looking for solutions to survive.

The Centre has therefore had to start reinventing itself by offering new products and services adapted to the situation and by looking for alternative sources of funding. A better employability of the Centre could be envisaged by the ILO itself, and we know that the administration is working on it. Nevertheless, a new business model must be accompanied by strong and reliable social dialogue to cope with the difficult situation. The staff must be involved in this new strategy.

This is why the ILO Staff Union joins the Staff Union of the Turin Centre under the banner “One ILO” to accompany and support them in all future dealings with their administration, and calls on our ILO administration to do its utmost to save the Centre and all its staff, who have gone through many hardships during this period.

UNDT decision

The decision of the United Nations Dispute Tribunal (UNDT) concerning the complaint of our UN colleagues on the Geneva post adjustment was made public on 30 June 2020. The complaint was dismissed (see the judgment here).

This is bad news as it now firmly puts the future of the UN common system at risk and has repercussions on the entire UN salary system worldwide. The Noblemaire and Flemming principles are in serious danger. Your Union must analyse this judgement in detail, and rapidly contact all the associations and unions and staff federations of the common system to discuss and decide on the next strategy. But it is clear that the future will not be bright, and strong struggles are to be expected.

The Staff Union also expects the administration to provide information and/or communicate its position on this matter as soon as possible.


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Communication from the Bureau of the ILO former officials of June 15, 2020

Category : News

Dear fellow members of the Section of Former ILO Officials,

Several months of the coronavirus pandemic have greatly changed the lifestyle of the majority of us. If the virus is in decline in many countries it is unfortunately not yet the case everywhere and the risk of a resurgence of the disease exists despite the efforts that we are all making in respecting the instructions of our governments.

As you may be aware, ILO officials in all offices around the world are mainly teleworking from home and access to ILO offices is very limited; this is certainly the case in Geneva. The Director General’s Notice IGDS No. 567 of 28 May 2020 provides for a “gradual, progressive and staggered” return to the offices.

Executive members of the Bureau of the Section of Former Officials have not been able to physically access their ILO office since mid-March. However, we can still access emails in our email box (anciens@ilo.org), access the ILO intranet and continue to update our website, which is hosted by a company outside the ILO.

You can therefore continue to contact us by email and post as necessary, the latter being transmitted to us via a colleague of the Section. You can also visit our website (http://www.anciens-bit-ilo.org) where we post information that you may find useful.

During this period, we received several admissions to the Section and have also noted that the deaths reported to us by the administration are fortunately no higher than those of the same period last year. Please continue to stay healthy!

The Bureau of Former ILO Officials expects to resume its normal activities eventually, and in the meantime remains at your service, in case of need, during this period of restriction.

The Bureau members send you their greetings and very best wishes.


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Coronavirus crisis : Message from the Executive Secretary

Category : News

Dear retired colleagues.

Above all, I wish you good health in this difficult time that we are all going through.

As you may know, ILO staff in Geneva are now teleworking from home. Although access to the ILO building in Geneva is no longer possible for us retirees, members of the Bureau of the Section of Former ILO Officials continue to communicate via the Internet and telephone networks.

I would advise you to regularly consult the SHIF and the Pension Fund websites, which provide regular updated information. You can enter both sites via ours (www.anciens-bit-ilo.org). The SHIF notes (attached) indicate in particular that retirees can continue to send their reimbursement requests by post.

The Union’s Centennial meeting on May 14 in the afternoon will probably be postponed to the fourth quarter of this year, and the reception offered by the Director General scheduled for the same evening has been cancelled.

If necessary you can email us at anciens@ilo.org as we regularly check the messages received.

Dear colleagues, it is important at this difficult time that we all stand together in solidarity and observe the recommendations of our Public Authorities.

Yours sincerely,

François Kientzler
Executive Secretary
Section of Former ILO Officials​

 


SHIF documents :


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Death of Mr. Venkataraman Narasimhan / Message from the SG

Category : News

Dear Kamala and dear family and friends of Nari,

I would like to say a few words to you as Executive Secretary of the Section of Former Officials of the International Labour Office.

First of all, on behalf of ILO retirees, but also on behalf of the ILO Staff Union Committee, our condolences to Nari’s wife and family.

Dear Nari, you left us very quickly although we had seen your health decline. But despite your fatigue you remained resolutely faithful to your commitments to the end.

Indeed, your engagement with the Section of Former  ILO Officials lasted 23 years; you reminded me of this again when I last visited you on Friday December 13th at the hospital.

Nari began his career at the ILO in 1969 in the Purchasing and Supply Department; he remained in this unit until his retirement in 1996.

You have certainly loyal activist in your commitments; you have been treasurer of our Section during all these years. Previously you were also the treasurer of the Union Committee for many years, having been a member of the union since 1969. You regularly renewed your candidacy for the Bureau of the Section of Former ILO Officials and you were re-elected just a few days ago for the period 2020-2021.

ILO retirees will very much regret your absence because you have embodied the continuity and loyalty of militant commitment and we must all follow your example. I also know that your commitments have been many.

I would especially like to thank Nari’s wife who accompanied him during all these years. She came with him regularly when he was travelling for meetings and I often had the opportunity to share lunch with them.

Dear friends, we have just lost a good colleague and friend. But his memory will remain strongly imprinted in our hearts.

I will finish with the words that a colleague here present sent to me when I announced the death of Nari. The most precious thing you can give to your family, friends and colleagues is “your time”. Nari  gave his time freely to his colleagues and to the associations to which he belonged.

Thank you Nari for everything you have done for us.

François Kientzler
Secretary-General of the ILO Former Officials Section


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The strange and wonderful early years of the ILO / Marius Viple

It was in the month of June 1920 that the International Labour Organization took the decision to set up its headquarters at Geneva. I would like to tell you briefly in what circumstances and how this first great battle of the headquarters was waged and won which led to the establishment, once and for all, of the independence and autonomy which the ILO has always claimed for itself and which from then onwards was never again seriously questioned by anyone.

Despite his urgent request,1 l had not yet joined Albert Thomas in London in April or May 1920.2 He was spending a few days in Paris and had just returned from a lively session at the Chamber of Deputies – for besides being Director of the ILO he was a socialist Deputy, the respected leader of a great party, and he took his task very seriously. During dinner that night, he informed me that he had had enough of seeing the ILO move from Paris to Washington, from Washington to Paris, then from Paris to London and soon to Genoa, that he had decided to make a stand to get it finally established in Geneva, cost what it might.

“It will not be easy,” he told me, “for the Secretary-General of the League of Nations and his political collaborators are against Geneva. So is the League Executive Council; and the Allied Supreme Council is in charge of the entire movement. I have the Peace Treaty on my side, because it is stated there (article 7) that the headquarters of the League of Nations shall be at Geneva, but it also provides that the League Council may at any time decide to set it up elsewhere. President Wilson is no longer there to defend the city of his choice. And it is now clear that the United States will not take part in the League, although they did so much to further its establishment. It is now the definite desire of the Governments that Brussels should be the headquarters instead of Geneva, because Brussels is nearer to London and Paris, and the British and French Cabinets have every intention to seize this opportunity to take charge of the international organizations now coming into being. This is what I am determined to avoid at all costs. The time has come for me to denounce all these intrigues publicly, but I would ask you first of all to go to Geneva tomorrow and to let me know on your return whether the Thudichum Schoo3 which, I am told, might be rented to us, could be utilized as the headquarters of the ILO.”4

This is how I came to Geneva for the first time; and 48 hours later I reported to my friend that, in my opinion, the Thudichum School would provide suitable accommodation for the ILO.5

Then, without delay and without respite, an unforgettable diplomatic battle was waged. With incredible daring, which struck the international circles speechless, Albert Thomas unhesitatingly opposed the two countries that were undoubtedly nearest to his heart – England and France – and then openly resisted the new plans of the League Council and the Entente Governments. In an official document addressed to the Governing Body, but distributed to the Press, he wrote:

“It may well be asked whether this change of headquarters is likely to antagonize a number of powers which had interpreted the choice of Geneva as evidence of complete impartiality. We quite firmly state that we cannot sacrifice the future of the ILO or indeed its life to the hesitations and schemes of the League Secretariat and the Executive Council.”6

Timidly, with great misgivings, the majority of the Governing Body followed its Director.7 Geneva was chosen and on 11 June the Secretariat of the League was informed of this decision. A few days later, a number of officials who had remained in London took up their working quarters at the Ecole Thudichum.8

Early in July, further members of the improvised team, headed by the Director, who had just attended the International Maritime Labour Conference at Genoa (15 June to 10 July), reached Cornavin train station and were received by the famous ushers clad in yellow and red and greeted by the city and Cantonal authorities, who expressed their profound gratitude to Albert Thomas.9

The League Secretariat and its Council reacted strongly and their ill humour persisted. Treaties of cooperation already concluded between the two growing international organizations were denounced. In the autumn of the same year, however, the first League Assembly, which it had been planned to hold at Brussels, was finally convened at Geneva;10 and this is where the League Secretariat took up its residence, provisionally at first, then definitively. By its bold policy, conceived and carried out by one politician who possessed political means and relations second to none, the ILO had dragged them all with it. In addition, he had shown that the International Labour Organization would not hesitate to keep its own counsel.11 Its avowed independence and its much-needed autonomy date from the first battle that was waged and won. They were of great assistance to the Organization in every phase of international life, especially in the course of the tragic days of the summer of 1940, when on its own authority it decided to leave Europe for America. This vital decision enabled it to survive the War.12


First ILO Headquarters in Geneva, 1920-1926

The rest you know. The Thudichum Institute soon became insufficient. Its small students’ rooms, formerly occupied by a few students from the Balkans, were overflowing with life and overcrowded with collaborators recruited without competition all appointed by direct choice, and who turned out to be excellent officials, working night and day with passion for an ideal that meant a great deal to them. Wooden huts were gradually added to the main building.

This cramped temporary installation, the Bohemian quarters, as Albert Thomas called them, did nothing to convey the impression to all and sundry that the international organizations meant business and had come to stay. Plans were drawn up, discreet propaganda was made among friendly governments, credits were voted, and the present ILO Palace built.13

Only those who lived through that atmosphere of creation can remember what it was like. Press campaigns were started, some Parliaments approached, but the initiative of the Director of the ILO was considered too bold and it was denounced. Then the storm broke. In the midst of the building operations, the Governing Body, by a majority vote, decided to suppress one of the floors planned to meet all the needs of the Organization. This measure was technically unjustifiable, but it was a deliberate political gesture, as was proved later, when to replace the floor in question two wings had to be added, the building having become too small; but in this way, it lost the architectural character intended for it.

The storm did not abate. A majority decision was taken in the Governing Body whereby none of the posts previously provided to keep pace with the normal development of the establishment was to be filled. All the credits applied for were rejected.14 The following year our budget, which amounted to some 6 million francs, was suddenly cut down by 1 million, which led to the dismissal of a large number of able and devoted officials.

In addition to these drastic financial measures, intended to call a halt to any new initiative on the part of the Director, there was a resounding political attack by the French Government, which denied the power of the ILO in the matter of agricultural labour. The matter was brought before the Permanent International Court of Justice at The Hague.15 Without authorization of the Governing Body, Albert Thomas, although a Frenchman, a former Minister, and a former member of the War

Through these storms, the authority of the ILO was finally established outside. But it must be admitted that most of the Governments had envisaged it merely as a modest documentation directorate, and as a service for the implementation of the articles of the Peace Treaty, which could very well find its place among the other directorates of the League Secretariat-General; while the workers had always dreamed of making it into the powerful and efficacious universal organization which it gradually became. At that time, to obtain an annual budget increase of 50,000 francs was regarded by us as a major victory. Yet it was during these years of struggle that the Organization’s most constructive work was done. Almost every year, every Government of Europe was visited, then South America, North America, and the Far East.16 In most cases, as a result of such visits, Ministries of Labour were set up where they did not yet exist. And the experts who accompanied us prepared the first draft social insurance legislation for a large number of countries, Albert Thomas having stimulated the interest of the Governments in social legislation. Many Conventions, of the utmost importance, were adopted at our Conferences and then ratified by the Parliaments.17

In addition to political conflicts, there arose in the organization of the Office’s services difficulties of language, of comprehension, of methods of work, and daily misunderstandings. All the problems that beset a new international administration arose at the same time. But gradually this new international personnel, recruited in more than 35 countries, learned to think and to work in common to improvise its own rules, methods and traditions.

The fears of the Governments abated, the workers’ confidence increased, until it became strong and unshakeable. And while the League was still feeling its way, our experience stood out as the most single success.

No bitterness remained as a result of this harsh period of constructive fighting. It may just be recalled from this somewhat melancholy phrase of our first Director, which figures in one of his Geneva speeches:

“Those who build must know that they will be hurt. They must be able to resist attack. Like the citizens of Jerusalem, they must work on the ramparts with their sword girded to their loins.”

To build with one hand, to fight and defend oneself with the other, this was the keynote of the strange but wonderful early years of our ILO.

1 It seems more likely that the “urgent request” was on the part of Viple himself. In a document dated 21 February 1920 (file CAT 4/33/2), Thomas wrote that he had “promised Viple to see how he could be used by the ILO, subject to the financial possibilities given him by the Governing Body”. Viple was appointed on 14 May, retroactively from 8 May 1920. His appointment as press officer was probably linked with the decision to move the headquarters from London to Geneva, thus being unable to continue using the joined service with the League of Nations. William Martin had been brought in by the League to organize a press service, which the ILO shared in London..

2 There are two possible dates for the meeting, either when Albert Thomas was in Paris from about 6 to 18 April or during his brief stay during the first days of May, when he was on his way to Germany.

3 The Thudichum School (owned by the family of that name) was the building also known as La Châtelaine. It is now the headquarters of the ICRC.

4 Viple has somewhat exaggerated his own role in the installation of the ILO in Geneva. Already in February 1920 the Deputy Director, Harold Butler, had visited Geneva and made detailed recommendations (file G. 6/8). Dr. Parodi of the League of Nations was charged to negotiate the rental of the Thudichum building on behalf of the ILO and an option was formally submitted on 6 March, subsequently accepted on l7 March 1920 (file G.6). A minute dated 17 March probably prepared for the discussion at the March Session of the Governing Body states: “Mr. Butler and I (Albert Thomas) visited the town (Geneva) and considered that Mr. Thudichum’s school was admirably suited to the needs of the Office”(file 9.6). On 22 March, the Governing Body authorized Albert Thomas “to be empowered to complete arrangements for the establishment of the ILO in Geneva”(minutes of the GB, 3rd Session, 1920, p. 8). As a result, Butler could on 29 March telegraph: “Bail signed by Director”(file G.6).

5 As there are no records on file regarding Viple’s visit and its objectives, one can only speculate why Albert Thomas thought it important to send him to Geneva, considering that the decision on renting the Thudichum building had already been taken. A 48-hour return trip Paris-Geneva would have left little time for Viple to carry out any detailed inspection or negotiations. Has Viple dramatized the event? It is possible that he went to Geneva from 8 to 13 May, which would explain why his appointment was retroactive.

6 4th Session of the Governing body, June 1920.

7 The decision was taken by the Governing Body on 8 June 1920.

8 The London staff was first to arrive, and the Office in Geneva was opened on 7 July 1920 (file G. 6/7). The staff from the 2nd  International (Maritime) Labour Conference in Genoa (15 June to l0 July 1920) arrived by a special train on 14 July 1920. Viple is mistaken with regard to the dates.

9 Albert Thomas arrived in Geneva on 14 July 1920.

10 The First Assembly of the League of Nations opened in Geneva on l5 November 1920 (see also footnote 1 above).

11 2e Edward Phelan wrote in his book, Yes and Albert Thomas (second printing, New York,1949), p.242: “Albert Thomas saw this clearly. He realized that the International Labour Organization must develop as it were a personality of its own.”

12 As Wilfred Jenks later wrote (The ILO in wartime, Ottawa, 1969): “The ILO could survive collapse of the League because, paradoxically, its autonomy from the League gave it a vitality which remained unimpaired by the paralyses of the League.”

13 The foundation stone was laid on 21 October 1923 and the building occupied on 6 June 1926.

14 This relates to the 1923 budget.

15 1922. Phelan in his book (op. cit., pp. 137-la2) gives a vivid description of this important event.

16 As Phelan wrote (op. cit., p. 178), “The full story of Albert Thomas’ missions would make a book in itself. Each presented its own problems and few were without some incident worth recording.”

17 By 1930, there were 30 Conventions and 39 Recommendations; 408 Conventions had been ratified by the member States.


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Alice Golay (alias Rivaz) and the ILO / Ivan M.C.S. Elsmark

Alice Rivaz (1901-1998) is well known as an important literary personality, not only in her native French-speaking Switzerland but also among French language readers – and from translations into German and ltalian – throughout continental Europe. Over the years she has been awarded several prizes, among which the Schiller Prize (1942 and 1969), the City of Geneva Prize (1975) and the Grand Prix Ramuz (1980). It is however not the intention here to deal with literary achievements as such, but to try to trace her life in the context of the ILO. In writing this article I have read with pleasure most of her books, and can only recommend my former colleagues to do the same.                                           

Who was Alice Golay?

Behind the pen-name Rivaz is hidden that of an ILO official, Alice Golay, who for more than 25 years served in such positions as shorthand-typist, documentalist and research assistant. At a time when career prospects for junior staff were limited, and even less for a woman, she had to renounce her inclinations in order to earn her daily bread as an office worker. Few of her superiors or colleagues took notice of her talent and personality and the files1 contain only scattered information.

Although she wrote thousands of abstracts and drafted reports and articles, nowhere do we find her name in an ILO publication. Her life’s work was to be in the world of letters.

The daughter of a “red” socialist.

Alice Golay was born in Rovray (Vaud) on 14 August 1901 where her father at the time was a school teacher. In l9l0 the family moved to Lausanne where Paul Golay devoted himself entirely to

journalistic and political activities in the Partie ouvrière socialiste vaudois. “My father was a black beard of thick velvet, a pipe behind a large newspaper,” and she herself was referred to as “the chief socialist’s small girl,” as she recalls in her book I’Alphabet du Matin (the Morning Alphabet). A forceful orator and pamphleteer, he was a member of the Grand Conseil, the Conseil Communal de Lausanne and, from 1925, of the Conseil Natioral.

Music early became an important part of Alice’s life and in 1920 she graduated from the Conservatoire de Lausanne as a piano teacher. To her disappointment her small hands did not permit her to accede to virtuoso classes, and the theme of failure and being unable to fulfil an artistic ambition later appears in several of her books. Thus, seeing neither a future as a piano teacher nor being willing to seek material security in marriage she took, in 1921, an accelerated steno and typing course to prepare for secretarial work.

It was not easy for Alice Golay to find an office job due to the political involvement of her father. His advanced views, “ses-Idées” as his daughter said, “threw him into a difficult social and political struggle” … “at a time when socialism was the scarecrow of decent people, in a country where the lowest form of middle-class and religious conformism reigned”.

How Alicc Golay came to the ILO.

Paul Golay was a man of action. On the suggestion of Emil Ryser, a friend and ILO official, he wrote in October 1921 to the ILO Director Albert Thomas to obtain employment for his daughter, emphasising her good general educational level and knowledge of English. In a sympathetic reply, Albert Thomas suggested that Alice should enter a competition for vacancies as shorthand-typist. Thus, on 25 March 1922 she sat for a two-hour examination, but, unprepared as she was, she failed, placing number 36 out of 44 candidates, ostensibly due to insufficient familiarity with ILO subjects.

Undaunted, Paul Golay wrote again, frankly exposing his daughter’s dilemma. He pointed out that in spite of her qualifications her career was “severely handicapped as the daughter of a militant socialist. Her father’s political life fetters and paralyses her”, she is rejected by the bourgeoisie and even prevented from taking up studies as a teacher. And he continued: “Certainly, it would be ridiculous to expect the ILO to provide asylum for those who are handicapped because of their political views, or those of their family. But I wonder if it would be totally incorrect, without requestirig favours, not to take these circumstances into account”.

Not before 12 April the following year could Alice Golay participate in a new competition but this time she was well prepared and passed as number one! If she then expected to be employed, she was to be disappointed. Although recruited from 24 May to 10 Iuly 1924 for the 6th  Session of the International Labour Conference, no opening was offered to her. Was it simply bureaucratic inertia? Paul Golay again turned to Albert Thomas who decided that the first relevant vacancy should be offered to his daughter. Hence, in March 1925 she was again proposed for the Conference, and subsequently engaged by the Office.

In the Typing Pool

Alice Golay entered the ILO on 15 June 1925 as a shorthand-typist (class B-monolingual) in the Typing, Multigraph and Roneo Branch. It must have been somewhat of a cultural shock for the young pianist to enter the busy offices of the typing pool under the strict command of its head, Geneviève Laverrière2, whose image we recognize as the authoritarian and beautiful Mrs. Fontanier in the novels Comme le Sable and Le Creux de la Vague. In these novels she remembers the Pool as a unit with many young women of different nationalities working in a “very feminine atmosphere which prevailed in Mrs. Fontanier’s branch”, each having “chosen this new and attractive career of an international official, … but at the same time started an existence different from her own and that of her surroundings” (Le Creux de la Vague). As she later described the dilemma in Comptez vos Jours, “separated because I am not married, because I have no children” … ” separated from my fellow-countrymen because I earn my living not among them but among foreigners,” … ” separated from myself because I am torn away from what I was, without being the one I am to be when I have shed the slough”.

In her books she recalls the view approaching the ILO lakeside building: “A large park with old trees, a gray frontage hidden behind the branches. But when following the small footpath covered with dead leaves, … one arrives at a parking lot, and what immediately meets the eyes is not a pretty bourgeois residence, but large barracks as ugly as a factory”.

In her diary and novels she describes the lake, the park “which surrounded the immense building … a marvel of softness and mystery”, the marbled entrance hall, the long corridors, the “mysterious” typing pool, the offices with in-trays full of documents and journals, the walls “decorated” with files, the desks covered with books and papers, the busy officials with their briefcases, the talks on professional and sentimental issues, the homes with the photograph of Albert Thomas! She observed it all and wove it into her novels as a backdrop to the essential human sentiments of love, hope, disappointment, egoism, and the fate of women in an often hostile society.


Alice Golay

At first she rented a room at quai des Bergues but in 1932 she settled into a new small flat (two rooms and a kitchen) on 5 rue Théodor Weber, which was to remain her home until 1992. For Alice Golay, Geneva appeared as “la Babylone helvétique“, so different from the world she had previously known. Like Hélène in her book Le Creux de la Vague, “year by year, the new life had taken a larger and larger part, while the old one less and less”. Thus while at first her chief Mrs. Laverrière regretted “a certain tendency to chattering and concealed inactivity during working hours”, she quickly seems to have adapted herself to the office routine and already in May 1926 she won an internal competition and was promoted to clerk-1st class.

The toils of a documentalist

It was a new challenge for Alice Golay when, in June 1926, she was transferred to the Documents Service of the General Information Section. In the job of dépouilleuse she spent the next thirteen years, a period of her life on which she frequently drew in her novels.

Her duties were to analyse and prepare abstracts from incoming French language periodicals and documents. In this work her good analytical and drafting skills came to great use, and she was noted for her “well chosen selection of information” and “the intelligent and careful drafting of abstracts”, unfortunately “blemished with typing and spelling errors”.

The workload was extremely heavy and her chief, Miss Marie Schappler, was highly demanding and kept detailed output statistics, as can still be witnessed from the files. “Exigent of her staff and of herself … strenuous in her work and devoted to the service” (as stated in a report), she lived mainly for the Office and expected her collaborators to do the same. Alice Golay suffered under the burden and in Jette ton Pain she describes how she “at the Office was sinking under an excessive workload, obliged each day to produce 35 abstracts from newspapers and periodicals, not counting French parliamentary debates”, which figured among her daily tasks, frequently obliging her to take the papers home and work till late into the night to finish the work. Her endeavours were appreciated and in 1939 her chief complimented her as “one of the best dépouilleuse” in the unit.

First literary steps

ln Le Creux de la Vague the heroine makes the following remarks about her career: “I have really made a good choice, she suddenly thought with a pang, shutting the door of her car, as if she had waited twelve years to pose this question and was starting to dream of a life which could have been hers if she had wanted”. The choice in life – and to have the courage to make it – is a theme which frequently occurs in her works. ln Comptez vos Jours she poses the question of the role of women in an age where the offices “slowly develop a new form of female servitude and greatness?”.

Feminist, pacifist and socialist, Alice Golay was very much aware of the social and political turmoils of her time. Geneva had been hit by a serious economic crisis and unrest which in 1932 culminated in a large demonstration suppressed by military force. Against this background she made a first attempt in 1935 to write a novel but the manuscript was later destroyed. A new impetus to her literary interest was the creation in 1936 of the book-club La Guilde du Livre. On the suggestion of its director, Albert Mermoud, she wrote an article about the Guilde, and during her holidays at Côte des Maures in July the following year she started writing the first fragments of Nuages dans la Main (Clouds in your Hand), which was to be published in 1940.

Deceived

Somewhat naively Alice Golay got herself involved in a sordid affair which could have had serious consequences for her. A colleague, Heidi Flubacher-Stöcklin, had befriended a certain Yves Le Gallou (alias Marcel Dupan or René Landais) whom she assisted in selling an expensive property in Barcelona, ostensibly for the benefit of his infant son. During Le Gallou’s stay in Geneva, Alice Golay had permitted him to spend some nights at her loft, and to keep a suitcase there, believing that he was a conscientious objector without resources. It later emerged that he was a known imposter, swindler and thief, and had been using the suitcase for hiding stolen goods. After his arrest, Alice Golay was called as a witness in the case, which was widely reported in the Geneva papers. As a result she was suspended from her functions as from 27 December 1939, pending a disciplinary inquiry. When the court laid no charges against her, she voluntarily resigned on 3l January 1940 under the general scheme for wartime staff reduction receiving from the Pension Fund some 20,000 Frs.

A new life

In her diary (Carnets 1939-1982) she wrote: “My last day at the Office. I spent it putting order in my drawers and cupboards. … I have worked fourteen years and eight months behind these walls, fed up of spending my life shut up from morning to night just to earn it. But today I feel somewhat heartbroken at the idea of leaving. This table, this office, these two big windows opening onto the beautiful trees, the changing sky with the passing clouds, all that, during fourteen years and eight months I have looked at while working. An office which, little by little, becomes a kind of second home where one lives all day. In particular an office such as ours, as Liliane said to me yesterday, where we have experienced many things other than just earning a living … Yes, many other things, our friendship, our love affairs. This is where, year by-year, our hearts have grown long and strong roots”.

Like many who abruptly stop working, the departure from the daily routine left an unexpected void. She confessed in her diary: “Yesterday was the first day of freedom. How often have I not wished for this freedom which would permit me to write! But my reaction was unexpected. I neither felt like writing, nor painting, nor playing music. For the first time I would have preferred to work at the office”. … “I had not realised to what extent I needed the others, the presence of my friends and c-workers. This impetus, this excitement, this internal energy which I thought was my own, it was they who gave it to me. When I meet someone, I start living again. I see and listen again. For that reason I was able to write these three pages, because I communicate with the others”.

Wartime and literary pursuits

The war broke out in Europe; she was now unemployed, but for her it was “the very best gift: time to write”.

In July 1940 she had completed Nuages dans la Main which was published by La Guilde du Livre in December that year on the recommendation of the well-known author C. F. Ramuz. For her parents, her literary pursuits came as a surprise, and their reactions were mixed. Paul Golay wrote her a letter listing in detail what he considered the “faults” in the work and recommended that she start all over again; her mother appealed for suppression of certain pages which she thought “scandalous”.

To protect her family and patronym, Alice Golay chose the pen-name Alice Rivaz (from a village not far from her birthplace). Later in her book Ce Nom qui n’est qas le Mien (The Name which is not my own) she reflects on this dual personality which she had assumed, navigating between an Homerian Scylla and Charbydis, with a wish to hide in privacy while stepping forward to be known and recognised.

In 1942 René Juillard obtained the publishing rights for France. Some linguistic changes were undertaken as well as reference to Hitler and the war because of the occupation. In the preface the academician Edmond Jaloux criticised certain “helvétismes et négligences de style”, which actually had been corrected in the new edition and he attacked the international organizations, and in particular the ILO. This led to a conflict with Alice Golay, who only discovered the text in proofs; on her insistence the reference to the ILO was omitted. Like her father, she had courage and could stand firm.

In the following years she wrote several novels under her pen-name Alice Rivaz, of which Comme le Sable was published in 1946 and Paix des ruches in 1947, an anthology of French poetry 1942), while together with her former colleague, Suzanne Fontana she translated the novel by John Brophy: Immortal Sergeant. Under her own name she also contributed articles to several journals, mainly on feminist and social issues. To supplement her income she held various temporary jobs, in particular with the Anglo-American Press Bureau, which later provided background to her novel La Paix des Ruches from 1947.

Hard times at the ILO

With the end of the war the Press Bureau closed in August 1945 and she found herself without employment. Hence, on 5 April 1946, she applied to the ILO for reintegration, but only after the return of the “Working Centre” to Geneva and the intervention of Charles Schürch, the Swiss trade unionist, was she re-engaged from November 1948, not as a documentalist but as a registry clerk! A surprising decision considering her past career and literary achievements, but there seems to have been no other vacancies and she badly needed a job.

The three years that followed probably the most unsatisfactory physically taxing for her. Assigned to indexing of incoming correspondence, she had neither the experience nor the physical strength to deal with the tasks imposed on her. The staff worked under the watchful eye of the Registrar, Gustave Dubourg, and his assistant, Mrs. Marthe Barambon who from a glass window in the neighbouring office followed the progress. There is no doubt of the purely manual requirements of the job; as Dubourg noted: “in addition to the professional qualifications of the candidates, physical strength is of importance, as entries in the various registers obliges the person to remain standing up for long hours”.

Her literary activities came to a halt and in her diary she complained: “Seven months of silence and indescribable moral sufferings in a state of rigidity, in spite of my change of life and return to the ILO and the obligation to concentrate on a new job which they say is temporary, but which is completely against all my likings and does not correspond to my professional knowledge, a real manual labour carried out standing, consisting in moving and replacing index cards in draws which are very difficult to open and close. … I discover now the fatigue in the body, the muscles, the legs, the back the neck only creating one profound need: to go to bed once the drudgery of the day is finished and wipe it out in sleep”.

Her report for 1949 is critical of her insufficient knowledge of Registry work and procedures while acknowledging her good will and interest in ILO activities. As a result the Promotion Board prolonged her probation period and withheld the annual increment while considering “that Miss Golay was probably not suited for the duties required of her in the Registry and further recommends that if and when a vacancy occurs in another Section or Service, Miss Golay should be given an opportunity of a transfer”.

The next year the report was more favourable and her appointment was confirmed. Things also started to look brighter. She was temporarily promoted to AMD (Assistant Member of Division, a junior professional post) and on 1st September 1951 transferred to the Manpower Division.

Family affairs

Unfortunately this turn for the better was accompanied by personal worries. Her father Paul Golay had died in June 1951. Together with her mother she rapidly compiled a volume of his political writings (a selection from his some 7000 articles) which was published the same year as Terre de Justice. Both father and daughter were talented writers, but Paul Golay had no literary ambition, his writing was a tool in a struggle for his convictions. Her mother, Marie Golay, then moved to Geneva to stay with her daughter in her small flat. Life together proved a serious strain in spite of their loving relationship. For Alice Golay, it was a new obstacle in finding time to write. She later drew on this experience in chapter IX of Comptez vos Jours, and in Jette ton pain she describes with feeling and honesty the tension between the two, slightly disguised as Mme Grace and her daughter Christine.

A new beginning

At the ILO Alice Golay had at last returned to a post where her abilities and experience were appreciated. After four months in the Vocational Training Section she won a competition and was appointed as research assistant in the Employment Section from 1st January 1952. A plan to send her to Belgium to acquire experience of employment service had to be abandoned because of her family situation. In her new job she found a challenging, although often exhausting, activity and, more important, a friendly and more human relationship among the staff and with her superior.

A nice custom at the time was for the Director to congratulate members of staff on promotion. Alice Golay received such a letter from David Morse on 7th January 1952 to which she replied on 11th January, thanking him for the confidence shown in her and assuring that she would do her best to accomplish her new tasks in the best interests of the Office, thus participating in achieving the common goal of social justice.

Her direct chief was Donald L. Snyder who thought her “conscientious and hardworking, [with] good judgement and reliability”, … “co-operative and intelligent, and a valuable and effective member of the Section”. Her duties during the next eight years spanned widely-differing areas dealing with employment situation and labour market issues through the employment services, questions relating to older workers and women, preparation of some 600 abstracts annually, assisting in research and occasional translation of texts. Not necessarily an exciting occupation for a person of her sensitivity.

Although her name does not figure as the author (most staff-work appeared anonymously) she wrote notes for Industry and Labour and the International Labour Review (two articles, June 1954 and July 1955, on the employment of older workers and on older women), a report for the Textiles Committee (1958), a chapter in the report The Age of retirement for the European Regional Conference (1955) and a report on employment of older women workers prepared for the UN Committee on the Status of Women (9th Session, March 1955). On the latter she revealed in her diary that she “knew nothing about the subject” and “to have to fabricate such a study in six weeks all on her own was madness.” – But still she did it!

She was longing for time for her literary work. In her diary she counts the time spent on her daily activities: “At the Office: 8 hours; working at home for the Office: 2 hours minimum; four journeys by tram of ½ an hour each: 2 hours; three meals: 2 ½ hours. Total: 14 hours”. – And she adds: “Under these conditions, how can I dream of writing even notes in this diary?”

Alice Golay had a good relationship with her colleagues, and one them, Antoinette Béguin, still remembers her as “a charming person, kind-hearted, soft-spoken and friendly. She took an interest in people, but was never intruding or indiscreet. She had a sense of humour, but with kindness and never at other people’s expense”. Office life gave her inspiration but as she explains, those “who surround you in daily life, with whom you work at the office, those whom, in your thoughts, you can’t avoid modifying, deforming, partially erasing, and at the same time adding something to them, exaggerating certain of their gestures, giving them qualities and faults which are not necessarily theirs, behaviours in which you encase them – thus having the impression of lifting them above themselves, or on the contrary debasing them, or indeed reincarnating them in a completely new person to become a character in a novel”.

Free end recognized

On 4 May 1958 Alice Golay noted in her diary: “Mother has died in the course of a long sleep without agony …”. Her grief at the loss was mixed with a feeling of relief, to be free again to take charge of her own life. A second event was the offer of a contract by the Foundation Pro Helvetia which hastened her decision to devote all her time to writing. “Small fact with great consequences because it incites me to resign from the ILO earlier than I thought I could” … “Hope to realize at last what I dreamt about for such a long time”, as her diary records. Thus on 12 February 1959 she gave notice with effect on 15 August; she was then 58 years old and free again to pursue her literary interest, as well as music and painting.

It is with a certain sadness that one reads the entry in her diary: “Today, 31 July 1959, my last day at the ILO. … If I add the years I worked at that organisation, between the two wars and after the last, it comes to twenty-five years and some months, all my best years lost, except for the time during the war when I for the first time had leisure to write.

In the years to follow she published i.a.: Sans Alcool (1961), Comptez vos Jours (1966), Creux de la Vague (1967), L’Alphabet du Matin (1968), De Mémoire et d’Oubli (1973), Jette ton Pain (1979), Ce Nom qui n’est pas le Mien (1980), Trace de Vie, Carnets 1919-1982 (1983) and Jean-Georges Lossier, Poesie et Vie intérieure (1986). Many of her books are currently being reissued by the publishers L’Air, so readers again can enjoy her works. Her writings have been honoured by many prestigious literary prizes and a memorial tablet has been placed on the building at 5 rue Théodor Weber where she lived from 1932 until 1992. Her last years were spent at the old people’s home “Mimosas” where she died on 27 February 1998.

_____________________________

1 In particular the files P. 1648, P 6/8 pt..II, P6/14/1 and PD 6/1/20.

2..She has « su maintenir une exacte discipline au sein d’un personnel nombreux, hétérogène, qui travaille dans des conditions sensiblement plus pénibles que celles qui prévalent dans les autres services”. (Quoted from the 1935 report.)


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The Centenary Exhibition of the ILO Art and Decoration Circle (May 27 – 21 June 2019)

Category : News

The 2019 ILO Centenary year, despite its many events and exhibitions, still allowed the members of the ILO Art and Decoration Circle to express themselves. The exhibition was not held as usual in the Colonnades but near the conference rooms on R3 South. The opening of the exhibition formed part of the event to celebrate the ILO Centenary organized by the Section of Former ILO Officials on 28 May 2019. This special event was held in the Governing Body Room and was followed by a reception at the Espace Gobelins. The exhibits were much appreciated by the more than 400 retirees who attended.

All the works on display dealt with the theme of the ILO Centenary. While some were more symbolic representations of the presence and action of the ILO throughout the world, others expressed very real situations of the world of work and its constraints: 100 stones laid = 100 years of the ILO; human rights, justice and equality; the universe supported by the work of man; women at work in the fields, at the market, traditional work and trades; the arduousness of the work; etc.

The exhibition was held over the 4 weeks from May 27 to June 21, 2019. Initially planned for 2 weeks, it was extended for the period of the International Labour Conference and was able to be seen by delegates from all parts of the world. We thank all the artists who contributed to this special ILO Centenary exhibition; the works proposed could be included in an upcoming exhibition of the Circle.


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Activities Report 2019

Category : News

The Section of Former ILO Officials is open to all retired ILO staff, regardless of whether they worked at the Geneva Headquarters or in one of the field offices. Its executive body, the Bureau, comprises 10 members and generally meets every two weeks (except in summer). The Section has an office (6-06) close to the Union offices on the 6th floor and communicates with its members by e-mail, letters, through its biannual bulletin Message and through its website (http://www.anciens-bit-ilo.org).

This year, 2019, was marked by the ILO Centenary Celebrations, in which retirees participated with the kind agreement of Mr. Guy Ryder, Director General. Contacts and meetings with representatives of the administration, including Protocol, DCOMM, Archives, REPRO, DISTRIBUTION and INSERV, have strengthened the links between the Section and the ILO administration and staff. Successful working meetings brought very positive results for our association’s participation in the Centenary Celebrations. The Section’s call to its members resulted in the collection of around 100 contributions, which have for the most part already been posted on the Section’s website as well as published in Message, particularly Nos. 62, 63 and 64. More will be available in the following issues.

After participating in the launch of the Centenary in January 2019, retirees were able to attend various themed conferences organized by the various ILO departments during this year. Two major events were also celebrated by retirees themselves. On 28 May 2019, at the initiative and invitation of the Section, more than 400 retirees gathered in the Governing Body room to discuss videos and testimonies regarding key moments in history in which the ILO was actively involved: in particular the defense of the Solidarity Union in Poland and the end of apartheid in South Africa. The Director-General honoured this event by opening the meeting and participating throughout. After the Meeting, participants then moved to the Espace Gobelins for a cocktail offered by the Section. Then, on 11 July 2019, about 300 retirees and their spouses met at the invitation of the Director-General, for a Centenary lunch; the key moment of which was the sharing of the birthday cake.

Both events were highly appreciated by the participants. Additional information, including videos and photos of these events are available on our website (see address above) under the heading “Centenary”. The exhibition by the ILO Arts and Decoration Circle on the theme of the ILO Centenary, as well as an exhibition of stamps evoking 100 years of ILO action, accompanied these events. The Section of Former Officials will also be present in the organization of the centennial celebrations of the ILO Staff Union in 2020.

The office of the Section is adjacent to those of the Union. This physical proximity with the Union facilitates permanent contacts and regular cooperation with the Union secretariat, the President and the Secretary General as well as with the other members of the Committee. The exchanges concern in particular issues of common interest such as the Staff Health Insurance and Pension Funds. We supported the Union’s action against the reduction in the salaries of professionals in Geneva and we were delighted by the magnificent staff mobilization that took place in the spring of 2018. We learned at the beginning of this summer that the action taken at the ILO Administrative Tribunal, initiated, encouraged and supported by the Union, was successful.

One of the constant concerns of the Section of Former Officials is the operation and maintenance of our Staff Health Insurance Fund (SHIF). We have intervened repeatedly on personal cases with the SHIF; and we are delighted that the Fund’s revised Statutes and Regulations have now been printed and distributed to pensioners, who, fin many cases, do not use the internet. The previous publication dates back more than ten years so this new edition was essential given the changes made in recent years to the Statutes and Regulations, notably concerning certain preventive and alternative medical procedures.

Representatives of the Bureau of the Section of Former Officials participate in the Board of AAFI-AFICS Geneva. Various associations of retirees of International Organizations are members of this Board. The Board discusses information on pension and health protection issues that is regularly submitted to the United Nations, in particular the functioning of the Pension Fund and the future of the health funds regarding ASHI (After Service Health Insurance). According to the latest information available to us, a reorganization will be undertaken at the offices of the Pension Fund in Geneva and their move to the WMO premises, near the rue de Lausanne, is scheduled for the end of the year.

The Section continues its work of maintaining contact and communicating with retirees. We regularly update the Section’s website (http://www.anciens-bit-ilo.org), not only with information that concerns retirees directly, but also with news from the ILO such as the Union’s actions mentioned above. We invest a lot of time to keep the site alive and up to date but neither do we neglect the publication of Message, which is valued and expected by many retirees, and which also requires much work and effort. Thank you to all those who contribute to it; as we always call on volunteers to help with translations and proofreading or to submit articles.

The Section participates in the annual Pre-retirement Seminar and we take the opportunity on this occasion to welcome participants individually and exchange a few words with them. This contact is very important to encourage future retirees to join the Section of Former Officials. Indeed, although the ILO offers facilities to the Section, if we are to continue our activities and provide help to retirees, we also need financial resources. Many new retirees are reluctant to join us and say that Message and the Section’s website are available to them free of charge. Although the members of the Bureau are all working on your behalf on a voluntary basis, we need to finance a secretary and a web master in order to maintain our activities. We invite all future retirees to become members of the Section. As is the case every year, representatives of the Section will be present and participate in the Pre-Retirement Seminar in November 2019.

The Section of Former Officials supports the ILO Arts and Decoration Circle (a member of the Sports and Leisure Association), which organizes an annual exhibition at the ILO. Finally, the invitation of retirees by the Director General to the annual receptions in May and December in Geneva are an important and special opportunity to meet with former ILO staff. The participation of the Director-General in these receptions is always much appreciated.

François Kientzler
Secrétaire exécutif