Workers' advocate off to ILO forum

A chance to discuss local issues on an international stage beckons for a New Plymouth workers' advocate.

At the end of May, Service and Food Workers Union (SFWU) organiser Sam Jones will head to Geneva as part of an eight member New Zealand delegation attending the International Labour Organisation (ILO) conference.

The NZ party includes three representatives from the business sector, three government officials, Council of Trade Unions president Helen Kelly and Jones, who was nominated for the position.

"It's a massive opportunity and a huge honour," he said.

He said it was the first time he would be involved in such a large international forum where up to 3000 delegates are expected to attend.

Jones said the three-week meeting would focus on a range of employment issues and he had been assigned to a legislative committee looking at ways to prevent forced labour.

Jones said he needed to get up to speed with some of the jargon and legal terminology used by the ILO before he left for the trip on May 24.

"I've been doing plenty of reading," said Jones, who has been at the SFWU since 2007.

He said it was important for New Zealand to be represented at international events like this.

"You're not going to fix issues in New Zealand without looking at what happens overseas," he said.

He said the government needed to step up its commitment to some of the standards set by the ILO. "As a nation we are going backwards at a rate of knots," Jones said.

One area which required urgent attention, in his opinion, was the issue of pay equity for woman.

Jones said although this was particularly evident in jobs dominated by women, such as caregiving roles, it was also true for many other professions.

"There's probably no end to the list when you start drawing comparisons," he said.

Although this trip will be his first to Europe, time for sight-seeing will have to wait as Jones will be working six-day weeks while the conference is on.

"And long hours, I have been told," he said.

Taranaki Daily News