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International Labour Conference: 2nd Session

The International Labour Conference through time

Countries Represented

Argentine, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Chili, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, India, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Roumania, Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, Siam, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Uruguay, and Venezuela.

2nd Conference

Preparations leading to the Second Conference

Set up by the Peace Conference on 25th January 1919, the Commission on International Labour Legislation decided on the proposal of the French Delegation that a Special Meeting of the International Labour Conference should be devoted exclusively to the affairs of seamen.

During its meeting held in Paris from 26th to 28th January 1920, the Governing Body of the International Labour Office decided to convene the Second Session of the International Labour Conference at Genoa/Italy on 15th June 1920, as a special Seamen's Conference.

The Agenda of the Second meeting was drawn up and communicated to the Members together with a circular letter date from 3rd February 1920.

The Agenda for Seamen’s Conference had the following four items:

I. Application to seamen of the Convention drafted at Washington, last November, limiting the hours of work in all industrial undertakings, including transport by sea and, under conditions to be determined, transport by inland waterways, to 8 hours in the day and 48 in the week. Consequential effects as regards manning and the regulations relating to accommodation and health on board ship;

II. Supervision of articles of agreement; Provision of facilities for finding employment for seamen; and Application to seamen of the Convention and Recommendations adopted at Washington in November last regarding unemployment and unemployment insurance;

III. Application to seamen of the Convention adopted at Washington prohibiting the employment of children under 14 years of age; and

IV. Consideration of the possibility of drawing up an International Seamen's Code.

The International Labour Office prepared a questionnaire concerning the four different items of the Agenda. The questionnaire was forwarded a few days later, and it was requested that answers should be sent to reach the office not later than 1 May, so the summaries could be prepared for presentation to the Conference when it meets.

The letter also mentioned that for those governments not interested in maritime questions and who did not wish to participate in the Conference, no answer to the questionnaire was expected.

Based on the replies to the questionnaire, the International Labour Office prepared the following Reports regarding the subjects covered by the several items of Agenda:

I -  Report on Hours of Labour and their Effect on Manning and Accommodation (Item I of the Agenda);

II - Report on Unemployment: the Provision of Facilities for Finding Employment for Seamen and the Application to Seamen of the Convention and Recommendation adopted at Washington in regard to Unemployment (Item II of the Agenda);

III - Report on the Employment of Children at Sea (Item III of the Agenda);

IV - Report on Seamen's Code (Item IV of the Agenda);

V - Supplementary Report on Hours of Labour.

In general, these Reports contained: (1) statements on the scope of the existing law on the subjects in question and the nature of the measures taken in the countries concerned to deal with the problems involved; (2) the attitude of the Governments towards these problems as expressed in their replies to the questionnaires; and (3) the conclusions based by the International Labour Office on the replies of the Governments.

These conclusions were accompanied by drafts of Resolutions, Recommendations, or International Conventions, which might form a basis for discussion at the Conference:

  • Draft Convention on Hours of Labour;
  • Draft Convention on Facilities for Finding Employment for Seamen;
  • Recommendation concerning unemployment;
  • Draft Convention fixing the Minimum Age for Admission of Children to Employment at Sea.


The Second Conference

The Second Session of the International Labour Conference duly met as convened at Genoa/Italy in the Palazzo San Giorgio on 15 June 1920 and closed on 10 July 1920. The Conference was attended by 86 Delegates - 47 Government, 19 Employers', and 20 Workers' Delegates - from 27 countries.

The Convention was presided by Baron Mayor des Planches (Italy), and the three Vice-Presidents selected were: Arthur Fontaine (France), Mr. Nijgh (Netherlands) and Havelock Wilson (United Kingdom).

The plan of the work of the Conference differs both in conception and execution from that followed the compilation of the report of the Washington Meeting.

The Conference held twenty-eight plenary sittings, the following four Recommendations and three Draft Conventions were adopted:

  • The first Draft Convention (No. 7) prohibited the employment of children at sea under the age of 14, except on training ships, and required masters of vessels to keep a register of all boys up to 16 years of age, to facilitate the enforcement of the Convention.
  • The second Draft Convention (No. 8) required owners of ships to pay shipwrecked seamen in their employ full wages for a period not exceeding two months. Hitherto, seamen serving on a lost vessel have been entitled to no compensation for loss of employment.
  • The third and most important of the Draft Conventions (No. 9) adopted dealt with the establishment of facilities for finding employment for seamen.

The Conference appointed a Joint Maritime Commission to assist the International Labour Office regularly in its work connected with seamen. This Commission was constituted of 5 shipowners and 5 seamen.

Besides, six resolutions were adopted by the Conference proposed by the following Commissions: Commission on unemployment, Commission on the minimum age for the employment of children at sea, Commission on the International Seamen's Code, Drafting Committee as a substitute for Norwegian Resolution contained in the Minority Report of the Commission on the International Seamen's Code. Also, a Resolution concerning venereal diseases proposed Mr. Hipwood and a proposal concerning the composition of the Joint Maritime Commission were adopted.