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Child Labor, Working Conditions on ILO Conference Agenda

Child labor, worker safety and changing patterns in the international workplace are on the agenda of the annual conference of the International Labor Organization.

In an increasingly globalized world, old patterns of work are changing and creating many uncertainties in the labor force. The ILO director general will open debate at the annual meeting on problems and challenges associated with these changing work patterns.

The conference also is preparing a new Convention on Occupational Safety and Health. ILO Executive Director Kari Tapiola says the goal is to strengthen the existing treaty.

"It still is one of the leading causes of death, and we have serious problems of people falling ill and dying, production being lost and so on," he said.

The aim of the new convention is to lower the toll of work-related injuries and disease, which the ILO says cause some two million deaths every year.

As in previous years, the conference will hold a plenary discussion on the situation of forced labor in Burma. Tapiola tells VOA, the conference will review possible further action to get Burma's military rulers to comply with the recommendations of the ILO Commission of Inquiry to end this practice.

"Things have not gone better. I would say they have gotten worse, and we are also facing a situation, where people who have come to us and wanted to get some protection or redress - saying that they have been subject to forced labor - so, they have been prosecuted, and, in some cases, imprisoned, because they have tried to ask for their rights," he said. "And, this is frankly an unacceptable situation."

The ILO will devote a day to a discussion of child labor. In a new Global Report, the ILO finds child labor declined by 11 percent between 2000 and 2004. But, it says 216 million children around the world still work, when they should be going to school. Pressure will be put on delegates from the ILO's 178 member states to do more to eliminate child labor.

The president of Costa Rica, Oscar Arias Sanchez, and President of Liberia Ellen Johnson Sirleaf will give keynote speeches at the conference.