G.H. Stuart-Bunning

The International Labour Organisation

Who was George Harold Stuart-Bunning?

George was born in Oldham on Christmas Day in 1870 and spent his early working life as a postman. He was activist in the Postmen’s Federation, becoming its secretary in 1912. As its leader he opened membership of the union to women and led its merger with the Fawcett Association and the Postal and Telegraph Clerks’ Association to create the Union of Post Office Workers 1919.

Wasn’t he involved with the TUC?

Yes, shortly after creating the amalgamated union he also became president of the TUC. But 1919 was to be a busy year for George and resolving a number of disputes he resigned his union responsibilities to become a British representative at the creation of the ILO in Washington, in autumn 1919

What is the ILO?

The ILO is the International Labour Organisation. It’s a United Nations agency dealing with labour issues, particularly international labour standards, social protection and work opportunities for all. It was created as part of the Treaty of Versailles, which ended WW1 to reflect the belief that universal and lasting peace can be accomplished only if it is based on social justice.

What does that really mean and how has it affected me?

At their first conference in 1919, representatives, including George, adopted six International Labour Conventions, which still stand today. These guide international standards and policies around working hours, unemployment, the living wage, sickness and injury support, provision for old age, equal pay, and maternity rights. So the ILO touches everyone who is touched by the world of work.

Haven’t I read about the ILO in another one of these stories?

Yes! Anne Loughlin, TUC’s first female president, braved the Atlantic during WW2 to attend an historic conference. The ILO was the only UN agency to survive into the post-WW2 period and at that 1944 conference delegates agreed the guiding principles for life after the war: All human beings, irrespective of race, creed or sex, have the right to pursue both their material well-being and their spiritual development in conditions of freedom and dignity, of economic security and equal opportunity.”

Do people realise how important the ILO has been?

It won the Nobel Peace Prize on its 50th anniversary in 1969 for improving peace among classes, pursuing decent work and justice for workers, and providing technical assistance to developing nations.

And what about George?

He received an OBE for his public service.