Section I.—Organisation of labour

Whereas the League of Nations has for its object the establishment of universal peace, and such a peace can be established only if it is based upon social justice;

And whereas conditions of labour exist involving such injustice, hardship and privation to large numbers of people as to produce unrest so great that the peace and harmony of the world are imperilled; and an improvement of those conditions is urgently required: as, for example, by the regulation of the hours of work, including the establishment of a maximum working day and week, the regulation of the labour supply, the prevention of unemployment, the provision of an adequate living wage, the protection of the worker against sickness, disease and injury arising out of his employment, the protection of children, young persons and women, provision for old age and injury, protection of the interests of workers when employed in countries other than their own, recognition of the principle of freedom of association, the organisation of vocational and technical education and other measures;

[Page 696]

Whereas also the failure of any nation to adopt humane conditions of labour is an obstacle in the way of other nations which desire to improve the conditions in their own countries;

The High Contracting Parties, moved by sentiments of justice and humanity as well as by the desire to secure the permanent peace of the world, agree to the following:

Note to XIII, sec. I

On May 10 the German delegation, declaring that “domestic peace and the advancement of mankind depend vitally on the adjustment of [the labor] question” and that the demands for social justice were only partly realized in part XIII of the Conditions of Peace, transmitted an elaborate draft convention for labor and proposed the summoning of a labor conference at Versailles (Foreign Relations, The Paris Peace Conference, 1919, v, 571). In their reply of May 14, the Allies declined to summon a labor conference and asserted that the German draft convention was inferior to the proposals of section XIII because it made no provision for the representation of labor; Germany could participate in the proposed labor organization as soon as it became a member of the League of Nations (ibid., p. 600).

In a second note of May 22, the German delegation complained that the Allied plan did not conform to the resolutions of the International Trade Union Conference held at Bern in February 1919 and renewed its proposal for a conference of trade unions (ibid., p. 869). The Allied reply drew attention to a “fundamental misconception” of the German delegation that “the views and interests of Governments must necessarily be antagonistic to those of Labour” and declared that the resolutions of the Bern Conference had been carefully considered in the preparation of the treaty (ibid., vi, 124). Since the proposed International Labor Organization was to meet in Washington in October 1919, there was no need for interposing a labor conference at Versailles.

The German delegation made a third effort in the counterproposals of May 29. The peace proposals started from the assumption that the interests of the working classes were to be decided not by the workers themselves but by the governments. Since Germany was not to be admitted immediately to the League and the International Labor Organization, the German people were thus excluded from cooperation in determining the rights and duties upon which the [Page 697] health and welfare of German workers depended, although German labor legislation had become a model for the entire world. The Conditions of Peace would destroy all the progress which German workers had made and subject them to extreme distress and exploitations. The German workers could agree only to a peace which embodied the aims of the international labor movement and did not sacrifice their achievements in favor of alien oppressors. Germany therefore entered a solemn protest against even its temporary exclusion from the I.L.O.

The Allies treated labor as “mere private property” and failed to recognize workers as citizens entitled to equal rights. A peace on such terms “would not rest on a firm foundation, but only on a quicksand”. Article 427 did not provide for the primary essentials—recognition of the right of settlement, the right of association, and the unrestricted participation of workers living in a foreign state in all measures for the protection of labor. The German delegation once more asked for conference of labor organizations to consider both the Allied proposals, the German counterproposals, and the Bern proposals, the result to be embodied in the treaty of peace and to become “part of international law”. Any other settlement would involve “an infringement of the rights of humanity”, which the conscience of the world would not allow (Foreign Relations, The Paris Peace Conference, vi, 876).

The Allied reply referred the German delegation to the previous notes of May 14 and 28, and pointed out that article 312 provided for special conventions between Germany and the states receiving German territory under the treaty to protect the social insurance of workers (ibid., p. 996).