Key Documents and Special Reports

Key Documents

The following is an excerpt from Society Bulletin #135, January 2013.

Strengthening the Rigour and Quality of our Congresses

Improving the Research of Academics and Professionals in the Legal Profession

We are honoured to have been elected and stand ready to implement a full program of work as contained in the report of the working group coordinated by Jean Michel Servais, which was approved by the Executive Committee at its last meeting in Santiago on September 25, 2012.

We will pursue these objectives with the goal of expanding the quantity and quality of the Society’s scientific work.

It is from this perspective that we submit for your consideration the following ideas for implementing such objectives.

  1. National reports shall be required if the organizing committees of the congress consider it convenient or necessary. If so, we would like the materials to be considered as part of the scientific congress. In this regard:

    1. We recommend that national societies designate their most qualified academics for the preparation of these reports, so they can be of the highest quality. Designations for preparing such reports should be considered as a recognition of academic achievement;
    2. Please note that national reports will be posted on our website and will be available to all researchers (a new website is currently under construction). These will be of use beyond the General Rapporteur and will be seen as a contribution of national societies, (that are members of our Society) to increasing knowledge of their respective national experiences and thereby adding to the international literature. In this regard, national societies are invited to make a self-assessment of the quality of the reports and decide whether to translate them into one or more official languages.
    3. We recommend that the questionnaires prepared by the General Rapporteurs not only enquire about legislation and case law on a topic, but also on the theoretical developments at the national level. These theoretical approaches can be taken into account by the General Rapporteur and made available to other scholars;
    4. We recommend that General Rapporteurs not limit their comparative work to those countries that have produced national reports. If, in their opinion, such comparative knowledge is not enough, it is up to the General Rapporteurs to complete the information and seek information from other sources available to labour law researchers.
  2. The conference should be designed in a way to promote discussions and debate, rather than simply a series of presentations. To that end, presentations, which should always be made as introductions to the theme, should provide sufficient time for comment and discussion. The way workshops are usually organised seems to best fit these objectives. Round tables, in turn, should be organized to promote and facilitate the exchange of opinions and discussion between the panellists, and not merely presentations.
  3. It is desirable that “unofficial” papers received during our Congresses be reviewed for approval and possible submission to academic journals. Therefore, the creation of reading committees with a view to providing such approval is of great significance and usefulness. For approval, the submission of an abstract is required. Approved articles would take precedence for presentation at the conference, and will be made available to researchers on the Society website.
  4. This should not discourage the submission of studies and presentations by practitioners and other professionals who are members of our national societies. Non-academic professionals, therefore, should be encouraged to submit papers that contribute to the discussion, and also participate in online discussion forums. Their contributions should also be considered part of the material produced by the congresses and posted on the Society’s website.
  5. It is important that ISLSSL Congresses generate knowledge on the latest legal research, multidisciplinary work or other products linked to labour law and social security. This should be the purpose of the calls for “poster sessions” in which it becomes possible to briefly present relevant research findings, although not covered by the Congress’ themes. After attending these presentations, anyone interested in them will know who works on these subjects, what research materials have been published and where, how the research process continues, and so on. These “poster sessions” should be encouraged and the organizing committees should provide a meeting place, assist in organising the order and length of presentations, advertise and facilitate their dissemination, including through the Society website. In the same spirit of quality and rigour, the approved presentations by the reading committees should have precedence in the session. The “poster sessions” should not be a mere sideshow but a stimulating ISLSSL space that lends itself to rigorous research on a variety of issues, even from other disciplines that contribute to the study of labour law and social security).
  6. Multidisciplinary panels could be included in the Congresses and Seminars, as they have the potential to promote lateral thinking in labour law and social security through the studies of jurists and scholars from other disciplines, thereby making important contributions to knowledge and, at the same time, stimulating multidisciplinary work.

We  aim to further promote comparative research and the establishment of groups or research networks at the international level. The ISLSSL should assist researchers and institutional members of the Society in organizing research and meetings among academics and practitioners with shared interests. With this goal, national societies and their members are asked to identify the researchers and the kind of research that is under way in their respective countries, so the Society can report it in our Bulletins and on the Society’s website. The Report of the Working Group also suggested that the General Rapporteurs should be drawn from the leading researchers working on the Congress’ themes.


The following is an excerpt from Society Bulletin #135, January 2013.

ISLSSL Sponsorship

In order to ensure that the ISLSSL lends its sponsorship only to academic activities of a high caliber, the use of its logo should be submitted to the Honorary Presidents and Vice Presidents for consultation and approval. Academic sponsorship applications will be submitted according to the following procedure for consultation and decision.

  1. Sponsorship applications for activities not organized by the ISLSSL will be granted or denied by the Officers of the Society, after consultation with the Honorary Presidents and Vice-Presidents.
  2. To enable the consultation process, the applicant must submit the program of the activity for which sponsorship is sought, indicating the names and, where appropriate, the qualifications of the speakers, panellists, coordinators, authors of contributions and the themes to be addressed. Including all these elements will help in assessing the quality and rigour of the activity proposed.
  3. When the proposed activity takes place in a country whose national association is a member of the ISLSSL, the academic sponsorship application must expressly have the national association’s written endorsement.
  4. To ensure greater international exposure, the application may be sent to the President and the Secretary-General of the ISLSSL in two official languages of the Society.

Special Reports

Servais Report on Recommended Reforms (2012)

Report of the Working Party on the methods of work and organizational aspects of the ISLSSL

Dear colleagues,

You will recall that President Michal Sewerynski and Secretary-General Arturo Bronstein have asked me to coordinate a working group with a view to proposing to the Executive Committee a number of changes in methods of work and organizational aspects of the ISLSSL congresses and other activities. More specifically, the group has been requested to examine the following questions: a) the format of our forthcoming congresses; (b) the design of a more attractive and interactive webpage, which would include information on substantial developments in Labour Law and Social Security in the countries where the Society has national associations; and the way to (c) better promote and expand its activities, and (d) attract young scholars and researchers from all parts of the world.

To this end I prepared a preliminary document, based on previous discussions and reports including from Tayo Fashoyin, Secretary of the International Labour and Employment Relations Association (ILERA, ex-IIRA). The paper was circulated to the President, the Secretary-General and the Treasurer, to Honorary Presidents Blanpain, Sugeno, and Verdier, to the Vice-Presidents, and to Steve Adler, Ronnie Eklund, François Gaudu, Alvin Goldman, Oscar Hernández, Richard Mitchell, and Jeffrey Sack. It has been sent later on at their request to other colleagues.

I received comments from Arturo Bronstein, Darcy du Toit (two communications), François Gaudu, Alvin Goldman, Oscar Hernández (three communications), Richard Mitchell, Kazuo Sugeno, Takashi Araki, Ronnie Eklund and Jeffrey Sack. A second version of the preliminary report was circulated to the Working Party members for further observations. Michal Sewerynski, Arturo Bronstein, Roger Blanpain, Alvin Goldman, Jeffrey Sack and Richard Mitchell further react to the draft. I have integrated most of the observations and try to make a synthesis in the present version of my report.

I have made proposals in italics when I thought that sufficient ground existed for a consensus. In other cases, I have described options for your further comments and observations, if any. To facilitate the debate, the President asks me to present the proposals made in two groups: those which seem easily acceptable and those which risk being a subject of a long debate. He suggests preparing such a structured final report after having circulated it among the Executive Committee members. I therefore ask the Secretary-General to circulate first the revised document to all members of the Executive Committee. I will include any new comment in the final document and submit it as requested so that a discussion on this issue can be held during the Executive Committee meeting that will take place in Seville, in September 2011.

As stated by Jeffrey Sack, it is important to start with a reiteration of the purposes of the Society. Article 1 of its by-laws reads as follows:

  1. The International Society for Labour and Social Security Law, in the following articles called the Society, is established as an association for the purposes of studying labour and social security law at the national as well as international level, and promoting the exchange of ideas and information from a comparative perspective, and encouraging the closest possible collaboration among academics, lawyers, and other experts within the fields of labour and social security law.
  2. The activities of the Society include the promotion of the study of labour and social security law amongst young academics and lawyers, and support for international comparative schools, seminars and other meetings in those fields.
  3. The aims of the Society are of a purely scientific character, independent of all considerations of a political, philosophical or religious nature.

We note the special emphasis made in paragraph 2 on young academics and lawyers as well as the support expressed for international comparative schools, seminars and other meetings that may promote the study of labour and social security law amongst them.

Again I will review successively:

  1. Overall arrangements relating to the organization of the world and regional congresses,
  2. Selection of topics and reporters, and organization of the work during a congress, and
  3. Other means to better promote and expand activities and to attract young scholars

I. Overall arrangements for congresses


  1. Since 1982 the world congresses have regularly been held every third year. While intervals between two regional congresses have been variable there is a clear tendency to hold European and American congresses also every three years. By contrast, periodicity of Asian congresses does not keep an established pace, and so far only one Congress has been held in Africa.
  2. According to its by-laws (Article 12), the Society shall meet in a World Congress every three years or at such longer or shorter intervals as the Executive Committee may find convenient.  It should also be noted that Article 8 implicitly confirms the established practice to hold a European Congress every three years, when it states that on the occasion of a Regional Congress organized in the year prior to each World Congress there will also be a regular meeting of the Executive Committee. So far, the Executive Committee has not felt the need of changing the periodicity of World as well as American and European congresses.
  3. R. Mitchell calls for greater attention to be given to the holding of Regional Congresses in Asia and Africa where development of the ISLSSL is critical. As an ongoing policy, the Society must assist initiatives coming from those regions with a view to organizing congresses or other meetings and so developing in these regions a more extensive and active set of institutions.

Dates and venue

  1. The dates and venue of world and regional congresses are decided by the Executive Committee well in advance, i.e. six years and three years respectively. The six years anticipation for a world congress could be shortened as the Executive Committee has a second regular sitting in any period between two world congresses. Also, it is possible that the Executive Committee takes decisions by correspondence (Article 8 of the by-laws). The present practices are flexible enough; it would not seem that they call for far-reaching changes. As a general rule, the fixing of the date and venue of a world congress could be discussed by the Executive Committee six years before the Congress is to be held, a final decision being taken at the next Executive Committee meeting (i.e. the one that is held four years before that Congress).
  2. The first reason to select a country or town for an ISLSSL congress is the fact that an invitation has been received from a national association. The Executive Committee has always tried to diversify the location of congresses and to avoid going twice to the same country within a certain period of time. Where possible, world congresses take place alternatively in all regions of the world. It has been observed however that these are guidelines rather than rules as they are applied with common sense, thus avoiding bureaucratic thinking. In any case, when more than one candidature has been submitted, the Executive Committee should give priority to the regional rotation principle; the country that has not been selected should be given special consideration in view of the following congress. Amongst the criteria for the selection, one may quote the financial capacity of the institution or the group of personalities organizing the congress, the facilities offered (including flight connections and travel packages) and the general situation of the country. The Executive Committee has avoided choosing countries which presented a risk for the security of the participants, but has never taken political considerations into account while deciding which country would be selected to host a congress.
  3. As many participants are academics, the dates of the university year (at least those of a majority of countries) need to be taken into consideration. Since 1970 all of the ISLSSL world and European congresses have been held during the month of September, which in many European countries corresponds to the period in between the end of summer vacations and the beginning of the University year. March and April may also be considered suitable months for the holding of ISLSSL events, while June should be avoided, as it corresponds to the annual meeting of the International Labour Conference, to which many academics and practitioners attend in the capacity of delegates from governments’, employers’ or workers’ benches. Consideration has also been given to the dates and venue of world or regional congresses of the ILERA. Where possible the ISLSSL and ILERA have organized “back to back” congresses in the same region, so that members of both associations can attend both events. Some members of the Society have complained that such a practice may actually prevent them from attending one of the two congresses as attendance to both in the same month may conflict with other commitments they would have, especially when the academic year is to shortly commence or has already started.
  4. Where possible, the Executive Committee has taken the religious calendar into consideration so as to avoid that the dates of a congress collide with those of religious festivities. A. Goldman recommends that it should be a responsibility of the Secretary-General to have a copy of a comprehensive religious calendar available when congress dates are discussed.
  5. J. Sack suggests that the most appropriate dates could be a useful subject for a survey addressed to all Society members. More generally, as pointed out by D. du Toit, decisions such as these should depend on an appraisal of prevailing circumstances and consensus rather than on rules.

Working languages

  1. English, French, German and Spanish are the regular working languages of World and European congresses. So far it has been expected that organizing committees guarantee that (oral) interpretation into and from all of these languages would be made available in these congresses. The languages used during the Executive Committee meetings, while theoretically reduced to French and English, generally follow the practice of the related congress.
  2. English is the working language of a majority of participants in all world and regional congresses, except when they are held in Latin America, in which case Spanish tends to be the first language. Asian regional congresses normally work in English. Those in the American region are bilingual English-Spanish, with simultaneous interpretation, although at least in one case a regional congress was held without English interpretation. The only African congress which has so far been convened under the auspices of our Society was bilingual English-French, also with interpretation.
  3. Other languages may be added if the organizing committee feels that interpretation in additional languages is cost-efficient and beneficial for a better exchange of ideas during the congress. For example, French was a working language at the American Congress of Labour Law, Montréal, 1995, while Italian was added at the European Congress, in Bologna, 2005, and Chinese at the Asian Congress, Taipei, 2005. One may imagine that similar arrangements might be made, for example in respect to Portuguese interpretation should a World or an American Congress be held in Brazil, etc. Such arrangements are, however, made on the sole decision of each organizing committee [1].
  4. Translation of the reports and interpretation from and into the different working languages are extremely expensive; it is easy to understand that they become a cause for major concern by organizing committees. In a number of cases the organizers of congresses have complained about the ratio between the cost of translation and interpretation into certain languages and the number of participants actually using these languages, e.g. English in American congresses held in Latin America, German or even French in World or European congresses. This is indeed a very thorny issue as it puts financial constraints face to face against concerns for safeguarding the universality of the Society. The Executive Committee has so far taken the view that diversity of languages reflects the diversity of legal cultures throughout the world, which implies that the reduction of the number of languages to one or two would likely lead to congresses becoming less universal in terms of variety of thoughts. Even in workshops organized during congresses, the use of only one language has been considered as limiting the scope of the discussions.
  5. A. Goldman has provided the Working Group with the following interesting data [2]:
    Native speakers (first parenthesis)/Adding secondary speakers (second parenthesis)

    Mandarin Chinese (1.1 billion) (1.12 billion)
    English (330 million) (480 million)
    Spanish (300 million) (320 million)
    Hindi/Urdu (250 million)(250 million)
    Arabic (200 million) (221 million)
    Bengali (185 million) (185 million)
    Portuguese (160 million) (188 million)
    Russian (160 million) (285 million)
    Japanese (125 million) (133 million)
    German (100 million) (109 million)
    Punjabi (90 million)
    Javanese (80 million)
    French (75 million) (265 million)

    Total number of countries that use a language either officially or widely:

    1. English (115)
    2. French (35)
    3. Arabic (24)
    4. Spanish (20)
    5. Russian (16)
    6. German (9)
    7. Mandarin (5)
    8. Portuguese (5)
    9. Hindi/Urdu (2)
    10. Bengali (1)
    11. Japanese (1)

    List of world’s ten most influential languages based on weighing number of primary speakers, number of secondary speakers, number and population of countries where used, number of major fields using the language internationally, economic power of countries using the languages, and socio-literary prestige (number of points given in parentheses):

    1. English (37)
    2. French (23)
    3. Spanish (20)
    4. Russian (16)
    5. Arabic (14)
    6. Chinese (13)
    7. German (12)
    8. Japanese (10)
    9. Portuguese (10)
    10. Hindi/Urdu (9)

    A. Goldman also quotes from another source [3], the Top Seven Languages Used on Internet as Percent of Total (30 Sep. 2009). They are the followings:

    1. English (27.6%)
    2. Chinese (22.1%)
    3. Spanish (7.9%)
    4. Japanese (5.5%)
    5. French (4.6%)
    6. Portuguese (4.3%)
    7. German (3.7%)

  6. Having regard to these elements, the Working Group has considered various options with regard to the working languages of the World congresses and the Executive Committee meetings. In their majority, the members who have replied refuse the proposal made to reduce the number of languages from four to two, even with a possibility to adding a third and a fourth languages in case the organizing committee receives a sufficient number of registrations from participants using these languages. Neither has the in statu quo received the support of a majority. The position that seems to get most support is a compromised one, i.e. to reduce the number of languages from four to three (English, French and Spanish), with a possibility to adding a fourth language (German in particular) in case the organizing committee receives a sufficient number of registrations from participants using that language [4]. Beyond this, if the Society wants to develop more strongly in the Asia Pacific region nothing impedes us from putting a greater emphasis upon Chinese, and to decide, in specific cases, to finance the translation and/or interpretation from or into that language.

Duration of congresses

  1. For many years the standard duration of a world congress has been three days. However, in most cases on-the-site registration for the Congress actually starts on the day before the congress is to commence. This is why in recent years the practice has been to inaugurate the Congress in the evening of the day before its actual work is to start, thus allowing full three working days for the work of the Congress. This practice offers many advantages as it is also possible to convene study groups meetings and to hold “poster sessions” during that day [5]. Also, the Executive Committee is able to meet on this day.
  2. Having regard to the above, the Working Group recommends that the standard duration of a World or a European Congress be four days, of which the first day would be reserved for a formal or informal meeting of the Executive Committee, the inauguration ceremony (in the evening), as well as side events such as meetings of study groups [6].

Registration fees

  1. The established practice is that each organizing committee fixes the amount of the registration fees that are to be paid by participants, in principle after consultation with the Executive Committee, or at least with the Officers. Policies and practices in this respect have been very varied. The amount of fees constitutes an important element to attract participants or to discourage them from participating at a Congress. There is no evidence that too high fees have actually discouraged participation of scholars from strong currency countries. On the other hand, there is little wonder that they have had negative effects in the participation of scholars from weak currency countries. O. Hernández has in this regard insisted on the need to make a distinction between the living standards of academics and practitioners in developing countries and the exchange rate of the currency of their country vis-à-vis the dollar, the euro or the yen. A University professor may enjoy a very decent level of income within his country while having difficulty affording the cost of a stay in a hard currency country. In view of this it has been suggested that it would be sound policy that the organizing committees fix special rates for registrations coming from weak currency countries.
  2. It appears extremely difficult in practice to define the weak currency countries and the beneficiary groups within those countries. The opinions amongst the Working Group members are very diverse. The Executive Committee at Stockholm, September 2002, took the view that such question should be left to the appreciation of each organizing committee. On the basis of his experience, A. Bronstein recommends that this position be maintained. I concur with his proposal. In addition, the Secretary-General and the organizers of a congress should always look for reduced prices of flights and hotels. To make congresses more affordable, the organizers should be asked, as suggested by Michal Sewerynski, to also propose university premises and non-luxury hotels.
  3. There is not an established practice with respect to the payment of registration fees by young scholars who benefit from ISLSSL grants. In some cases (Stockholm), they were not required to pay, but in other cases they have been. As the amount of grants offered by the ISLSSL very seldom covers the full cost of travel and accommodation, not to mention registration fees, the Working Group recommends that ISLSSL fellows not be required to pay registration fees. More generally a reduced rate might be considered for students and young scholars.
  4. A proposal has repeatedly been made that the organizing committees fix a reduced rate for participants affiliated to a national association that has paid regularly its contribution to the ISLSSL. It has been suggested that such a practice would actually encourage many scholars to join their national associations. While it could add to the financial difficulties of the organizers, a majority of the Working Group is in favour of the measure. The proposal however could take the form of imposing a higher rate on participants who are not members of a national affiliate that has regularly paid its contribution.

II. Selection of topics and reporters, and organization of the work during a congress.

  1. An extreme variety of views has been expressed within the Working Group considering the selection of topics and reporters and the organization of the work during a congress. Although opened to improvements, some clearly favour the continuation of the present practice. Others would radically change the format of the congresses and adopt proceedings which are close to the ones followed by ILERA. A third group proposes to accommodate the traditional approach with diverse significant changes. No proper synthesis could be made of these different views. I would personally concur with K. Sugeno when he says that the Executive Committee should basically respect a set of proposals made by the members of the organizing committee, encouraging their initiatives and innovations and presupposing that in so doing they act in close consultation with the President and the Secretary-General. The organizers have an obvious interest in the success of the event. I would suggest therefore that the organizing committee of each congress decide, in consultation with the Officers of the Society, on the selection of the topics, on the way to discuss them in plenary and workshops sessions and/or in roundtables as well as on the call for national reports.
  2. The Executive Committee however must keep its role of controlling the quality and the interest of the debate. It must discuss and possibly modify choices that would not respect some criteria concerning the selection of the main reporters, the keynote speakers and the moderators of workshops or roundtables, the need in some cases [7] of a pre-congress reading committee and the relevance and actuality of the themes discussed. It should do it on time to permit changes. The fact that topics for world congresses are traditionally decided some six years in advance (three to four years for regional congresses) makes it difficult to foresee what would be the topic of major interest after such a lapse of time. It would be feasible that the Executive Committee approves in principle the programme of the coming congresses at its last session before the event while entrusting, as the case may, be the Officers to ask for further changes along the lines of its recommendations. Organizers should always be free to ask for an early approval.
  3. The following recommendations take into account both the more flexible approach proposed and the need to maintain the quality of the Society conferences.


  1. Topics for world and regional congresses are decided by the Executive Committee. Many times in the past, small working parties have been set up to offer proposals. It is important, as mentioned by R. Mitchell, that the ISLSSL attracts as many leading labour law scholars as possible to its meetings. This requires targeting such people, and organising programmes around their research interests. The Society should take active steps to keep up with important developments in labour law thinking and development, and bring them into its own activities and proceedings. There are many areas of interest, including quantified studies in labour law, labour law and economics, international and human rights in labour law, etc. in addition to the ongoing interest in comparative labour law. These issues should be taken up together with more conventional labour law topics (there was a labour law and legal origins workshop at the ILERA Sydney conference for example).
  2. The main criterion in the selection of each topic is the relevance of the theme for labour lawyers, i.e. for both researchers and practitioners. K. Sugeno suggests that the Secretary-General invite executive members representing national associations to send, in the interval between World Congresses, a list of major issues of labour policies and social security laws in their respective jurisdictions. The Executive Committee has tried in recent years to identify researches in progress and to ask their authors to be reporters in congresses close to the planned end of their research. This practice could be followed in a more systematic manner. It would imply, however, that national associations inform, as far in advance as possible, the Officers of the ISLSSL and the concerned organizing committee on the main research programmes
  3. In the selection of the themes, an appropriate equilibrium should be maintained between employment law, labour (industrial relations) law and social security law. This could be done through the presentation of keynote speeches or general reports, or through the selection of some topics for a roundtable.

Keynote speakers, reporters and moderators

  1. The presence and the number of keynote speakers, reporters and moderators as well as their precise role should be left to the organizing committee, in consultation with the Officers of the Society. In selecting presenters of papers, moderators, and panellists, the need to give younger scholars an opportunity for exposure should be kept in mind. An adequate balance should be respected between male and female scholars. 
  2. Criteria for the appointment of keynote speakers, reporters, and moderators of debates should in all cases include the followings:
    • The person should have made authoritative research on the topic selected.
    • The reporters should be prominent researchers in their country and have a strong comparative law background.
    • An appropriate balance should be maintained between the different legal cultures.
    • The same person should not be designated for successive world or regional congresses.
  3. A further criterion to be taken into consideration is the knowledge of languages by reporters and moderators. All general reporters are normally able to read English; many however cannot read French or Spanish. Even if there is no call for national reports, it can be expected as a rule that the reporters and moderators would be able to read at least two congress languages, or if not, that they have the means (which may be made available by their national association) to associate colleagues able to read documents and publications in more than one language. An alternative solution supported by J. Sack, but not by others, is to designate more than one reporter with different languages proficiencies. The Working Group recommends that the Executive Committee does not approve reporters or moderators who cannot read at least two congress languages, unless other means of translation and interpretation are identified.

National reports

  1. In the case of world congresses, each reporter is presently responsible for preparing a questionnaire relating to the topic he or she has to report thereon. The Secretary-General takes care of sending the questionnaires to the national associations, with the request that they appoint a national reporter on each item, and that they take the commitment of sending the national reports in due time. It should be noted on record that this practice has met with great success in respect to some congresses such as the ones of Montevideo and Paris where 110 and 83 national reports respectively were produced and sent to the general reporters and the organizing committee. Some national reports go beyond the pure provision of information and present an informed analysis of the issue within the country’s context; in those cases, they still constitute an academic recognition for scholars. National reports are clearly a source of extensive knowledge of comparative labour law. T. Araki, A. Bronstein and O. Hernández stress the wealth of information they contained that would be difficult to collect otherwise.
  2. It appears, however, that very few national reports were received in some recent congresses, and sometimes very late. It made more difficult the preparation of general reports. Another problem has been the ability of some general reporters to understand the national reports written in French, German or Spanish. It has been argued that a collection of papers with comment that are published in a reputable law journal is of far greater value – to the author and the audience – than national reports that are spotty in number and uneven in quality. A. Goldman, R. Mitchell and J. Sack urge their discontinuation.
  3. The views expressed by the Working Group members vary considerably. Alternative sources of comparative law exist however. The ILO continues to collect labour and social security legislation. Other databases may be identified, such as the European Industrial Relations Observatory, the European Labour Law Network, the International Encyclopaedia for Labour law and Industrial Relations & Social Security Law or the websites of various Regional institutions. They could be used as an alternative to national reports. On the other hand, national associations should be free to provide a reporter with useful information and to participate in the debate that follows the presentation. In those circumstances, alternative approaches to national reports should be accepted as long as the presentation would continue to be of a truly comparative or international character.

Presentations in the plenary, workshops and roundtables

  1. Presentations in the plenary may include general reports, keynote speeches, round tables and other papers accepted, as the case may be, by a reading committee. Some discussions may be reserved for a smaller audience within so-called “workshops” [8]. In accordance with the recommendation made in paragraph 21 above, the organizers would decide on the most appropriate formula in consultation with the Officers of the Society, and under the general supervision of the Executive Committee.
  2. General reporters are expected to present their report orally at a plenary sitting of the congress; it has always been the practice to ask him/her to introduce the report briefly and not to read it fully in the plenary. Oral presentation of national reports has already been omitted in congresses. The presentation of the general report may be directly followed by a discussion, either in the plenary, or in different workshops (where sometimes, sub-themes have been selected by the organizers). The same follow-up may be used for keynote speeches and other presentations.
  3. The interest of having workshops has again been underlined. The method has been successfully implemented in various regional and world congresses. It consists in the discussions among a small audience of the main presentations made in the plenary, or of a sub theme of it, under the chairmanship of a moderator. It has been positively appreciated as they stimulate the comparison of views and approaches from countries with different social and legal backgrounds, thus encouraging a broader exchange of ideas during a congress. They also allow more participants to be involved in the actual work of the Congress, thus bringing an additional incentive for many colleagues attending it. However, complaints have also been heard when a workshop has not benefited from interpretation, as in such cases the discussions might in practice be limited only to countries belonging to a single area or legal system (i.e. discussion engaged only between countries whose participants were able to communicate in English). A number of members of the Working Group share this concern.
  4. Many members of the Working Group consider that more use should be made of the workshop formula, including on themes that are connected but not necessarily contained in the main presentations. When papers are submitted, they might be accepted by a reading committee in some workshops, not in others, depending whether the questions discussed are of interest mainly for academic researchers or practitioners and administrators. In case workshop discussions were added to the programme of a congress, the Working Group makes the following recommendations:
    • That a moderator for each workshop be appointed in advance;
    • That the moderator would be able to express him/herself in more than one congress language so as to stimulate a fruitful exchange between legal cultures;
    • That alternatively the workshop benefit from interpretation into a second congress language;
    • That the moderator reports on each workshop be made available to the plenary or online.
  5. The practice has also been introduced to organize at least one round table in the plenary of both, regional and world congresses. It has been used for panel discussions among people of diverse views focusing on controversial presentations at plenary sessions. It has been a way to extend the range of personalities requested to have a role in congresses. The round table panel has, as a rule, been made up of one coordinator and several participants (four to six) coming from different legal cultures.
  6. So far the success of round table discussions has been uneven. R. Eklund has proposed to drop this proceeding which is, however, favoured by a majority of the members. The quality of round table mainly depends on the capacity of the coordinator to stimulate debate rather than to permit a succession of short lectures.  The Working Group recommends that the moderator always provides the members of the round table with clear guidance on the purpose of the discussion and on its main focuses.
  7. As round table discussions do not call for the same amount of investigation as general reports it is feasible that the theme they will address be decided within a short anticipation. The Working Group recommends that themes for round table discussion may be decided upon within short notice, after consultation of the organizing committee with the Officers.

Poster sessions

  1. In line with the ILERA practice, the question has been raised whether it would be appropriate to authorize some researchers to present shortly the results of their work even if this is not related to the themes of the congress. R. Mitchell observes that it is very difficult in many universities for scholars to receive travel and conference support unless they are presenting a paper at a conference where the papers are refereed; the challenge is to make the ISLSSL Conferences a major venue where those interested in labour law, labour market regulation, labour policy and social security (among other relevant areas) can meet and discuss matters at what is perceived by the academic and professional world as a high level conference. The disadvantage of the proposal would be to give an impression of dispersion in the discussions taking place in the congress, especially while there are no criteria for the selection of such communications. In addition, some universities no longer provide funding for poster sessions; this may make workshops or roundtables more important.
  2. These papers could nevertheless be introduced in ad-hoc sittings (so-called poster sessions) that could be held along with the workshops during the Congress. F. Gaudu recalls that the papers should be accepted by a reading committee. They should be published online. Some sessions might be reserved to not refereed papers. To facilitate these sessions it would be important that those who intend to submit communications to the Congress notify the organizing committee well in advance, so as the latter can make the appropriate arrangements; they should involve no other cost than the availability of a room without interpretation.

Presidencies during the congress plenary sittings

  1. It is an established practice that each plenary sitting of the Congress is chaired by a different person. Proposals for the presidency of each sitting are made by the organizing committee and are decided by the Executive Committee at the sitting that takes place immediately before the Congress is inaugurated. With the exception of the opening and the closure ceremonies, the persons should as far as possible be selected according to the relevance of their research interests to the topic discussed.

Publication of the proceedings

  1. The publication of the proceedings of a congress was the rule until the seventies. Since then, the rule suffered a number of exceptions. In many cases, however, the general reports for world congresses have been translated and printed in English, French and Spanish. In certain cases the German Association has undertaken to translate and publish the general reports also in German. More and more often however the proceedings are published online or on CD Rom support.
  2. Due to cost and other practical considerations, national reports that are submitted to world congresses are often neither printed nor translated. Instead, the organizing committees can make these reports available in their original languages, online or on CD Rom. The Secretary-General normally receives the electronic data files of all national reports, which he can make available upon request.
  3. The Working Group recommend that the organizing committees of all of the World and Regional Congresses take the commitment to make general reports and keynote speeches available, before the meeting and in its working languages, online at the website of each congress or at the website of the Society. M. Sewerynski, however, emphasizes that printed reports should be preserved (at least general reports) as that form of communication is still a precious mark of our culture. A. Bronstein, F. Gaudu and O. Hernández insist that printed or CD copies be available before the sessions. A list of the documents available should be circulated to all participants; printed copies of reports should at least be sent on request. The authors of presentations should retain the right to seek to have their document or its translation published in journals and electronic resources or otherwise disseminated.


  1. Very effective use could be made, as mentioned by J. Sack, of surveys following congresses, and to explore membership opinions generally. It would be up to the Secretary-General to carry out such inquiries.

III. Other means to better promote and expand activities and to attract young scholars

  1. Richard Mitchell recalls that the scholarly and academic pursuit of inquiry is an essential part of the Society’s activities, beyond the mere provision of information. He regrets that the greater weight of activity is given over to the provision of information rather than scholarship in the field. He made a number of suggestions to correct the imbalance. His critics raise a more crucial issue: should the ISLSSL or the national associations take the lead in this regard? There is no simple answer as they ideally should feed and strengthen each other.  To give a main role to the Society would suppose that one provides its officers with more resources in terms of availability of colleagues and material means.


  1. In spite of a number of difficulties, Arturo Bronstein has created a remarkable webpage of the ISLSSL within the site of the Argentinean Association of Labour Law. R. Eklund rightly states that website should reflect the corporate image of the Society. It may certainly be made more interactive and include more data on substantial developments in labour law and social security. It should also be more regularly updated. The national associations ought to disseminate the information it contains and regularly provide updated information, including links to websites operated by affiliates.
  2. Alvin Goldman suggests maintaining on the website a list of current opportunities for labour and employment law scholars to teach or research at various institutions in other countries, a list of members who are seeking such opportunities, and a list of those currently engaged in such visits.  Such a networking site would enhance the efforts of members like Roger Blanpain and Kazuo Sugeno who have done much to improve our field by encouraging those sorts of visits, especially by younger scholars.
  3. While improvements to the website would no doubt be most welcome, including by young scholars, it implies a quite time-consuming effort that would entail financial resources or benevolent assistance. Alvin Goldman underlines that every effort should also be made to maintain a website host at a non profit organization. Mention may be made in this connection of the website of the International Association of Labour Law Journals which Lancaster House (the legal publishing house which issues the Canadian Labour and Employment Law Journal) has developed and is hosting without cost. This website has been recently re-shaped and is up-dated, within the limits of the collaboration of each journal. The Association intends to solicit all the Members to contribute to the different pages of the site and then to create a “common page” where all the news could be displayed in chronological order, with a view of giving the reader the possibility to look over what is going on internationally in Labour Law. J. Sack states that Lancaster House is open to exploring the creation of an ISLSSL website at no cost and under the direction of the Society. The proposal should certainly be examined.
  4. To give up national reports implies the loss of an important source of comparative labour law. The establishment of a permanent database of legislation and case-law would, therefore, be of incommensurable interest. It would also be the surest way to attract more scholars and researchers from all parts of the world. As already mentioned, the ILO has developed important data bases on labour law and practice. The ILO could be asked to share the information it collects with the ISLSSL. A link to the clearly indexed ILO and other relevant sites should be established. R. Mitchell suggests that one draw some inspiration from the ILERA newsletter and website. A data base archive could be established containing all the documents presented to congresses.
  5. With a view of assessing the interest it arouses, a record of the number of visitors could be inserted in the Webpage.

Awards and prizes

  1. J. Sack suggests the organization of awards and prizes. Awards for outstanding career achievement and distinctive performance could be offered as do the US Labor and Employment Relations Association or the ILO with the Decent Work Research Award. Prizes could be given for outstanding papers by young scholars. This second proposal has the support of O. Hernández. It should in my view be especially examined.

Young scholars 

  1. Mention has already been made of the emphasis put by the by-laws on the promotion of the study of labour and social security law amongst young academics and lawyers. A number of recommendations have been made with a view to attracting scholars, including young ones [9], coming from more countries. It has been traditionally observed that the main responsibility in this regard relies upon the national associations. When however scholars look for suitable conferences to attend, they look at the scholarly programme of the conference, whether it is refereed, what other internationally known scholars will be attending and so on. All of this is also the clear responsibility of the Society. In accordance with Article 1§2 of the by-laws, on the other hand, the Executive Committee facilitates the integration of young scholars into the labour law community and their networking by the assistance it gives to international seminars of comparative labour law, industrial relations and social security. It has recently promoted the organization of new colloquiums of this kind. It could be further encouraged to do so and to provide the organizers with more fellowships.


  1. The ISLSSL is a federation of national associations and scientific institutions. It has been argued that its dynamism basically depends on the capacities of its affiliates to mobilize their memberships. It is, however, a two way process as its own activities may help national societies to attract new scholars and practitioners. J. Sack proposes the creation of standing committees in charge of long-term planning and liaison with the national associations.
  2. R. Mitchell expressed a concern about the lack of activities of the ISLSSL in the Asian region. K. Sugeno also underlines the need to develop the activities in the region. He expresses the intention to improve the situation together with T. Araki and other colleagues. It should at least be the responsibility of the Society to make sure that the interests of the Society are represented in all regions, and to assure, as best possible, that those representations continue effectively.
  3. As mentioned in paragraph 3 above, one way of doing so is to stimulate national scholars, inviting them to participate in the meetings of the Society and recording the researches that are being undertaken in their communities. R. Mitchell has emphasised the need to involve more young and middle rank scholars, more female scholars and more practitioners or administrators. There is no inconsistency in the Society maintaining the interests of both academic researchers and practitioners. He asks the ISLSSL to establish both refereed and non-refereed streams for its proceedings and invite submissions of papers for each; this should accommodate the needs of both academic and non-academic communities within the Society [10]. J. Sack also emphasizes the need to increase the participation of practitioners in the activities of the Society, even suggesting the creation of a practitioners committee, advisory to the Executive Committee.
  4. The ISLSSL could consider, in R. Mitchell’s view, working in collaboration with other groups such as the International Network on Transformative Employment and Labour Law (INTELL), the Collaborative Research Network on Labor Rights which operates under the auspices of the Law and Society Association, and the Regulating for Decent Work Network. D. du Toit suggests also establishing contacts with the European Labour Law Network and J. Sack calls for closer liaison with the International Association of Labour Law Journals.
  5. R. Mitchell suggests developing some ongoing networks and study groups at an international level, which can keep up communication and exchange between regional and World congresses. The by-laws [11] already state that “The President and the Secretary-General shall organize various activities for the promotion of the aims of the Society such as organizing conferences of experts for the exchange of ideas on specific subjects and encouraging and facilitating the creation of study groups.” The ISLSSL may certainly, like ILERA, invite leading scholars to form groups. A. Goldman explains that the Society needs members who are sufficiently interested in a particular study group topic to organize it and suggests that periodically the Executive Committee members be urged to inform their national affiliate members of the existence of this opportunity; an on-line membership directory listing areas of interest would facilitate such efforts. Once some study groups are formed, organizing committees should be urged to arrange for time and space opportunities for them to gather at the congresses. Some initiatives could even lead to more sophisticated projects, as pointed out by J. Sack. R. Mitchell proposes still another way of keeping up with the leading research: to examine leading journals – not merely law journals, but also in relevant industrial relations and economics periodicals for example – and to note the kind of work being published. Would a member be ready to undertake the task, the Society might offer some sort of literature survey to the members on a regular basis.
  6. With regard to Africa, D. du Toit describes how his own association has become a vibrant exception in its region: “SASLAW‘s success, in my view and that of (m)any others, has always depended on its ability to identify issues of concern to all sections of what we term the “labour law community” and our well-established insistence on incorporating as many different voices in our debates as possible. Seminars are our main business. All our provincial chapters seek to identify topics that will [be] of importance to our entire spectrum of members, then to attract speakers that will articulate different approaches or interests. For example, having an issue debated by practitioners who appeared on opposing sides in an important court case can bring it to life – or inviting business and labour representatives to address the issues at stake in an important industrial dispute”. A number of American and European associations may be credited with the same successes using the same methods.
  7. The ways for national associations to mobilize their memberships are numerous. A number of useful suggestions have been made and could be used as benchmarks. The ISLSSL should support those initiatives and provide the appropriate proceedings and framework to help to make them successful. The Society should go further on, stimulate their investigations, identify new areas of research connected with the most recent developments in the social fields, and eventually whenever possible initiate and support new programmes. The creation of interactive study groups could be one, closer relations with other labour, employment and social security networks is another. The idea to have a special section for young scholars could also be explored.

Jean-Michel Servais,
Honorary President
Geneva, January 2011


[1] For example, at the VII European Congress, Stockholm, 2002, Swedish was not a working language as the Organizing Committee considered that all Swedish-speaking participants were able to communicate in English.
[2] From a George Weber’s article “Top Languages: The World’s 10 Most Influential Languages” in Language Today, Vol. 2, December 1997.
[4] This was, for example, the approach followed in Stockholm with respect to Spanish.
[5] See below.
[6] As this proposal has financial implications, it should be made clear that the organizing committee of a congress would be required to provide interpretation in the pre-congress day only for the Executive Committee meeting and the inauguration of the Congress, not for study groups or other side events.
[7] See below.
[8] A. Goldman has mentioned the following variables that can be combined:

  1. Whether topics should be designed to generate controversy
  2. Whether topics should be designed to generate information and understanding i) for scholars; ii) for practitioners; iii) for both (these can include topics in which we have an opportunity to learn from experts in other disciplines such cultural variables that influence organizational structure and conflict resolution, the influence of monetary policy on employment opportunities, the impact of population, demographic or technological trends upon the current or future world of work).
  3. Whether presentations should primarily be to the plenary group or to smaller groups divided by language, region, sub-theme, random audience groupings, etc.
  4. Whether presentations should primarily or exclusively be by a single expert (such as a general reporter).
  5. Whether presentations should be by a panel of experts who do all or most of the talking.
  6. Whether presentations should be by a panel of experts who primarily interact with the audience and each other.
  7. Whether a moderator should pose challenging questions to the panel and/or audience, or both.
  8. Whether a moderator or coordinator should act primarily as time keeper and selector of who can speak at a particular time (including audience).
  9. Whether a person should be assigned to prepare a report on the session proceedings.
[9] See §§ 19, 27, 49, 50 and 53. See also §§ 57 and 60 below.
[10] See the proposals made in § 22, 33, 36 and 41 before.
[11] Article 13 § 1