Centre for Global Negotiations

Members of the Independent Commission on International Development Issues (ICIDI)

Biography: Joe Morris

Born in England in 1913, Joe Morris emigrated to Canada as a teenager and started his working life as a logger in Vancouver. It was there that he began his trade union career, first with a union of unemployed workers, and later as a member of the International Woodworkers of America. His passionate desire for social justice and dedication to the welfare of fellow workers led him to devote his life to the trade union movement, which he served in a variety of capacities, including the posts of Executive Vice-President and President of the Canadian Labour Congress from 1974 to 1978.

His vision and belief in the dignity of human beings also earned him the respect of many outside Canada's borders. As Vice-President and member of the Executive Board of the ICFTU, and the only Worker member of the Brandt Commission, he helped to focus worldwide attention on social issues and demonstrated a strong commitment to improving the situation of developing countries. Convinced of the necessity of eradicating apartheid, he presided over the two International Trade Union Conferences for Action Against Apartheid held in Geneva in 1973 and 1977.

Joe Morris was first associated with the International Labour Organization in 1958, when he took part in a meeting of the Timber Committee. In 1962, he joined the International Labour Conference, and in 1966 was elected Worker member of the Governing Body. In 1979, he became the Chairman of the Workers' group and Vice-Chairman of the Governing Body. In 1977, he was elected Chairman of the Governing Body, the first person even chosen from outside the ranks of Government representatives.

His faithful contribution to the work of the ILO was outstanding. Besides leading the Workers' group and chairing the Governing Body, Morris served various Governing Body committees. These included the Committee on Freedom of Association, the Programme, Financial and Administrative Committee, the Committee on Discrimination, and the Working Party on Structure. The correctness of his judgement and courage of his convictions became important assets for the ILO in the fight against apartheid and various crisis situations. He passed away in 1996 at the age of 83.

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