UN labor agency picks Briton Guy Ryder as new head

The U.N. International Labor Organization on Monday selected a former trade union leader, Guy Ryder of Britain, to become its new director general, a position that puts him at the forefront of an agency pushing to improve labor conditions around the world.

The governing body of the U.N. labor agency's choice of Ryder, a former general secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation, could be viewed as a boost for labor unions.

As the head of the ITUC, Ryder was at the helm of an organization that represents 176 million workers in 157 nations. To win the five-year appointment as U.N. labor agency head, Ryder had to beat out eight other candidates — Gilles de Robien, Angelino Garzon, Ad Melkert, Jomo Kwame Sundaram, Ibrahim Assane Mayaki, Assane Diop, Mona Sahlin and Charles Dan — during several rounds of secret balloting.

Ryder, who won 30 of the 56 votes by the titular members of the ILO's governing body, said he was grateful for the job and vowed to pursue social justice as workers globally try to navigate a world in crisis. "Our duty to the poorest and the most vulnerable must be paramount in the journey ahead," Ryder said.

The Geneva-based ILO announced that Ryder will start in his new job in October. He will replace Juan Somavia, a former Chilean ambassador who has headed the ILO since 1998 and plans to depart from the job of director general in September.

Ryder is only the 10th person to hold the top job of running the ILO in its 93-year history. The organization has 183 member nations but has representatives from governments, employers and workers who are responsible for crafting and overseeing international labor standards.

From 1998 until 2002, and again from 2010 to 2011, Ryder held various positions within ILO overseeing a bureau for worker activities and efforts to supervise the implementation of international labor standards and worker rights.

"As workers, we are delighted," said Luc Cortebeeck, a vice-chair of the ILO's governing body. "Mr. Guy Ryder knows the ILO and has been working at the ILO. He also knows the world of work, but he is somebody who will work with the governments, with the employers as well as with the workers. He will always defend tripartism and social dialogue."