NEW DELHI :
The International Labour Organization (ILO) has expressed “deep concern" over the labour law amendments and exemptions initiated by several Indian states, and has appealed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to intervene and give a clear message to states on international commitments.
On 14 May, 10 central trade unions wrote to the Geneva-based ILO highlighting the plight of workers and the violation of ILO convention No 144. They sought its intervention. India is a signatory of ILO convention 144, which calls for tripartite consultations among government, employers and workers.
“Please allow me to assure you that the ILO director general has immediately intervened, expressing his deep concern at these recent events and appealing to the prime minister to send a clear message to central and state governments to uphold the country’s international commitments and encourage engagement in effective social dialogue," said the ILO letter addressed to the trade unions. Mint has seen a copy of the letter.
The letter issued by Kiren Curtis, chief, freedom of association branch at the International Labour Standards Department of ILO, said the organization has received a copy of the Indian trade unions’ complaints, in which they have requested the ILO “to intervene with the Indian authorities to urge necessary action for the protection of workers’ right in light of measures being taken by a number of state governments to undermine labour legislations and international labour standards".
Curtis said ILO will “inform of any observations or comments that may be made by the Indian authorities on the matters that you have raised".
The development assumes significance with states such as Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat announcing sweeping amendments or exemptions to laws for three years, while others, including Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, Assam and Odisha increasing working hours to 12 hours per day for three months. Rajasthan has now withdrawn the order on extended working hours, limiting it to eight hours a day.
This is the initial stage of ILO’s response, but if the matter escalates further, it may hamper Indian trade in the global market because of violation of the rights of workers. Trade unions said they will escalate the matter and are readying to send another letter to ILO on the issue.
“We, trade unions, have written to the Prime Minister as well and hope he takes note and asks states to protect workers’ rights. We are collecting our information on the problems faced by workers all over the country and will share this with ILO in a second complaint letter soon," said Amarjeet Kaur, secretary general, All India Trade Union Congress.
The central unions had written to the ILO that the “government of India supports the blanket exemptions to all establishments from the employers’ obligation under all substantive labour laws for a period of three years by the state governments through amendments by executive order or ordinance…empowering the employers to hire and fire workers at their convenience, freezing collective bargaining rights... during the said period."
Indian industries, however, have maintained that the amendments to the laws are required to facilitate the ease of doing business and will promote more investments.