ILO concerned over states’ move to ease labour laws, urges PM to intervene

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Published: May 26, 2020 1:10 AM

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) has expressed ‘deep concern’ over the way some state governments are trying to modify relevant laws to ease labour regulations, and has requested Prime Minister Narendra Modi to intervene and ask states to uphold the country’s international commitments on the labour front.

ILO’s response came after 10 central trade unions (CTUs), barring RSS-affiliated Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, requested the ILO to engage with the Indian authorities and urge them to take necessary action for protection of workers’ rightsILO’s response came after 10 central trade unions (CTUs) requested the ILO to engage with the Indian authorities and urge them to take necessary action for protection of workers’ rights

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) has expressed ‘deep concern’ over the way some state governments are trying to modify relevant laws to ease labour regulations, and has requested Prime Minister Narendra Modi to intervene and ask states to uphold the country’s international commitments on the labour front.

ILO’s response came after 10 central trade unions (CTUs), barring RSS-affiliated Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, requested the ILO to engage with the Indian authorities and urge them to take necessary action for protection of workers’ rights in light of measures taken by the state governments.

To lure investment and make operations of business viable amid the Covic-19 pandemic, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh have announced sweeping changes in labour laws, either through the ordinance route or through executive orders, including scrapping of some provisions of the relevant laws for three years or more.

Replying to the CTUs’ pleas, Karen Curtis, chief, Freedom of Association Branch, International Labour Standards Department, said, “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 the central and state governments to uphold the country’s international commitments and encourage engagement in effective social dialogue.” Curtis, in his letter dated May 22, said he would let know the CTUs any observations or comments that may be made by the Indian authorities.

Commenting on the development, labour expert KR Shyam Sundar said, “ILOs’ intervention will be very critical and India’s response will be watched by all the member countries of the ILO. This may have possible repercussions on global trade and investment aspects and sentiments.”

In their May 14 letter to ILO director general Guy Ryder, CTUs said, “It is unfortunate 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 for a period of three years, empowering employers to hire and fire workers at their convenience, freezing collective bargaining rights, undoing rights of occupational safety and health, without labour department’s intervention in the establishments for any inspection of the basic bare minimum needs for decent working conditions, etc during the said period.”

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