The International Labour Organisation (ILO) has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi asking him to ensure that the Centre and the states uphold India’s international commitments on labour laws. The ILO's mail came in response to a complaint by 10 central trade unions earlier this month, objecting to the ordinances proposed to temporarily scrap the labour laws in Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat.
In addition, there were executive orders issued by at least 10 states to increase the daily working limit to 12 hours from 8 hours, along with other labour law changes.
“Please allow me to assure you that the ILO Director-General (Guy Ryder) has immediately intervened, expressing his deep concern at these recent events and appealing to the Prime Minister (Narendra Modi) to send a clear message to Central and state governments to uphold the country’s international commitments and encourage engagement in effective social dialogue,” various media reports quoted from the letter by Karen Curtis, ILO’s Chief of Freedom of Association Branch under the International Labour Standards Department, to trade unions on May 22. The letter added that the ILO will keep the central trade unions informed about “any observations or comments that may be made by the Indian authorities on the matters that you have raised.”
The complaint to the ILO was raised on May 14 by the Congress-affiliated Indian National Trade Union Congress, left-affiliated unions such as All India Trade Union Congress, Hind Mazdoor Sangh, Centre of Indian Trade Unions, All India United Trade Union Centre, among others. The unions had said that the governments had not consulted the unions before proposing or making labour law changes, as is required under the ILO's conventions.
BJP-ruled Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat have passed executive orders exempting new establishments from most labour rules. While all of them had allowed businesses to extend shift hours to 12 from eight as part of the reforms, UP and Rajasthan recently rescinded the decision after strong protests by RSS-affiliated labour union Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh and other unions.
Meanwhile, Niti Aayog’s vice chairman Rajiv Kumar has recently said that reforms do not mean complete abolition of labour laws. “I have just noticed that the Union Ministry of Labour is firming up its stance to tell the states that they cannot abolish labour laws because India is a signatory to the ILO,” Kumar had said in an interview to a news agency.