The International Labour Organization (ILO) has expressed “deep concern” at the recent changes many Indian states have made to labour laws and appealed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi “to send a clear message to Central and State governments to uphold the country’s international commitments”, the UN body said in a response to a letter by several Indian trade unions.
The ILO reply to the letter signed by trade unions such as AICCTU, AITUC, CITU and HMS says: “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.”
Earlier, the trade bodies had written to the ILO against the changes made in labour laws in various Indian states amid the coronavirus lockdown. Referring to an ILO press release of May 13 which said states in India were “moving towards relaxing labour laws with a view to revitalize the economy”, the trade unions’ letter said: “Such a statement tantamount to certifying by ILO, the retrograde actions of the state governments in connivance with the Govt of India, in gross violation of ILO standards, as legitimate.”
The letter pointed out changes made in several states, ruled both by the BJP and other parties (Maharashtra, Punjab, Odisha) and said: “Importantly, the states of Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat are ceasing application of Trade union Act, 1926 which is main plank of Freedom of Association and Industrial Disputes Act which provides scope for collective bargaining and also right to strike, along with other substantive labour laws for a period of 3 years.”
Claiming that “there are clear reasons to understand that with the endorsement from, rather insistence of the Central Government on so called “labour law reforms” “on priority basis”, the State Governments have dared to attack on the basic rights of the workers, the letter added: “These diabolical measures are being pushed taking advantage of lockdown period when no industrial action by workers is possible. And most of the workplaces having been lockdown during this period, there is absolutely no relationship or import of all such measures with the task of containing the COVID-19 Pandemic.”
The actions “of the Government/s here openly transgress their commitments to ILO declaration”, the letter added.
The ILO’s response to the trade unions said: “I shall not fail to keep you informed of any observations or comments that may be made by the Indian authorities on the matters that you have raised.”
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