ILO Freedom of Association

ILO Freedom of Association

Core International Labour Organization Convention on the “Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise” 1948 (No. 87) – The Stand of the Government of India and Arguments in favour of its Ratification.

Introduction: International Labour Organization (ILO)

The International Labour Organization has its origins at the end of the First World War, in 1919 (as part of the Treaty of Versailles) to ensure social justice. It is a unique tripartite system of organization, bringing together governments, employers and workers in its executive bodies. The constitution of the ILO was drafted between January and April 1919, under the chairman Samuel Gompers, head of the American Federation of Labour (AFL) in the United States of America. The Preamble of the Constitution contains areas of improvement that are relevant even today, such as: Recognition of the principle of equal remuneration for work of equal value, Recognition of the principle of freedom of association etc. (International Labour Organization)

During the Second World War, the Philadelphia meeting of the International Labour Conference was held, attended by governments, workers and employers from forty-one countries. They adopted the Declaration of Philadelphia. The declaration of Philadelphia was added to the constitution as an annex, declaring the aims and purposes of ILO. In 1946, the ILO became a specialized agency of the United Nations. In the year 1948, the International Labour Conference adopted Convention No. 87, on freedom of association and the right to organise. (International Labour Organization)

India has ratified four core ILO labour Conventions. India has not ratified ILO convention No. 87 on Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise or Convention No. 98 on the Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining. The Rights to Organise, Collective Bargaining and Strike are restricted both in law and in practise. The authorities do not always respect the right to peaceful assembly and thousands of detentions and arrests are reported every year. Anti-union discrimination takes place and many workers have faced threats and violence in their efforts to unionise or call a strike. In export processing zones, organising is particularly difficult (ITUC, 2011).

Convention No 87: Clauses and Significance

‘International labour standards create a basis for and support rights at work and contribute to building a culture of social dialogue particularly useful in times of crisis. In order to prevent a downward spiral in labour conditions and build the recovery, it is especially important to recognize that:’

‘Respect for fundamental principles and rights at work is critical for human dignity. It is also critical for recovery and development.’ Consequently, there is to be a commitment to increase:

(amongst other objectives):‘respect for freedom of association, the right to organize and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining as enabling mechanisms to productive social dialogue in times of increased social tension, in both the formal and informal economies.’ Recently held ILO conference summons the above agenda as the need of the hour.

“Freedom of association” is a bedrock principle of International Labor Law. In 1919 the allied powers expressed the need of “recognition of the freedom to form association” in part XIII(Labor) of the Treaty of Versailles, which came into existence as the constitution of the International Labor Organization(ILO).Nearly three decades later, on 17th june 1948,the ILO adopted the landmark convention regarding “Freedom of association and protection of right to organize(No.87) reaffirming the Declaration of Philadelphia.

The Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise Convention comprises the preamble followed by four parts with a total of 21 articles. The preamble consists of the formal introduction of the instrument, at the Thirty-first Session of the General Conference of the International Labor Organization, on 17 June 1948. A statement of the “considerations” leading to the establishment of the document. These considerations include the preamble to the Constitution of the International Labor Organization the affirmation of the Declaration of Philadelphia in regard to the issue; and the request by the General Assembly of the United Nations, upon endorsing the previously received report of 1947, to “continue every effort in order that it may be possible to adopt one or several international Conventions.” In closing, the preamble states the date of adoption – July 9, 1948.The adoption brought to the fore enormous debate on the trade union policies. Some of its clauses are:

Article 2 of C. 87 declares:

“Workers and employers, without distinction whatsoever, shall have the right to establish and, subject only to the rules of organization concerned, to join organizations of their own choosing without previous authorization.”

Article 3

3. (1) Workers’ and employers’ organisations shall have the right to draw up their constitutions and rules, to elect their representatives in full freedom, to organise their administration and activities and to formulate their programmes.

3. (2) The public authorities shall refrain from any interference which would restrict this right or impede the lawful exercise thereof.

Article 4

4. Workers’ and employers’ organisations shall not be liable to be dissolved or suspended by administrative authority.

Article 5

5. Workers’ and employers’ organisations shall have the right to establish and join federations and confederations and any such organisation, federation or confederation shall have the right to affiliate with international organisations of workers and employers.

Article 6

6. The provisions of Articles 2, 3 and 4 hereof apply to federations and

confederations of workers’ and employers’ organisations.

Similarly Article 8 and Article 9 affirms greater autonomy and independence to the workers association.

8. (1) In exercising the rights provided for in this Convention workers and employers and their respective organisations, like other persons or organized collectivities, shall respect the law of the land.

8. (2) The law of the land shall not be such as to impair, nor shall it be so applied as to impair, the guarantees provided for in this Convention.

Article 9

9. (1) The extent to which the guarantees provided for in this Convention shall apply to the armed forces and the police shall be determined by national laws or regulations.

9. (2) In accordance with the principle set forth in paragraph 8 of Article 19 of the Constitution of the International Labor Organisation the ratification of this Convention by any Member shall not be deemed to affect any existing law, award, custom or agreement in virtue of which members of the armed forces or the police enjoy any right guaranteed by this Convention.

Henceforth, the mode of implementation and the administrative aspect of the convention is entailed in part III and part IV.

Although the convention was voted in the ILO for the adoption of C.87, so far the US hasn’t ratified to it.

It is the longest-pending treaty on the calendar of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. Despite its substantive and symbolic importance, the Convention on Freedom of

Association has become the untouchable treaty in American politics. Failure to ratify Fundamental ILO conventions has also undermined the credibility of the US in its longtime efforts to use trade policy as a means of promoting respect for internationally recognized worker rights.

Over the years, the significance of C.87 has grown manifolds. As of march 2014,around 153 out of 183 ILO members has ratified the convention which is around 80% of the total ILO’s membership. Of those ratification,28 came about within the past decade. In one somewhat ironic episode, Indonesia ratified to C.87 in 1998 after being urged to do so by the U.S government and the International Monetary Fund. The convention on Freedom of Association enjoys a special status within the ILO.

The ILO Convention 87,entails right to organize and freedom to form association, which attempts to re-enforce cordial conditions of work, moving beyond the implicit exploitative nature of the forces of production inherent in the capitalist patriarchal mode of production.

Underline theory:

With the NDA government coming to power, the labour laws are suppose to take on a new turn. The BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government at the centre has now initiated a “fresh review” of the country’s labour laws in order to tailor them to the requirements of the National Manufacturing Policy (NMP) unveiled by the previous Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government in 2011.With greater emphasis on furthering corporate strength in India, the trade union laws regarding right to organize are supposed to be subsided. For greater flexibility of the corporate sector,workers illegimate and unfathomable demands need to be snapped out from the roots; such remains the policy of the government of the day,’Economic Development with unlimited supply of Labour’.

Basically, business’s need for labour market flexibility is being rationalised in terms of the supposed interests of workers as a whole – such flexibility is claimed to be in the latter’s interest, for them to accept casual labour, variable wages and working hours linked to product market demand. The “flexible labour market” is then the Modi government’s public declaration of labour policy on behalf of business, with the ostensible aim of redeeming the workers from misery. The workers will now be told to conduct themselves in a manner that maintains and enhances flexibility “in their own interests”. But to embrace such a denouement, false as it is, at a time when the developed capitalist countries are in the midst of economic stagnation will make it all the more oppressive and arduous for India’s workers.

For someone like Karl Marx, the capitalist mode of production removes or leads to the deprecation of the relationship between the worker and the products which was existing in the feudal mode of production. It leads to the alienation of the worker from other workers and also from the society at large.

As a contrast to Adam Smith’s ‘Wealth of Nations’, Marx defers on the division of labor being the fundamental undercurrent behind the emergence of capitalism. In contrast to Smith’s “original accumulation,” Marx detailed the “so-called primitive accumulation” as a process by which large swaths of the population are violently divorced from their traditional means of self-sufficiency. This process, unlike the bloodless version told by classical political economists, was one where common lands were closed to those peasants who used them. Exploitation characterized the mode of production in the capitalist era.

Further on, in the liberalization era the exploitative nature of the capitalist mode of production has taken on a tortuous path; neo-liberal sphere has led to the inception of a sphere where focus is led on the quantity of production not necessarily quality. This convention brings forth relief structures for the worker at large giving them the autonomy and independence which otherwise is driven out of them. The state or the administrative authority to a great extent remains handcuffed by the clauses of the convention to act at their own discretion. The need of the hour is to control and to a great extent prohibit the state from acting at its own will, which is why various nations at their core do not ratify to this convention.

History of Trade Unionism in India: Tracing India’s Labour Struggle

In India, since decades, a powerfully organised Labour movement has made its presence quite pronounced. Due to a surge in industrial activity in the later part of 19th century, the population of working class has grown, leaps and bounds. Since the employers were mainly interested only in profitability, workers were at a mercy of the employers. Slowly, the concept of a union started taking hold in India.

In 1890, mill workers of Bombay associated under the name of Bombay Millhands Association. Although it was not a trade union in a strict sense, it was nevertheless a start in India.As claimed by the secretary of the Indian Labour Federation, under this federation were combined 97 unions, with 1,500,000 members. These unions embrace nearly all the industries of the country. The leading organisation at present includes the Railway men’s Union, which has organised 50 per cent. of those employed, which is about 325,000 workers. The second in importance is the Textile Workers’ Union, and the third is the Miners’ Union.

Trade Unionism however is a new thing in India. Before 1918 it did not exist except for a few unions for white workers. It was out of the strike movement of 1918 that the unions came into existence. The first one was organised at Madras by Mr. B. P. Wadia. Since then the progress of the movement has been both rapid and successful. The amount of success can be determined from the huge number of organised members, representing about 25 per cent. of the total number of the factory-going workers. This growth indicates that the Indian labourers are speedily realising the need for their own organisations.

It is important to observe that the Indian Labour movement rapidly became revolutionary. To illustrate this, take, for example, the number of strikes that have taken place in India since 1918, the history of which are scripted in blood. Strikes were common in the Indian factories, but they were never of a country-wide nature, and did not demonstrate any solidarity among the workers.

The first instance of such a strike took place in Bombay, known as the General Strike, in which 120,000 workers, mostly textile operators, took part. The solidarity of the masses on that occasion was shown by sympathetic strikes in other parts of the country. The strike was practically lost. About 200 workers were shot down by the soldiers. There were no proletarian leaders at that time, and the Nationalist middle-class politicians who took the lead utilised the strike for demonstration purposes. Similarly, another strike of several hundred thousand plantation workers took place in Assam, about 2,000 miles from Bombay, three years after the general strike, and it, too, was lost, due to the Nationalist leaders exploiting it for political purposes. Once again strikers were killed. Over the years, the struggle for rights of the workers and employers has been on a tumultuous route. Below is the recent statistics on the number of lockouts and strikes, released by the Labour Bureau, Govt of India.

SPHERE-WISE STATISTICS OF STRIKES AND LOCKOUTS DURING THE YEARS 2012(P) 2013 (P) AND 2014 (P)- (JANUARY & MARCH)

Item 2012 (January & March (P) 2013 (January & March (P) 2014 (January & March (P)

Central Sphere State Sphere Total Central Sphere State Sphere Total Central Sphere State Sphere Total

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

A: Industrial Units affected by:

(I)Strikes

103 39 142 68 36 102 13 16 29

(II) Lockouts – 145 145 – 11 11 – 03 03

(III) Mandays Lost 639,403 2,418,069 3,057,472 1,009,832 579,831 158,663 496,236 141,705 637,941

B: Workers Affected as a result of:

(I) Strikes 652,910 23,355 676,265 529,689 68,829 598,518 285,667 3,640 289,307

(II) Lockouts – 50,152 50,152 – 3,312 3,312 – 1,649 1,649

With the Father of the nation, Mahatma Gandhi being the rabble-rouser in the struggle for labor rights and freedom to organize and form association at several grounds, India still grudges under the bane of not having proper laws and regulations at place, to ensure safety and security of the workers at every front.

The core ethos on which Gandhi sought to bring independence to the country has somewhere faded out due to the incessant pursuit of profit; the demands of the people of the country has been relegated to a second place.

While India has survived as world’s largest democracy for over 65 years now, the freedom of various sections of the society still remain crowded by the over powering broad aims of the country.

Various studies indicate that Indian labour laws are highly protective of labour, and labour markets are relatively inflexible. These laws apply only to the organised sector. Consequently, these laws have restricted labour mobility, have led to capital-intensive methods in the organised sector and adversely affected the sector’s long-run demand for labour. Labour being a subject in the concurrent list, State-level labour regulations are also an important determinant of industrial performance. Evidence suggests that States, which have enacted more pro-worker regulations, have lost out on industrial production in general.

— (Ministry of Finance, 2006, p.209).

The paragraph from the most recent Economic Survey quoted above is the latest indication of the

government’s thinking on the reform of Indian labour laws.

As the constitution of India entitles every individual certain basic fundamental rights under which also falls the right to organize and form association as enumerated in the Article 19(1) (b) guarantees “the right to assemble peacefully without arms”. The aforesaid right is subject to reasonable restrictions. These restrictions can be imposed by law when the sovereignty of India or public order are threatened. While the ambiguity of the language is quite apparent,very often the “reasonable restriction” comes in way of the rationalization of workers demand. In practice, the right to peaceful assemble is not always respected by Indian authorities. For example, in two general strikes on March 5 and September 7,2010,some 100 million workers went on strike and action were undertaken in over 200 towns and cities. The strike was called up against the state as well as federal government at the centre against charge of hike in prices, poor enforcement of labour laws and lack of social protection for informal workers. Thousand of protestors were arrested throughout India and in New Delhi several leaders of the national trade unions centres were taken into custody.

Several cases of employees being sacked by the private companies because of participation in the strikes lie around. Employers of general motors went on a strike in june 2011,demanding hike in salaries as their work load was increased multifold, however the company not giving up to the demands of the workers instead decided in favour of mass dismissal.

In the aftermath of First world war, the cost of living, especially for the working class and emerging middle class grew rampantly. In the early 20th century Royal Trade Commission studied the condition of workers and suggested the formations of Trade Unions. As per the recommendations of the Royal Commission, Indian Trade Unions Act was passed in 1926. However, due to strong opposition from employers, it was enforced only in 1927. The original act lacked teeth in the sense that the formation of a Trade Union itself dependent on the recognition by the employer. Later on several amendments were made to fix the issues. In 1947, the act was amended widely as per the socialist inclination of the polity.

Workers have the right to establish and join trade unions without prior authorisation. However, this is insufficiently protected in practice. A change in legislation in 2001, which amended the Trade Union Act of 1926, states that a trade union has to represent at least 100 workers or 10 per cent of the workforce, whichever is less, compared to a minimum of seven workers previously. By international standards and practice, the requirement of 100 workers is excessive: the ILO Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations (CEACR) has criticised countries which put in place the even lower minimum requirement of 50 persons to form a union.

The Trade Unions Act prohibits discrimination against union members but is not sufficiently observed or enforced.The Trade Unions Act does not apply in Sikkim, a state annexed to India in 1975, and although some workers’ organisations exist, there is no sectoral organisation. In Sikkim, registration of a trade union is subject to a police inquiry, prior authorisation and a pre-grant opposition process.

However, the right to form associations or unions is not accessible to a member of the public services, although he/she is a employee, he/she cannot claim the right to the extent that a private citizen can.

Being a Government servant, he/she is bound by his service rules and he/she cannot challenge his service rules on the ground that they stand in his way of fully enjoying the right to form associations. This has been made clear by the Supreme Court in Balakotiah vs. The Union of India. The government can go up to a extent when situation arises to imprison the employee for a brief period, as entailed in the Essential Services maintenance Act of Tamil Nadu, imprisonment of up to three years, and a fine of INR 5,000 for participation in strikes in such vaguely defined ‘essential services’.

In the private sector, though there exists no legal binding on the employers to recognize unions or to engage in collective bargaining; however, some employers have established and recognized company unions or ‘workers’ committees’ aimed at preventing representational unions from being established.

In the era of globalization and liberalization, the cause and demands of workers have been brought to the forefront of intellectual debate. With renewed vigor in the universal human rights across the globe, emphasis is laid hugely on the aspirations of the employees. The issue of labour law amendment has emerged as one of those key issues in the corporate agenda .

Particularly after 1990, representatives of both national and international capital, pro-liberalization economists, and the national and global media in chorus started decrying existing labour legislation. The agenda was for total reform, but the major focus targeted crucial sections of the labour laws which provide service security or ensured workers’ rights in the workplace, or which put any obligation on management to ensure the well-being of labour, or provided any power to labour for collective bargaining, or provided for routine inspections to ensure the implementation of labour laws.

The Indian State’s thus finds it amiable to not adhere to the convention as it puts to examine the covert aims of the state. Certain reasons as the state highlights for not ratifying to the convention includes:

The Government has sought to justify the denial of trade union rights to government employees on the ground that they are allowed to form associations. It has claimed that they have fair working conditons and fair wages. They also have alternative dispute redressal mechanisms such as the Joint Consultative Machinery, the Central Administrative Tribunal etc.

The prevalence of domestic laws at hand which provides workers with enormous freedom to organize and form association so the no need is not seen to have them endowed with any more freedom.

According to India, Ratification would involve the granting of union rights to government employees. This will affect their impartiality and political neutrality.

The non ratification is further defended by the argument that India has had the policy of

excluding supervisory and managerial employees from the exercise of freedom of

association and collective bargaining rights. Further on, it is also argued that the ratification will call for complex, cumbersome mechanism which further on doesn’t fall in place for a vast country aslike India.

At the core the fundamental threat which the state is hell bound to avert is that of mass protest of any kind and form, which not only attempts to bring about reform at any level but also threatens the legitimacy of the state at large. In a liberal democracy the primary function of the state overtly hinges upon the maintenance of law and order and providing safety and security to its citizens, while covertly nation-state to ensure their sustenance which rests upon the capitalist mode of production-profit driven economy and protection of private property, the pillars on which the state builds up its legitimacy and capability to create a false consciousness among people at large, as aptly pointed out by Brian Martin.

To curb dissent at its root, the state takes up two major stance ; overtly through repressive measures such as police and through other acts enacted to ensure national security(TADA,ASFA); secondly through propagation of certain ideologies furtively; political philosopher, Fuco lends huge focus on the “manufactured consent” of the people which the state develops through various socio-cultural methods, inculcating certain practices into the lives of the people, hence forth ensuring legitimacy of the state. The amendment of the acts to suit the needs and demands of the globalized era is one such action taken by the state to uphold its supremacy in a secluded manner, henceforth to ensure legitimacy the state attempts hard to procure all means whereby it can avert ratification to such a convention.

LEGAL ASPECTS IN INDIA

Workers have the right to establish and join trade unions without prior authorisation. However, this is insufficiently protected in practise. A change in legislation in 2001, which amended the Trade Union act of 1926, states that a trade union act has to represent at least 100 workers or 10 per cent of the workforce, whichever is less, compared to a minimum seven workers previously. By international standards and practise, the requirement of 100 workers is excessive: the ILO Committee of Experts has on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations (CEACR) has criticised countries which put in place the even lower minimum requirement of 50 persons to form a union (ITUC, 2011).

Public Sector workers have only limited rights to organise. They face restrictions in collective bargaining and have no right to strike. The government may also demand arbitration in essential services but as the law does not specify which the services are, the interpretation varies from one state to another. In Tamil Nadu, the Essential Services Maintenance Act prescribes imprisonment of up to three years, and a fine upto INR 5,000/- for participation in strikes in such vaguely defined ‘essential services’ (ITUC, 2011).

In the private sector there is no legal obligation on employers to recognise trade unions or engage in collective bargaining. Some employers have established and recognized company unions or ‘workers’ committees’ aimed at preventing representational unions from being established (ITUC, 2011).

The Industrial Dispute Act prohibits retribution by employers against employees involved in legal strike actions. In Kerela, however general strikes are illegal and organisers can be held financially liable for damages caused to employers. The Right to peacefully assemble is not always respected by Indian Authorities. In two general strikes on March 5 and September 7, 2010 some 100 million workers went on strike and actions were held in 200 cities and towns. The strike was called against policies of the government at federal and state level as well as increased prices, poor enforcement of labour laws and lack of social protection for informal workers. Thousands of protestors were arrested throughout India and in New Delhi national leaders of trade unions were taken into custody (ITUC, 2011).

Foxconn, a multinational subsidiary of Hon Hai precision Industry Co. Ltd. refused to recognize and bargain with the Foxconn employees union which called for a massive strike. Although the strike was called off early, because of managements promise to engage in discussions, the company imposed eight day suspensions on workers who participated in strike and called the police, who arrested 1500 workers and Foxconn suspended 23 union activists. As the strike continued, the police arrested 570 strikers in two more raids some days later. In various cases, companies use lockouts against protesting workers (ITUC, 2011).

New employment sectors such as call centres, business process outsourcing (BPO), visual media and telecommunications are not covered by any explicit employment regulations, and employers obstruct the formation of unions. Workers in the construction and shipbuilding industries are increasingly hired through contractors and subcontractors which try to prevent workers from organising by threatening them with dismissal. Most of the work is project-based, which also limits the possibilities for collective bargaining.

The law allows organizing and collective bargaining in Export Processing Zones (EPZs) or Special Economic Zones (SEZs). Strikes are permitted but since the zones were declared public utilities in 2001, an excessive 45 day strike notice period is required. Furthermore, state laws can dilute the federal labour legislative on EPZs. Some attempts have been made to exempt the EPZs from application of labour laws. For example, the government of New Delhi state has exempted SEZs from most labour legislation and there is a ban on the formation of trade unions.

Advantages of ratification and disadvantages of non ratification

India’s stand on ratification of conventions no.87

There is an urgent need for India to ratify Conventions No 87. India’s ratification of the Conventions would indicate its commitment to the observance internationally recognized core labour standards and increase its influence and enhance its standing in the international arena.

Advantages of ratification

1- Ratification would ensure that that the national legislation relating to the freedom of association and collective bargaining rights of workers is upgraded in conformity with the principles contained in Conventions Nos. 87.

2-Ratification would also help ensure that all categories of workers in India are entitled to these rights. In addition, ratification would help ensure compliance

with freedom of association and collective bargaining principles in practice.

3-Following ratification, the Government can work towards bringing its national laws and practice in conformity with the principles contained in the Conventions. In the process, it could be guided by the comments of the supervisory bodies, particularly, the CEACR and the CFA. If necessary, it could also seek the ILO’s technical assistance for the purpose.

4-Ratification of the Conventions would also result in economic benefits for the country.

5-Ratification of the Conventions would obviously be beneficial to workers in the country and their organizations as it would lead to an improvement in the national labour standards concerning the freedom of association and collective bargaining rights and also help ensure better implementation of these standards in practice.

6-Respect for freedom of association and collective bargaining rights can lead to better labour management relations and co-operation between them thereby reducing costly labour-management conflicts and promote industrial harmony and social stability.

7-Studies on the relationship between trade unions and productivity have indicated that trade unions can enhance productivity and efficiency and that unionized workers are more likely to adopt productivity raising innovations relating to technological change, changing product mix and reorganization of work.

8-It is also obvious that adherence to core labour standards and the promotion of decent work would facilitate human capital development which is necessary to achieve long term growth.

Thus, ratification of the Conventions would be beneficial to the country as such and also the workers and the employers in the country.

Disadvantages of non ratification

The reasons given by the Government for not ratifying the Conventions :

The Government of India has however over the last 60 years consistently been reluctant to ratify the Conventions. It has cited various reasons in support of its decision of not ratifying the Conventions.

The Government of India has indicated that it is not interested in formal ratification and

that it can ratify the Conventions only when implementation of their provisions is fully

achieved in Indian law and in practice.

This stand of the Government is impractical for the reason that achieving and sustaining compliance with the provisions of the Conventions under the law and in practice is a continuing process. If this were to be the criterion for ratification, barely any convention can be ratified by any country. Therefore, the Government should not insist on its first achieving compliance with the provisions of the Conventions in law as well as in practice.

Ratification would involve the granting of union rights to government employees. This will

affect their impartiality and political neutrality.

The Government has expressed its inability to ratify the Conventions on the ground that the trade union system of the country is highly politicized and that therefore permitting the unionization of government employees and the exercise of collective bargaining rights by them would impair their impartial functioning. This position of the Government is firstly not in conformity with freedom of association principles and cannot justify the denial of the rights set out in the Conventions to all government employees in the country, as a class. The ILO supervisory bodies have held that government employees should have the right to form and join trade unions of their own choosing without previous authorization. However, it may be admissible for first level organizations of public servants to be limited to that category of workers, that their organizations are not restricted to employees of any particular ministry, department or service and secondly, that they may join freely federations or confederations of their own choosing.The supervisory bodies have also held that government employees should enjoy collective bargaining rights. They have held that an exception may be made only in the case of public servants directly involved in the administration of the state such as civil servants employed in government ministries.

Consequences of India’s Failure to Ratify the Conventions

The aforesaid discussion would establish that there are no sound reasons for India’s failure to ratify Conventions Nos. 87 and 98 and that ratification of the Conventions really depends only on the political will of the Government to implement the core labour standards in the country. India’s failure to ratify the Conventions undermines its credibility in the international arena. It conveys the impression that India is a country that wishes to achieve rapid economic growth at the expense of basic human rights. Giving such an impression at a time when there is a clear international consensus on the need to adhere to core labour standards and promote the goal of decent work for all, certainly hurts its reputation. Apart from this, India’s failure to ratify the Conventions also leaves its workers more vulnerable to exploitation and unfair labour practices which in turn adversely affects the country’s economic development as well as human capital development.

Conclusion

Considering the many advantages of ratification of Conventions Nos. 87 and 98, the Government of India would need to change its mindset and reconsider its stand on the issue of ratification of the Conventions. It would need to view the issue afresh from a long term perspective recognizing that ratification of the Conventions would be in the interest of the Government and workers and employers in the country. It would also need to view the issue of ratification of the Conventions from a human rights perspective keeping in mind that “The failure of any nation to adopt humane conditions of labour is an obstacle in the way of other nations which desire to improve conditions in their own countries.” In other words, it would need to recognize that all workers in all countries would benefit from the worldwide ratification and implementation of the ILO Core Conventions. As a founder member of the ILO, India should take the lead and ratify all the eight fundamental conventions of the ILO. This would also be in consonance with India’s constitutional and democratic values.

About the Author:The author is a columnist, freelance writer, social-activist, professional dancer. She is associated with the prestigious Lady Shri Ram College, Delhi University. She has been working with the editorial-team of the international news and features magazine-Jasodhara(news Bureaus in 13 countries and powered by over 200 acclaimed media minds and photographers worldwide).She has been on the forefront in the peace building exercise at the national and international level, holding several dance performances at the international summits including the SAARC summit. She is constantly engaged with conflict transformation and peace building through her indulgence in the process of policy analysis, formulation and implementation. She has been the frontrunner in the establishment of the internet magazine-Daily Jasodhara. As a columnist she has contributed to the Indianeconomist, OpenDemocracy, Times Of India and several other international news agencies. She was also associated with the National Human Rights Commission, National Commission For Women. She is the campaign-head of Nirbhaya-a nation wide campaign to stop violence against women in India. She also acts as the Convenor of Honour For Women Campaign and is a founder member of OYSS Women-a non-profit governmental organization working towards the empowerment of women socially, economically and politically. She has been widely acclaimed as a social-activist who has been associated with several organizations such as Kirti, One Billion Rising, Global Zero Movement. Currently, she is working upon her book”India-2014:The 8 big challenges”.

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Baisali Mohanty

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