BMS Statement before the Committee on Conventions

Source: BMS      Date: 7/22/2012 2:27:06 PM

At the outset BMS wish to compliment the Ministry of Labour and Employment for convening the COC for the second time during this year, honouring its commitments to ILO. Ministry has its credit the ratification of C127 on Maximum Weights Convention recently. After 2008, C174 and C142 on HRD were ratified. It has also initiated process of consultation on ratifying some other conventions like that on fishing Sector and on OSH. We hope it will achieve ratification of those conventions.

GOI has to be congratulated for initiating the process of ratification of the latest convention adopted i.e. C188 on Fishing Sector within a short span of 3 years even though it had opposed it at the International Conference initially. It is to be further complemented for the fast pace at which the ILO Recommendation No. 200 concerning HIV/AIDS is sought to be implemented within a short span of 3 months of adoption by ILO. MOLE is going to place it before the Parliament as per ILO mandate. MOLE is also serious in organising ILCs and SLCs even though the intervals are some times longer. MOLE seems to be keen on obtaining comments of social partners on all reports to ILO,  which is laudable.

Even a 2 or 3 hour meeting of COC will not be sufficient to discuss if we consider the seriousness and social dimensions of the work it has to perform. Some of our views on ratification and functioning of COC are as mentioned below:

Agenda item No.2. On Follow up on last meeting agenda:
It is reported last time that DDG (HS) has initiated process of amendment to MW Act to cover all categories of workers. No mention about the result is made in today’s COC agenda papers. Last time it was reported that C147 on Building and Construction workers will be deliberated in the concerned board. We would like to know the result. At the same time it is to be remembered that the commitment to ILO is primarily with GOI and it has to see that some how the purpose is achieved. The result of entrusting ratification of C138 and 182 on child labour which were adopted by ILO long back, with 2 sub groups is to be discussed in this COC. Similarly what is the result of efforts to resolve pending issues related to C162 and 170 as promised by AS (L&E).
It is to be examined from previous experiences whether budget fund is to be directly handled by Central Government or allotted to State Governments. In any case, fund constraints should not hamper implementation and monitoring of Labour laws. GOI has funds for indulging in extravagance in the midst of allegations of corruption in the name of Commonwealth Games etc. There, for one helium balloon displayed alone costs Rs. 82 crores!

Attitude of GOI on Conventions- Recent Case of Domestic Workers:
It is also worth mentioning that India gained an anti worker reputation in the ILC of ILO this year during the committee discussion on adoption of a convention on Domestic Workers. The incident that happened had been a matter of shame for all the Trade Unions from India, who had no other go except to stand up together and condemn the anti-worker stand taken by GOI. GOI moved an amendment against adopting a convention which was rejected for default at first for want of support from any other Government or even Employers. Later it was voted out. This was worse than the situation created by GOI during the adoption of convention on fishing sector. Why only our Government initiated such an anti worker move among 183 countries? The GOI has created an anti worker image for no purpose, among the workers and countries of the world, and will have to toil much in the coming years to get rid of it. Hence the Government has yet to instil confidence among TUs on its sincerity in ratification of conventions.

Agenda item No.3- Non ratification:
On Non ratification, the Agenda Paper mentions only C182 (Worst forms of child labour) and Recommendation 200 on HIV/AIDS. There are also many other important conventions yet to be ratified. We totally oppose the policy of GOI to postpone ratification till the National laws and practices were in full conformity with its provisions. This amounts to shirking its social responsibility. Labour Laws are totally unsatisfactory as we see the issues of less coverage and poor implementation. So the policy of MOLE should be changed to ‘ratification first’ which will facilitate it to go ahead with effective implementation of Labour laws and get out of its slow pace on labour matters. MOLE can very well seek technical assistance from ILO as well as expand its staff strength to cope up with such a situation.

MOLE has to seriously have a self introspection on what impression it had created on poor ratification of ILO conventions. Our country is one of the founding members of ILO. There are 188 conventions adopted by ILO out of which India has ratified only 43 conventions so far. India has not ratified Conventions on the following subjects, viz. Freedom of Association, Collective bargaining, Minimum Wages, Child labour, Fishing Sector, Employment, Accident prevention and Safety, Chemicals and Mines safety. The unratified conventions include subjects which are of grave importance, like OSH, Worst forms of child labour on which the Nation cannot compromise.India is emerging as a powerful Nation in the international community and its words are looked with high respect and expectations by other Nations. India’s view on many matters is given special attention for future global guidance. But with regard to the track record on conventions, India does not command a respectable position among the comity of Nations. India and US are mentioned in the Global report of ILO, 2010 as key countries with poor track record on ratifying conventions. So MOLE will have to go much further to instil confidence in the matter of ratification and its respect for Labour Standards. Instead of progressively expanding the list of coverage in Child labour law, it should be a blanket coverage. Each convention should cover all the sections and aspects of workers and not a piece meal application. Conventions are meant to raise Indian situations to International standards. So it is doubtful that GOI is “pursuing a dedicated programme to achieve ratification of ILO conventions.” * The attitude of the MOLE has to change which is the main cause for the slow pace of ratification of even the most important conventions including 4 out of the 8 core conventions** i.e. C87, 98, 132 & 182. In the light of this it is highly necessary to start with immediate ratification of core conventions.

C.87 & 98
C87 (Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise) and C98 (Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining Convention, 1949) are two core conventions which are very important for the protection of workers rights and social dialogue. C.98 has been ratified by 159 countries and C87 ratified by 149 countries. One of the first labour laws in the country is the Trade Union Act of 1926. Still after nearly 84 years it is shameful for the country that it has not ratified the related ILO conventions. No new step has been taken by the successive Governments to improve from the 1926 situation even though the world has changed a lot. So BMS strongly demand the GOI to ratify them, and no lame excuses will satisfy the workforce.

C 138 & C182
C 138 (Minimum Age Convention, 1973) & C182 (Worst forms of Child labour Convention, 1999) are two other core conventions, which are very vital in the Indian context. It is very unfortunate that the MOLE is still in the process of “examination of ratification prospects” of C182 on worst forms of child labour. When ILO has set a target of eliminating all the worst forms of child labour by 2010, we are still “examining the prospects of ratification of C182”. This shows the degree of response of GOI. Congrats for successful Indian model on child labour project; still we are far away from total change.

C131- On Minimum Wages Fixing:
The committee on fair wages of 1947 had recommended progressive transformation through three wage levels: Minimum Wages, Fair Wages and Living Wages for the entire workforce of the Nation. Such was the dream of independent India at that time. Now when we look at ourselves after 63 years, even bare subsistence wage is not guaranteed to major part of the workforce. A Parliamentary committee in 2005 has found that there are States which have fixed statutory MW as low as Rs.25 per day! Has the MOLE taken cognizance of this tragic situation when it postpones the ratification of C131, amendment to MW Act bringing all workers under its purview and enforcing a National Minimum Wage (NFLMW)? NFLMW is required to be statutorily enforced for addressing the tragic plight and exploitation of workers especially migrant and other vulnerable sections. Even the amount of Rs.100 per day fixed w.e.f. 1-11-2009 is very less compared to the norms fixed by the 15th ILC as well as by the SC in Raptakos Bret case. MW differs widely from state to state and from sector to sector. No. of sectors covered also differs from state to state. It should cover uniformly to all in the world of work. Workers should be recognised as human beings, who have aspirations and expectations about their future and that of their family and children. Thus labour right issues are slowly getting identified as human right issues.

On OSH:
Safety and Health are areas where there cannot be any compromise. Still we have not cared to ratify many of the important conventions relating to OSH. Hence GOI has to give urgent attention to ratify C162 on Asbestos and C170 on Chemicals. Building and construction Industry is emerging as a large sector in the country where the concerned law is very poorly implemented by many State Governments in spite of the good efforts made by the MOLE in persuading them. ILO convention No. 167 and Recommendation No. 175 are on safety in construction. Ratifying them will be a good step in completing the process. Ratification of C176 on Safety and Health in Mines has to be speeded up in the light of the Mine accident in South America which has caused alarm among the common people. Since we have a separate Directorate for Mines the issue has to be pursued on a day to day basis by that Directorate. Regarding C155 on OSH, employers are concerned about the cost of safety. In appropriate cases GOI has to bear the cost instead of trying to exclude such categories. Exclusion should be avoided to the maximum. While progressively banning asbestos, there should be rehabilitation assistance to those associated with the industry and its workers.

In the newly emerging sectors like IT sector, SEZ, outsourcing etc., the main allegation is that the norms on working hours are flouted, in spite of ratified Convention No.1 (of 1919) on hours of work (industry),. This has to be rectified by appropriate legislations and stringent actions by the Government. In the unorganised sector also there is no law controlling working hours.

Agenda item No.4- Recommendation 200 on HIV/AIDS:
Along with HIV/AIDS all occupational and work place related diseases are to be addressed by the GOI.

Agenda item No.5- Dwindling Spirit of Tripartism?
Regarding ratified C144 on tripartite consultation, MOLE claims tripartite consultation has to be “effective” and not an empty formality. Consultation is done by circulation among TUs on questions arising out of report to be made to ILO under Art.22 obligation, which is a welcome move. MOLE had a unique tradition of working together with Trade Unions in bringing about many a important legislations. This has to be continued further. But at the central Level there are many tripartite bodies which only have been announced but did not meet even once. There are many tripartite bodies which have not met during last several years. e.g. high power tripartite body for power sector at centre had only 3 meetings in last 10 years. At the State level spirit of tripartism is not very effective. Labour being concurrent subject, both Central and State Govts exercise supervision. Hence the tripartism survey would be incomplete if compliance at State level is not looked into. As promised, this is to be discussed in this meeting of COC.

Recent example is regarding the issue of Domestic Workers. In order to bypass the views of Trade Unions, it constituted a Task Force without any participation of TUs. That was the main reason for such an immature stand adopted by GOI in ILO conference. It is wrong in reporting that “consultation has been done with all stake holders” regarding domestic workers. Government did not incorporate the views of workers in its stand at the ILO. Government feels “consultation” means just ask something and take an entirely opposite stand. So what was done was only a mockery.

Concept of tripartism implies as reported in the agenda papers, the “principles and culture of tripartism”. So it should not be an empty formality only for the purpose of reporting to ILO. BMS strongly feels that the present Government do not respect tripartite spirit except to the extent of formally and technically satisfying commitments to ILO. On child labour MOLE is not proactive in tripartite consultation especially in the light of the ILO Report 2010 which mentions India. TUs are ready to cooperate but BMS is kept out of IPEC. In such a road rolling process, labour and trade Unions have no other forum left but to take to streets to raise voice against the policies. 

Lack of Social Vision:
India is a land of paradoxes. On one side it is showing a high economic growth rate. Whereas on the other side, a major part is in utter poverty and backwardness, giving rise to divisive tendencies like Maoists. It is the MOLE which can play a vital role in bringing social changes in the dark areas of India. Much awaited UWSS Act is not so far implemented, minimum wages is still a distant dream for majority of workers and the organised sector is fast getting converted to contract labour. Regarding labour welfare funds, many states are far ahead than the Centre. In construction works it is mostly contract labour. It is shameful for all of us that forced labour is rampant in the country in various forms and extreme forms of exploitative labour including sexual exploitation are being reported even from the capital city which is straight under the nose of the MOLE.

BMS demands:
1. MOLE has to stick to its commitments in consulting with BMS as the “most representative organisation” on labour matters as per ILO mandate.
2. The GOI has to be proactive in ratifying conventions.
3. Policy of MOLE has to be changed to ratification first and then completing formulation of National laws.
4. Report on all unratified conventions and Recommendations be placed before the COC, instead of pick and choose.
5. A report has to be placed before the COC as to how many tripartite committees are constituted under MOLE, how many of them are regularly meeting and how many are at default.
6. Ratify core conventions 87 & 98 on TU rights.
7. Ratify immediately core conventions 132 & 182 on child labour before the end of 2010 as envisaged by the ILO’s global report.
8. Like DGFASLI and DGMS, there ought to be separate Directorate for very large sectors like UO sector, Agriculture, Construction sector etc.
9. National institutes like NSC and DGMS should be roped in to assist in ratifying OSH conventions.
10. Ratify C131 on MW as a matter of priority.
11. Urgently convene a tripartite meeting on forced labour and extreme forms of labour.

*********
*Note: ILO has classified 188 conventions into the following categories:
Basic human rights,
Employment,
Social policy,
Labour administration,
Industrial relations,
Conditions of work,
Social security,
Employment of women,
Employment of children and young persons,
Migrant workers,
Indigenous and tribal peoples,
indigenous workers in non-metropolitan territories,
Other special categories (i.e. seafarers, older workers, fishermen, dockworkers, plantation workers, tenants and sharecroppers, nursing personnel, hotel and catering personnel)

**Basic Rights (Core conventions) enshrined in the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work:
 Freedom of Association
 Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize Convention, 1948 (No. 87)
 Right to Organize and Collective Bargaining Convention, 1949 (No. 98)
The Abolition of Forced Labor
 Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29)
 Abolition of Forced Labour Convention, 1957 (No. 105)
Equality
 Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Convention, 1958 (No. 111)
 Equal Remuneration Convention, 1951 (No. 100)
The Elimination of Child Labor
 Minimum Age Convention, 1973 (No. 138)
 Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999 (No. 182)

C.K. SAJI NARAYANAN, VICE PRESIDENT, BMS.
R.V. SUBBA RAO, VICE PRESIDENT, BMS.
New Delhi
5-10-10

 
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