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International Labour Standards and India

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Set up in 1919, the International Labour Organization (ILO) is now a specialized agency of the United Nations (UN) to promote rights at work, encourage decent employment opportunities, enhance social protection and strengthen dialogue on work-related issues. 186 countries are members of the ILO. Cook Islands have been admitted into ILO in the 104th session of the International Labour Conference held in June, 2015. The International Labour Organization has a tripartite governing structure which is unique among UN agencies and consists of representatives of governments, employers and workers. This tripartite structure of the ILO gives an equal voice to workers, employers and governments and ensures that the views of the social partners are closely reflected in labour standards and in shaping policies and programmes.

One of the primary functions of ILO is setting up international labour standards -Conventions, Recommendations and Protocol. ILO Labour Conventions are legally binding on the countries which have ratified them.  Recommendations do not require ratification but are meant for providing guidance to the National Governments for making policies.  Protocol is an instrument which partly modifies the Convention.

ILO is constituted of three organs - (i)  General Assembly i.e. the International Labour Conference (ILC) held every year in June (ii) Executive Council i.e. Governing Body which meets three times a year in November, March and for a half day’s session in June at the end of International Labour Conference(ILC)  (iii) Permanent Secretariat (International Labour Office).

ILC is the main policy making body of the ILO and provides a world forum for discussion of social and labour issues. It is the forum where international labour standards are set and adopted after due deliberations and resolutions are passed which provide guidelines for the ILO’s general policy.  ILC also elects members to the Governing Body of the ILO, adopts the ILO budget financed by contributions from member States and prepares programmes and future activities of the ILO.

India’s association with ILO
India is one of the founding members of the International Labour Organization and has been playing a very pro-active role in the proceedings of the ILO ever since its inception. The membership of the ILO ensures the growth of tripartite system in the Member countries. At every level in the Organization, Governments are associated with the two other social partners, namely the workers and employers.Being a founding member of ILO, India has deep respect for international labour laws and standards. India follows in principle and true spirit the four pillars of decent work agenda[1] of ILO i.e. fundamental principles of rights at work. Employment, social protection and social dialogue.

ILO Conventions are international labour instruments or treaties, which on ratification create legally binding obligations upon the States. As on July 2015, ILO has adopted 189 conventions and 204 recommendations. Out of 189 ILO Conventions, India has so far ratified 43 ILO Conventions and 1 protocol which includes four core or fundamental human rights Conventions like Forced Labour Convention (C-29), Equal remuneration Convention (C-100), Abolition of Forced labour Convention (C-105) and Discrimination (Employment & Occupation) Convention (C-111) and three priority/governance conventions such as Labour Inspection Convention (No.81), Employment and Social Policy Convention (No.122) and Tripartite Consultations (International Labour Standards) (No.144).During 104th session of ILC, India supported the adoption of recommendation (R-204) on “Transition from Informal to Formal Economy” by ILO.

The list of ILO conventions and protocols ratified by India may be seen here.

Ratification Procedures and India’s Approach to Ratification:
Ratification of an ILO Convention is a voluntary process. India follows an elaborate process for ratification. India ratifies an ILO Convention only when the national laws and practices conform with the provisions of the Convention concerned. After adoption of an ILO instrument in International Labour Conference, the member country has to place it before the competent authority for information as required under article 19 of ILO Constitution.  Thereafter, a detailed examination of the possibility and feasibility of ratifying an ILO convention in the context of our existing legal framework is undertaken through consultation with concerned ministries and other stakeholders. Once Concurrence is obtained on the ratification issue, a Cabinet Note on the Convention in question is prepared by Ministry of Labour and Employment (MoLE). On approval of the cabinet note, a statement is placed before the parliament and the same is communicated to ILO for information. Once an ILO Convention is ratified, India is obliged to provide periodic report regarding the application of the conventions under Article 22 of ILO Constitution.

A ratifying country voluntarily undertakes to apply their provisions, to adapt national laws and practices to their requirements. After ratification of an ILO Convention it becomes legally binding. A ratifying country is subject to international supervisory procedures. The unratified Conventions of the ILO are also reviewed at appropriate intervals in relation to our National laws and practices. 

The approach of India with regard to International Labour Standards has always been positive.  The ILO instruments have provided guidelines and useful framework for the evolution of legislative and administrative measures for the protection and advancement of the interest of labour. Ratification of a Convention imposes legally binding obligations on the country concerned and, therefore, India has been careful in ratifying Conventions. It has always been the practice that India ratifies a Convention when there is full satisfaction that domestic laws and practices are in conformity with the relevant ILO Convention.  It is now considered that a better course of action is to proceed with progressive implementation of the standards and leave the formal ratification for consideration at a later stage when it becomes practicable. India has identified Ratification of Core Conventions as a key priority area in the Decent Work Country Programme of ILO for 2013-2017.

India is a signatory to ILO Convention 144 “Tripartite Consultations (International Labour Standards)”.Government of India is committed to the ethos and culture of tripartism. There is effective social dialogue at every stage of policy formulation and implementation through representation of employers and workers organizations in Advisory Committees on all labour related areas at established fora such as Standing Labour Committee, Indian Labour Conference, Industrial Tripartite Committee and National Labour Commission to discuss issues related to labour.

Follow-up to the ILO Conventions:
Periodical reports are submitted to ILO in respect of ratified Conventions under Article 22 of ILO Constitution. These reports indicate how the provisions of the Conventions are being implemented in the country. India also prepares Reports on unratified core or fundamental Conventions of the ILO every year under the Annual review under the Follow–up to the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, indicating how the principles involved in the Core Conventions are being ensured in the country. Cases against India are also examined before the ILO’s Committee on Freedom of Association as also other miscellaneous complaints for violation of infringement of principles of freedom of association and collective bargaining. 

The Reports on the priority Conventions are required to be submitted after every two years while the non-priority ones are to be submitted after every five years. These reports are due to be sent to the ILO between 1st June and 1st September every year. India also prepares appropriate comments and relevant replies to the Observations and Direct Requests made by the Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations on the implementation of the various provisions of the different Conventions ratified by India. 

Implementation of Ratified ILO Core Conventions:
The implementation of ratified ILO conventions is ensured by framing legislations and amending the existing laws in line with the provisions of the Conventions. As a result every ratified convention in India is either backed by a supporting legal or policy framework or is embedded in the Constitutional guidelines which are adhered to in practice by suitable administrative actions.

Though India has not ratified some of the core conventions of ILO, yet it attaches deep significance to ILO Labour standards. It believes that the process of ratification of ILO conventions should be gradual and adequate time should be given to the Member States for creating favourable conditions for ratification, taking into account the socio- economic realities of each Member state.

1. The Decent Work concept was formulated by the ILO’s constituents – governments and employers and workers – as a means to identify the Organization’s major priorities. It is based on the understanding that work is a source of personal dignity, family stability, peace in the community, democracies that deliver for people, and economic growth that expands opportunities for productive jobs and enterprise development.


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