ILO, WTO & Indian industrial relations.

AuthorKoti, John

Today most of the industries are going global and most of the companies are MNCs. All these companies have to deal with different countries, cultures and beliefs. The companies face various road blocks in trade like unions, regional barriers, legal systems etc. Outsiders are treated as a problem and considered as aliens who are out to ruin the locals ' prospects. This paper provides insights into the role of ILO in promoting labor standards and also the extent to which the WTO seeks to establish trade policy rules that help to expand trade and improve world living standards.


Industrial relations are about people in the world of work. The Labor Dictionary (1949) defines industrial relations as the relations between employers and employees in industry. According to Dale Yoder "industrial relations describe the relationship between management and employees or among employees and their organizations that categorize or grow out of employment (Herberth G Henrman, 1949). The International Institute of Labor Studies has defined it as "social relations in production" (JJLS Bulletin, 1972). Dunlop (1958) considered industrial relations as a complex of interrelationships among managers, workers or their organizations and government agencies. These actors combine to create a complex of rules and practices, which ensure that they function together without constant conflict.

Industrial relations can be defined as the relations between management and union or between representatives of employers and employees. In the past during the era of artisan guilds the scale and size of operations were small and relations were too simple and direct, which is quite in contrast with the modern day complexities in the legal framework institutions and the governing industrial relations. Industrial relations are primarily based on individual perceptions of what is right in respect of 'fairness' and the exercise of 'power' and 'authority'. Initially industrial relations were influenced by the conditions prevalent in the post-industrial revolution scenario. Later, changes caused by the developments in the IT revolution, rapid technological changes and globalization provided new opportunities and tangible benefits for all countries and people. Their effects in the past were different from those occurring now. Earlier labor was more mobile than capital but now capital has become more mobile than labor. Even now the employer's exploitation of workers continues but the workers have become 'willing slaves' while competing for career advancement and they are even ready to work for long hours. Thus the study on industrial relations assumes significance for the following reasons:

* Globalization of business and the pressure on industries to have universal labor standards.

* The need to learn and apply what is relevant from the experiences of other cultures, countries or continents (Ratnam, 2010). In terms of the labor market, the most influential effects of globalization include the following:

* flexibilization of labor markets;

* increasing labor migration;

* rising a typical and non-standard forms of employment;

* changes in work content and working conditions;

* Skills mismatch, multi-skilling and the need for lifelong learning. It is here that two most important international organizations come into focus to protect the growing threat to the way of globalization towards labor and their problems. One of them is International Labor Organization (ILO) which focuses on labor issues. ILO examines problems of the workers of the member countries. They are discussed with international labor conference (a tripartite body of ILO).The second is the World Trade Organization (WTO) whose primary purpose is to open trade for the benefit of all. WTO provides a forum for negotiating agreements aimed at reducing obstacles to international trade and ensuring a level playing field for all, thus contributes to economic growth and development.

Objectives of the Study

* To probe the industrial relations scenario in India

* To examine the impact of ILO on Indian industrial relations.

* To study the various conventions and recommendations of ILO which protect the working class in India.

* To analyze the various policies of WTO to establish best trade practices across the world.

* To study the role of ILO and WTO in shaping the industrial relations in India under global scenario.

Method of Study

This study is based on the descriptive analysis of the ILO and WTO in relation to Indian industrial relations system. The study also focuses on how ILO and WTO are affecting Indian labor issues. It is a content study done on the basis of the secondary data gathered from the articles, books and also websites. The main purpose of this research is to describe the state of affairs as they exist at present.

International Labor Organization

The ILO is currently the world's foremost multilateral labor organization and since its inception it has been the part of the League of Nations in 1919 and later it became an organ of UNO. The ILO has a tripartite structure in which member governments, workers, and employers participate on an equal level. The ILO is composed of three main bodies: the International Labor Conference, the Governing Body and the International Labor Office.

The principal means of action in the ILO is the setting up of international labor standards in the form of conventions and recommendations. The ILO advocates international standards as essential for the eradication of labor conditions involving "injustice, hardship and privation". International labor standards refer to conventions agreed upon by international actors, resulting from a series of value judgments, set forth to protect basic worker rights, enhance workers' job security, and improve their terms of employment on a global scale. The intent of such standards, then, is to establish a worldwide minimum level of protection from inhumane labor practices through the adoption and implementation of said measures. Thus, it is the aim of international labor standards to ensure the provision of rights in the workplace, such as against workplace aggression, bullying, discrimination and gender inequality on the one hand and on the other working diversity, workplace democracy and empowerment. According to the ILO, international labor standards contribute to the possibility of lasting peace, help to mitigate potentially adverse effects of international market competition and help the progress of international development

Impact on Industrial Relations in India

India is a member of the ILO since its inception and it contributed to a great extent to the labor legislations in India. India has adopted many of the conventions and recommendations on international standards for improvement in labor conditions, under Article 3 of the constitution of ILO. So far India has ratified 39 out of 189 conventions adopted by the ILO. These ratifications have made India obligated to implement the provisions made by ILO by incorporating the provisions in labor laws and collective agreements. India being a founder and permanent member of ILO's Governing body, it has been deeply involved with not only ILO's labor standards but with the processes established by ILO in employment relations (Sen, 2010). The ILO's influence on India's labor relations, which was established and continues to govern employer and employee relations, is marked. For instance,

* The systems of national tripartite consultation were established right from 1943 in the Indian Labor Conference.

* State-wise tripartite consultation was established later in the 1960s and 1970s but can be seen in the state Labor Advisory Committees.

* Drafting committees on legislation or other decisions are also tripartite in composition.

* A tripartite committee was set up in the early years after Independence to oversee the incorporation of ILO conventions and recommendations.

* The systems of dispute settlement that are established under law (Industrial Disputes Act, 1947), such as Conciliation and Arbitration (both voluntary and compulsory).

* The acceptance and encouragement of collective bargaining in public sector enterprises and the active involvement in several industry - level agreements.

* The tripartite pay commissions and wage boards, all bear the stamp of the ILO's methods of consultation and decision-making (Sen, 2010)

India has also availed considerable technical assistance from the ILO in research and investigation in labor issues, funding for welfare, safety and health projects, as well as elimination of child labor. Many eminent Indians have served for extended periods on some of ILO's expert bodies...

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