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Union leaders meet ILO chief, voice concerns

The union leaders voice concerns about the changing labour rights? scenario in India, reports Sutirtho Patranobis.

india Updated: Dec 13, 2006 20:39 IST

Trade unions across the world are talking about the depleting rights of the labour force, and when union representatives met executive director of the ILO, Kari Tapiola, on Wednesday, they voiced similar concerns about the changing labour rights’ scenario in India.

Tapiola, who is in the Capital to attend a roundtable on labour market reforms, was informed about the latest developments in the sector, especially about the potential harassment labourers might face in Special Economic Zones (SEZ).

Tapiola looks after Standards and Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work at ILO. He told the Hindustan Times that the concerns of trade unions in India are very much the same that trade unions have in other countries.

"Growth and job displacements at times go together. The trade union representatives told me about how the employment market is developing in India. Its interesting to know that concerns of the unions here are similar to the concerns in other countries," Tapiola said.

He said that it was important that there should be sufficient security for workers. "It’s not about protection of jobs but about protection of employment and income. Any disconnect between the class that is benefiting from economic growth and those who are not would lead to political tension in society," Tapiola said.

Tapiola who is Finnish and based in Geneva said that contentious issues should be worked out through negotiations between the government, employers and employees. "(To workout issues) Sit Down at a round table. Address the hard issues." he said.

Talking about the meeting with Tapiola, AITUC’s H Mahadevan said: "We told Tapiola that once the SEZs start functioning, the labour force working there would not have any rights. Labour laws will not be applicable in SEZs. There would be rampant violation of labour laws and large chunks of the labour force would have no recourse to rights," Mahadevan said. Tapiola agreed, saying labour market reform does not mean that labour laws are made more flexible.

Mahadevan said Tapiola was also told about the fact that in many industries, especially in the unorganised sector, labourers are not even paid minimum wages.

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First Published: Dec 13, 2006 20:39 IST