16 September 2011: Global March’s Governing Body member International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) released a report “Internationally Recognised Core Labour Standards in India, Report for the WTO General Council Review of the Trade Polices in India (Geneva, 14 and 16 September 2011). India has ratified only four core ILO labour Conventions. The report finds poor compliance with international labour standards, especially with regard to child labour.
On the issue of Freedom of Association and Right to Collective Bargaining, ITUC reports that India has not ratified the ILO Conventions 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 report finds that the rights to organise, collective bargaining and strike are restricted both in law and in practice and that thousands of detentions and arrests are reported every year. The report reveals also that the situation is graver in Export Processing Zones, where organising is even more difficult. The following except on poor working conditions and limited right to organise from the garment industry, a focus area of Global March’s interventions and programmes, highlights the issue:
“The garment industry of India is known for bad working conditions and violent practices against unions. In August 2010, thugs attacked 60 garment workers of Viva Global, where workers were participating in a campaign to improve working conditions, on their way to work. The attack caused serious injuries to 16 women and one union leader was abducted for 12 hours and tortured. One of the attackers was identified as a labour contractor hired by Viva Global. Two days before the attack, the company’s management attempted a lockout and threatened the workers with use of violence in order to stop campaigning. In similar events in New Shakti Nagar, Punjab, more than 500 textile workers from 20 factories were threatened with dismissal if they would not stop industrial action. Working conditions in the garment industry are particularly cruel, as workers who work 12 and 16 hours shifts are often paid only for the first 8 hours of work. Workers who pack finished goods receive only Rs.106 (USD2.35) per shift.”
India has ratified ILO Convention No. 100 on Equal Remuneration in 1958, and Convention No. 111 on Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) in 1960, the 2 ILO Conventions on Discrimination and Equal Opportunity, women and Dalits face discrimination at workplaces. The report quotes “Dalits are also the most usual victims of bonded and forced labour.”
An excerpt from the report mentions:
“Women’s average earned income (PPP) is US$ 1,304, whereas men’s earnings are US$ 4,102. Women occupy only 3 per cent of senior and management positions. For every 100 working men, there are only 42 working women. In urban areas unemployment is much higher for young women than for young men in both the formal and informal economic activity.”
India is among the handful of countries that have not ratified either of the ILO Convention on Child Labour, the Convention No. 182 on the Worst Forms of Child Labour and Convention No. 138 on the Minimum Age of Employment. The law does not sufficiently protect children from forms of labour that are illegal under ILO Conventions No. 138 and No. 182. The report finds that even these laws are not well-enforced and child labour, including its worst forms, is prevalent throughout India. Furthermore, forced labour and trafficking in human beings are prevalent in agriculture, mining and commercial sexual exploitation.
“In practice, child labour is a widespread problem in India due to the prevalence of extreme poverty in many areas, low law enforcing capacity, the absence of universal free education and tolerant societal norms. Governmental sources show that there are 16.4 million working children between 5 and 14 years old. However, NGO estimations consider the number to be between 55 and 87 million. Most of the children work in agriculture and perform informal economic activities, such as domestic servitude. Children can be found in a wide variety of industries, sometimes undertaking hazardous tasks, including in mining and quarrying, textiles, leather and garment factories, fireworks factories and many others. Children are also employed in the services sector, particularly in restaurants, hotels and auto repair. Reports show that a considerable number of children are scavengers and manually collect trash for recycling.
Forced child labour is prevalent. Children are reported to be forced into prostitution, beggary, domestic servitude and numerous other practices. Particular problems are noticed in carpet production, seed production, textiles, circuses, brick kilns and mills, among others.”
Child labour in export industries has attracted negative consequences, with garments from India being included in the US Department of Labor’s Executive Order 13126 List as “products, by country of origin, which the Department of Labor, State and Homeland Security believe might have been mined, produced or manufactured by forced or indentured child labour.”
On the Forced Labour, the report summarises “Forced labour and trafficking in human beings are prohibited by law. However, forced labour is a problem in agriculture, mining, commercial sexual exploitation, and other sectors. Overall law enforcement is poor and judicial capacities are not effective in addressing the problem.”
“In general, law enforcement on cases of forced labour and trafficking is considered to be poor, partly due to societal norms of tolerance and inefficient enforcement mechanisms. Some cases lapse and offenders are acquitted, while in other cases tried in magistrates’ courts offenders may be punished with sentences lesser than those established under the law. There is insufficient data on the number of cases investigated, prosecuted and sentenced and application of the law varies from to state to state because of different judicial and enforcement capacities and provisions.”
The report gives a set of 21 Recommendations for improving core labour standards in India. The ones relating to child and forced labour are:
“14. The Constitution of India, the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act of 1986, the Factories Act of 1948 and any other piece of legislation allowing children above the age of 14 to perform hazardous activities should be urgently amended to comply with Convention No. 182 on the Worst Forms of Child Labour which sets the minimum age for hazardous work at 18 years of age.
- The Child Labour Act’s scope should be extended to cover family farms or family businesses.
- The government must ensure implementation of Constitutional Article 45 which stipulates that the State shall endeavour to provide free and compulsory education for all children up to the 14th year of age.
- An anti-trafficking law prohibiting all forms of human trafficking should be enacted. The government should adopt clear official procedures for recognising trafficking victims and increase the effectiveness of its anti-trafficking and forced labour mechanisms and law enforcement. It should increase the funds for trafficking and forced labour victims and provide assistance of better quality.
- There must be zero tolerance of traditional forms of slavery; the state needs to take action to raise awareness and enforce the law on forced labour in areas where the problem persists. Sentences under the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act need to become much stricter.
- In general, the government should build up its law enforcement and judicial capacities in order to monitor and fully enforce labour laws, including legislation on violations of trade union rights, discrimination, child labour and forced labour and trafficking. The Labour Inspectorate needs to receive additional funding and its inspectors need to be provided with necessary training.”
To download the full ITUC report click here
To visit the Child and Forced Labour section of the ITUC web site, click here