History of Labour Laws


Posted by on November 20, 2016

Labour Laws are drafted to handle the demands of workers for better working condition, the right to organize and the demands of employers to restrict the powers of workers and to keep labour costs under control. Employers’ costs can increase due to workers organizing to demand higher wages, by laws imposing costly compliance such as health/safety of equal opportunities. Trade unions can trigger industrial disputes and gain influence over the employer’s authority over decision making. The state of labour law reflects the struggle between these two different sections of society. Employers ensuring that their costs & autonomy is not compromised and workers demanding better working conditions and fair treatment.

ILO was one of the first organizations to deal with this complex issue. ILO was established following the Treaty of Versailles that ended the World War I and the post-war reconstruction and protection of labour interests gained a lot of interest post across the globe. It was during this time that Great Britain decided to establish “industrial councils” across the world. Subsequently in year 1918, the AFL (American Federation of Labour) called for improvements via collective bargaining process.

Great Britain proposed to establish an international parliament to enact labour laws which each member would be then required to implement. Each participating nation would have two delegates to the parliament (one representing workers and other the management). United States was able to influence and was able to get several of their proposals incorporated including equal pay for women, right to sufficient wage and dignity of the worker. Some of other proposals which were also introduced included freedom of speech, press, assembly and freedom of association. Another proposal was also added to ban goods made by children under age of 12, eight-hour work day or 40-hour work week. Other nations also added a few provisions related to weekly rest, equality of law for foreign workers and regular inspection of factory conditions.

Finally the Peace conference adopted the report on 11th April 1919 and it became part of the Treaty of Versailles. The First International Labour Conference was held on 29th October 1919 which dealt with working hours, unemployment, and maternity protection, night work for women, minimum age & night work for young workers.


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