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[Excerpt] The year 2009 marks the 70th anniversary of the ILO Convention on the Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining, 1947 (No. 98), a fundamental convention highly ratified in South Asia. To commemorate the event, and to better understand the role that collective bargaining has played as a mechanism to regulate relations between workers and employers, the ILO Subregional Office for South Asia is publishing a series of studies on the current status and evolution of industrial relations in Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and three states in India –Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal.

The studies, the first of this nature produced in the subregion in the last decade, aim at providing an insight into workers’ and employers’ organizations in the subregion, collective bargaining trends and coverage, dispute settlement and existing mechanisms to solve them, and recent tripartism and social dialogue practices. The studies also seek to assess the degree to which industrial relations have now been decentralized and examine the extent to which collective bargaining is providing an effective framework for governing collective labour–management relations at various levels. The studies pay particular attention to collective bargaining as a wage-fixing mechanism, and assess its relevance as part of the whole system of wage-fixing.

Access to data and statistics has been a challenge in all countries. Ministries of Labour do not systematically register agreements, compile data nor analyse data on collective bargaining. With few exceptions, trends identified in the papers are based on the experience and perceptions of practitioners, the social partners and the officials from the labour administration.