Industrial Disputes And The Conflict B/W Majority And Minority Union
As per Section 2 of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947, "An Industrial Dispute
means any dispute or differences between employers and employers or between
employers and workmen or between workmen and workmen which is connected with the
employment or non-employment or the terms of employment or with the conditions
of labour of any person."
Every worker has specific demands, including financial needs, social benefits,
and security needs. Conflict between the employee and the employer emerges when
such conditions are not met. There are basically two sorts of industrial
conflicts: individual disputes and collective disputes. Individual disputes
might involve issues including compensation for unlawful termination,
reinstatement, etc., whereas collective conflicts could include disagreements
over pay, bonuses, profit sharing, duration of work etc.
Settlement Of Industrial Disputes
Many strategies, including negotiations, conciliation, mediation, and
arbitration, may be used to settle industrial disputes. Any business,
management, or labour union is free to use any strategy it wants to handle such
disputes. Industrial disputes need to be settled as soon as feasible, and they
need to be settled at the level at which they initially occurred. Both the
government and the union should change their attitudes, lay to rest their egos,
and seek to resolve the disputes as soon as they possibly can.
Relations gradually deteriorate and become complex when disagreements are not
resolved. If management and unions want to be satisfied, there ought to be a
WIN-WIN scenario. Relations cannot and will never improve if one wins and the
other party loses. Less productivity and financial losses for the firm and the
employees are consequences of pending awards. The use of tribunals or
conciliation should be avoided as much as possible by both the parties.
The Case Of Ongc Vs President, Oil Fields Employees Association
On August 26, 2016, the appellants, Oil and Natural Gas Company Ltd, received a
direct action notice from The Oil Field Employees Association, a union which has
been established in the year 2014. The Union represented workers hired by ONGC's
contractors. A Conciliation Officer summoned the aforementioned Union and ONGC
on September 19, 2016, to discuss the conflict resulting from the aforementioned
It is essential to keep in mind that another Union, which represented 77% of the
workers, and the contractor negotiated a settlement on the same day, with ONGC
acting as the consenting party. The Union demanded that the wages and employment
conditions of contractors' workers be equivalent to those of ONGC employees in a
Charter of Demands that was submitted on September 26, 2016. Thereafter, ONGC
presented a fair pay policy.
The attempt at conciliation was eventually unsuccessful. A report was
subsequently submitted to the Central Government as a result of this. The Centre
thereafter brought the matter with the Industrial Tribunal in accordance with
Section 10(2A) of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947. At the Bombay High Court,
the ONGC contested the validity of the reference order, but the High Court
rejected their claim. The Tribunal also charged two other Unions during this
time. With regards to the appeal, the High Court upheld the verdict but modified
how it was to be implemented.
Citing the definition of "workman" included within Section 2(s) of the act of
1947, the appellants, i.e., ONGC, said that it was unjustified since none of the
individuals represented by the Unions were engaged by ONGC. ONGC was the company
that filed the appeal. On September 19, 2016, an agreement was made with the
union that represented the majority of the workforce. The deal puts all workers
in the same position.
In addition, it was stated that, in accordance with a number of judgements, the
employees of contractors cannot be considered to be the same as the employees of
the principal employer. It was argued that there was no contract stating that
ONGC had engaged the individuals who were impacted by the incident. In addition,
when contractual work has ended, the principal employer doesn't really acquire
the employees who were working under the contract.
Nevertheless, the respondents, i.e., the Unions filed a response asserting that
the workers in issue were in fact ONGC employees. It was argued that the
settlement reached on September 19, 2016, which would bind the concerned
individuals under Section 18(3)(d), should not be considered a settlement until
it is completed. It was argued that the arrangement solely applied to
contractors' employees, despite the fact that the affected workers were also
entitled to service benefits from ONGC.
Upon oral arguments submitted by the appellants and the respondents, the Supreme
Court Court came to the conclusion that a minority union of workers who were
left out of an agreement in between majority union and the employer can still go
forward with a labour dispute on the basis that they were recruited directly by
the principal employer.
The bench of Hon'ble Justice Nageswara Rao and Hon'ble Justice Aniruddha Bose
did not overturn the ruling of the Bombay High Court. The aforementioned ruling
had mainly backed the Central Government Industrial Tribunal, Mumbai's ruling in
favour of the workers' union demands for similar guidelines for all ONGC
employees, regardless of employment contracts.
After its examination of Section 18 of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947, the
Court stated that it was not satisfied that the settlement reached on September
19, 2016, would compel the minority union with regards to the present matter.
The only individuals the appellants had any sort of relationship with were the
contractors and the labourers who were employed by them.
Reiterating its position from Tata Engineering and Locomotive Co. Ltd. vs. Their
Workmen (1981), the court ruled that a minority union of employees may engage in
an industrial dispute regardless of whether some other organization representing
a majority of them agrees to a resolution with the employer.
To conclude, it could be said that the minority union must be empowered to
represent workers in the adjudication of specific concerns such as termination
and discharge among others. The appropriate methods are likely to encourage the
development of a robust and flourishing trade unionism and, to some extent,
eliminate inter-union competition.
The unions will become effective tools for collective action and receive the
necessary bargaining parity if one union is required to be recognised for each
initiative. The Supreme Court's ruling in the aforementioned case is a positive
step towards recognising the rights of the minority union even after an
agreement has been made between the majority union and the employer.
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