Strike and lock-out are two powerful weapons in the hands of the workers and
the employers. Strike signifies the suspension or stoppage of work by the worker
while in case of lock-out the employer compels persons employed by him to accept
his terms or conditions by shutting down or closing the place of business.
Strike is recognized as an ordinary right of social importance to the working
class to ventilate their grievances and thereby resolve industrial conflict.
Skillful use of these weapons, whether threatened or actual, may help one party
to force the other to accept its demand or atleast to concede something to them.
But reckless use of them results in the risk of unnecessary stoppage of work
hurting both parties badly creating worse tensions, frictions and violations of
law and order. From the point of view of the public, they retard the nation’s
economic development. India cannot tolerate frequent stoppage of work for
frivolous reasons that often accompany it.
For these reasons, the Industrial Disputes Act seeks to regulate and restrict
strikes and lock-outs so that neither the workmen nor employers may hold the
nation to ransom.
Strike as defined in clause (q) of Section 2 of the Act means:
- Cessation of work by a body of persons employed in any industry acting
in combination; or
- A concerted refusal of any number of persons who are or have been
employed in any industry to continue to work or to accept employment; or
- A refusal under a common understanding of any number of persons who are
or have been employed in any industry to continue to work or to accept
Thus the definition given in the act postulates three main things or
- (a) Plurity of workmen;
- (b) Combination or concerted action;
- (c) Cessation of work or refusal to do work.
Strikes came into existence in the wake of the Industrial Revolution. With the
invention of machinery to supplant human labour, unemployment, lowering of wages
in a competitive market, supply of labour in excess of demand - became the order
of the day.
The first known strike was in the 12th century B.C., in Egypt. Workers under
Ramses III stopped working on the Necropolis until they were treated better.
The use of the English word ‘strike’ first appeared in 1768 when sailors in
support of demonstrations in London, struck or removed the topgallant sails of
merchant ships at port thus, thus crippling the ships.
As the 19th century progressed, strikes became a fixture of industrial relations
across the industrialized world, as workers organized themselves to bargaining
for better wages and standards with their employees.
The 1974 railway strike in India was the strike by workers of Indian Railways in
1974. The 20 days strike by 17 lakh workers is the largest known strike in
India. The strike was held to demand a raise in pay scale, which had remained
stagnant over many years, in spite of the fact that pay scales of other
government owned entities had risen over the years.
Strikes became common during the Industrial Revolution, when mass labor became
important in factories and mines. In most countries, strike actions were quickly
made illegal, as factory owners had far more political power than workers.
However, most western countries partially legalized striking in the late 19th or
early 20th centuries.
Strike means the stoppage of work by a body of workmen acting in concert with a
view to bring pressure upon the employer to concede to their demands during an
Indian Iron & Steel ltd. v/s Its Workmen
Held: Mere cessation of work does not come within the preview of strike unless
it can be shown that such cessation of work was a concerted action for the
enforcement of an industrial demand.
Cessation of work or refusal to work is an essential element of strike. This is
the most significant characteristic of the concept of strike. There can be no
strike if there is no cessation of work. The cessation of work may take any
form. It must however be temporary and not forever and it mustbe voluntary. No
duration can be fixed for this in fact duration for cessation of work is
immaterial. Cessation of work even for half an hour amounts to strike.
Buckingham & Carnatak Co. Ltd. v/s Workers of Buckingham & Carnatak Co. Ltd.
On the 1st November, 1948 night shift operators of carding ad spinning
department of the Carnatak Mill stopped work some at 4 p.m. some at 4:30 p.m.
and some at 5 p.m. The stoppage ended at 8 p.m. in both the departments. By 10
p.m. the strike ended completely. The cause for the strike was that the
management of the Mills had expressed inability to comply with the request of
the workers to declare 1st November, 1948 as a holiday for solar eclipse.
Supreme Court held it strike.
Concerted action is another important ingredient of strike. The workers must act
under a common understanding. The cessation of work by a body of persons
employed in any industry in combination is a strike. Stoppage of work by workers
individually does not amount to strike.
Ram Sarup & Another v/s Rex
Held: Mere absence from work is not enough but there must be concerted refusal
to work, to constitute a strike.
The object of an industrial strike is achievement of economic objectives or
defence of mutual interests. The objects of strikes must be connected with the
employment, nonemployment, terms of employment or terms and conditions of labour
because they are prominent issues on which the workers may go on strikes for
pressing their demands and such objects include the demands for codification of
proper labour laws in order to abolish unfair labour practices prevalent in a
particular area of industrial activity. The strike may also be used as a weapon
for betterment of working conditions, for achievement of safeguards, benefits
and other protection for themselves, their dependents and for their little ones.
In B. R. Singh v/s Union of India
 it was held that the strike is a form of
demonstration. Though the right to strike or right to demonstrate is not a
fundamental right, it is recognized as a mode of redress for resolving the
grievances of the workers. Though this right has been recognized by almost all
democratic countries but it is not an absolute right.
In T.K. Rangarajan v/s Tamil Nadu
, the Tamil Nadu government terminated the
services of all employees who resorted to strike. The Apex Court held that
Government staffs have no statutory, moral or fundamental right to strike.
In 2005, the Supreme Court reiterated that lawyers have no right to go on strike
or give a call for boycott and not even a token strike to espouse their causes.
In Dharma Singh Rajput v/s Bank of India, it was held that right to strike as a
mode of redress of the legitimate grievance of the workers is recognized by the
Industrial Disputes Act. However, this right is to be exercised after complying
with the conditions mentioned in the Act and also after exhausting the
intermediate and salutary remedy for conciliation.
Causes of Strikes:-
In the early history of labor troubles the causes of strikes were few. They
arose chiefly from differences as to rates of wages, which are still the most
fruitful sources of strikes, and from quarrels growing out of the dominant and
servient relations of employers and employees. While labor remained in a state
of actual or virtual servitude, there was no place for strikes. With its growing
freedom "conspiracies of workmen" were formed, and strikes followed. The
scarcity of labor in the fourteenth century, and the subsequent attempts to
force men to work at wages and under conditions fixed by statute, were sources
of constant difficulties, while the efforts to continue the old relation of
master and servant with its assumed rights and duties, a relation law recognizes
to this day, were, and still are, the causes of some of the most bitter strikes
that have ever occurred.
Strikes are caused by differences as to:
Kinds of Strike:
- Rates of wages and demands for advances or reductions i.e. Bonus, profit
sharing, provident fund and gratuity.
- Payment of wages, changes in the method, time or frequency of payment;
- Hours of labor and rest intervals;
- Administration and methods of work, for or against changes in the
methods of work or rules and methods of administration, including the
difficulties regarding labor-saving machinery, piece-work, apprentices and
- Trade unionism.
- Retrenchment of workmen and closure of establishment.
- Wrongful discharge or dismissal of workmen.
There are mainly three kinds of strike, namely general strike, stay-in-strike
and go slow.
- General Strike:
In General Strike, the workmen join together for common cause and stay away from
work, depriving the employer of their labour needed to run his factory. Token
Strike is also a kind of General Strike. Token Strike is for a day or a few
hours or for a short duration because its main object is to draw the attention
of the employer by demonstrating the solidarity and co-operation of the workers.
General Strike is for a longer period. It is generally resorted to when
employees fail to achieve their object by other means including a token strike
which generally proceeds a General Strike. The common forms of such strikes are
organized by central trade unions in railways, post and telegraph, etc. Hartals
and Bundhs also fall in this category.
It is also known as ‘tools-down-strike’ or ‘pens-down-strike. It is the form of
strike where the workmen report to their duties, occupy the premises but do not
work. The employer is thus prevented from employing other labour to carry on his
Mysore Machinery Manufacturers v/s State
Held: Where dismissed workmen were staying on premises and refused to
leave them, did not amount to strike but an offence of criminal trespass.
Punjab National Bank Ltd. v/s Their workmen
Held: Refusal under common understanding to continue to work is a strike
and if in pursuance of such common understanding the employees entered the
premises of the bank and refused to take their pens in their hands would no
doubt be a strike under section 2(q).
In a ‘Go-Slow’ strike, the workmen do not stay away from work. They do come to
their work and work also, but with a slow speed in order to lower down the
production and thereby cause loss to the employer.
Sasa Musa Sugar Works Pvt. Ltd. v/s Shobrati Khan & Ors 
Held: Go-Slow strike is not a strike” within the meaning of the
term in the Act, but is serious misconduct which is insidious in its nature and
cannot be countenanced.
In addition to these three forms of strike which are frequently resorted to by
the industrial workers, a few more may be cited although some of them are not
strike within the meaning of section 2(q).
- i. Hunger Strike: In Hunger Strike a group of workmen resort to fasting on or
near the place of work or the residence of the employer with a view to coerce
the employer to accept their demands.
Piparaich Sugar Mills Ltd. v/s Their Workmen
Certain employees who held key positions in the mill resorted to hunger strike
at the residence of the managing Director, with the result that even those
workmen who reported to their duties could not be given work. Held: That
concerted action of the workmen who went on Hunger Strike amounted to strike”
within the meaning of this sub-section.
- ii. Sympathetic Strike: A Sympathetic Strike is resorted to in sympathy of other
striking workmen. It is one which is called for the purpose of indirectly aiding
others. Its aim is to encourage or to extend moral support to or indirectly to
aid the striking workmen. The sympathizers resorting to such strike have no
demand or grievance of their own.
- iii. Work to rule: Here the employees strictly adhere to the rules while
performing their duties which ordinarily they do not observe. Thus strict
observance of rules results in slowing down the tempo of work causes
inconvenience to the public and embarrassment to the employer. It is no strike
because there is no stoppage of work at all.
Hero Honda Gurgaon Plant Strike Duration : 10 April 2006 - 14th April 2006
once again Gurgaon has become the centre of workers' unrest following the strike
at Hero Honda's Gurgaon plant. Around 4,000 casual workers of Hero Honda were on
strike from 10 April 2006 against the anti-worker stance of the management that
had ignored the demands of the workers for a long time. The main demands placed
were wage hike, job regularization, extra casual leave and medical benefits at
par with the permanent workers.
In fact, around 4000 contract workers of Hero Honda's Gurgaon Plant (owned by
Pawan Munjal) were denied regularization for the last 7 to 8 years. A
contractual Hero Honda worker is paid between Rs. 4000-6700 per month as against
Rs. 40,000, the salary of a permanent worker performing the same job. Rs 10 is
deducted daily for food and tea only from the casual workers' salary. The three
major contractors who operate in the Hero Honda Gurgaon plant include the Sehgal
brothers and workers recruited by them not only get low wages but also do not
receive any pay slip or cards. The casual helper at the plant gets a meagre Rs.
2000-2500 at the end of the month. The management and the contractors are
equally involved in the exploitation of the contract worker.
There is no union in the Hero Honda unit, but the casual workers of the company
unanimously decided to protest and braving all kinds of threats and machinations
by the management, they determinedly continued with their strike.
Finally, the administration and the management were forced to come to the table.
On 14th April, a tripartite meeting was held between Haryana's additional labour
commissioner, management and worker representatives and they agreed for a
settlement, under which some demands were met with and on the rest, talks will
continue. It was an important victory for the contract workers, who are
otherwise forced to live in miserable conditions. The agreement included a 30%
hike in salary, two days of casual leave every month and medical benefits in
accordance with the company rules, issuing identity cards and ATM cards and
opening bank accounts for the casual workers. The management also agreed to
pressurize contractors to address some of the genuine grievances of the contract
workers. The management agreed to review the situation at the earliest and look
specifically into the demand for abolition of contract labour and their
AICCTU expresses solidarity with the movement waged by the casual workers of
Hero Honda's Gurgaon unit and welcomes the fighting initiative taken against the
repressive management of Hero Honda especially after the brutality meted out to
the struggling Honda Motorcycle (HMSI) workers in the recent past. It is truly
commendable that the workers have not lost courage to challenge the hideous
nexus of the private entrepreneurs, state administration, and labour
contractors, particularly in Gurgaon. Their fight for economic rights and their
initiative to unionize reflect the spirit of working class offensive against the
shrinkage of workers' rights and democratic space for struggle in the era of
liberalization, privatization, and globalization.
Hero Honda Motors Limited, based in Delhi, India is a joint venture between the
Hero Group of India and Honda of Japan. It has been referred to as the world's
biggest manufacturer of 2 wheeler vehicles. It has three manufacturing units
based at Dharuhera , Gurgaon and at Haridwar . These plants together are capable
of manufacturing 3.9 million bikes per year. Production of the plant, which has
a capacity of about 6,000 units per day. There are about 1,200 permanent
workers, while 4,000 are on contract.
Case Facts Place:
Hero Honda Gurgaon Plant Strike Duration : 10 April 2006 - 14th April 2006 No.
of workers involved: 4000 casual workers Demands: Wage hike, extra casual leave
and medical benefits at par with the permanent workers. Financial Loss: Loss of
Rs.100 crore .
Background: Around 4000 contract workers of Hero Honda's Gurgaon Plant (owned by
Pawan Munjal ) were denied regularization for the last 7 to 8 years. A
contractual Hero Honda worker is paid between Rs. 4000-6700 per month as against
Rs. 40,000, the salary of a permanent worker performing the same job. Rs 10 is
deducted daily for food and tea only from the casual workers' salary.
Contractual workers recruited not only get low wages but also do not receive any
pay slip or cards. The casual helper at the plant gets a meager Rs. 2000-2500 at
the end of the month. The management and the contractors are equally involved in
the exploitation of the contract worker.
Action Taken: On 14th April, a tripartite meeting was held between Haryana's
additional labor commissioner, management and worker representatives and they
agreed for a settlement, under which some demands were met. It was an important
victory for the contract workers, who are otherwise forced to live in miserable
Solution: The agreement included : 30% hike in salary Two days of casual leave
every month and Medical benefits in accordance with the company rules, Issuing
identity cards ATM cards Opening bank accounts for the casual workers.
Effect Of The Strike
Production at the plant, which makes about 6,000 bikes a day at Gurgaon was
paralyzed. It lead to the loss of Rs. 100 crore to the company. It severely
impacted the industrial environment in the state and hence it was a concern for
Issues between the management and workers should be resolved beforehand. There
should be a good communication link between the worker and the management.
Management should not suppress or violate the rights of the worker.
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3. Mishra S. N.- Labour and Industrial Law - 24th Edition, Central Law
4. Pillai K. M - Labour and Industrial Laws - 11th Edition 2007, Allahabad Law
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