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A Critical Analysis of Unfair Labour Practices and Victimization in the context of industrial relation laws

The colonial paradigm of industrial relations serves as a major foundation for the institutional structure of industrial relations in India. "It has been substantially defined by three important labor laws, the Industrial Employment Act of 1946, the Trade Unions Act of 1926 (henceforth TUA), and the Industrial Disputes Act of 1947 (henceforth IDA)." Following its independence, India adopted a statist economic strategy based on import substitution.

The IDA currently serves as the primary regulatory body for industrial relations in India. The rule 81-A of the Defense of Indian Rules, which was enacted by the colonial government in 1942, served as the foundation for the legislation. Its main goal was to quell unrest in the nation because, at the time, Britain was focused on the Second World War and could not afford an increase in industrial disputes. Shortly before the country gained independence in 1947, the rule was transformed into a full-fledged Act that outlined guidelines for the conciliation, arbitration, and adjudication models of industrial dispute resolution. In addition, the legislation establishes work committees, conciliation officers, boards of conciliation, and courts of inquiry as means of preventing disputes.

Industrial disputes were only recognized in the early years of the Act if they were supported by trade unions or a sizable number of persons. Subsequently, the IDA was revised to incorporate protocols for addressing individual termination concerns, thus designating certain personal disagreements as labor disputes.

As a result of the IDA's 2010 revision, parties now frequently approach labor courts directly in individual disputes´┐Ża referral is not required. In addition, a conciliated settlement provision is available under "S-12(3) of the Act." This provision applies to all present and future employees of the organization until the settlement takes effect. Additionally, parties may agree to a consensual settlement under S-18's terms.

The addition of "S.11-A " to the IDA is another significant change that should be noted. This was done at the request of trade union leadership, which claimed that employers were frequently victimizing workers. As a result, the labor courts became a court of appeals for cases involving termination; in these cases, the labor courts had the authority to modify the punishment even in cases where the worker was found guilty of misconduct. Because it can absolve delinquent employees or lessen their punishment even though they are guilty of misconduct, this phrase is occasionally seen as supporting rigidity and impeding worker discipline. Employers are required by S. 9A of the IDA to provide employees 21 days' notice before changing any aspect of their working conditions.

The industry argues that it is challenging to adapt to the demands of the contemporary business climate since employees can register a labor dispute after the notice is provided, restricting the employer's flexibility. This clause is also perceived as contributing to inflexibility.

S. 22 to S. 25 of the IDA, the workers need to give a notice at least 14 days before going on a strike, but this is only limited to public utility services; there are no such provisions in the case of non-public utilities, this gives the workers there to go on an instantaneous strike if they desired" are the provisions that set forth the rules regarding strikes.

An additional problem with Indian rules is that they allow even a small number of workers to call for a strike by a ballot that is circulated among them. "It is significant to remember that S. 36 of the IDA prohibits attorneys from participating in conciliation proceedings and severely limits their presence before adjudicatory bodies; however, an attorney may be admitted provided the opposing party agrees."

Industrial Relations and Unfair Labour

It is deemed unfair labor practices to engage in any of the activities specified in the Fifth Schedule. The M.R.T.U. & P.U.L.P. Act, 1971, passed by the State of Maharashtra in India, prohibits unfair labor practices in considerable detail. The Amendment Act of 1982 recognized unfair practices in the Fifth Schedule and made them illegal under S.25T and S.25U of the IDA, drawing on Maharashtra's ten years of experience in this area. The Central Act, in contrast to the Maharashtra Act, did not, however, include any provisions for the effective cessation, correction, or prevention of unfair conduct. This law is distinctive in that it also forbids workers from engaging in unfair labor practices.

The issuance of a circular by an employer prohibiting new hires from working for longer than 240 days would not be regarded as an unfair labor practice because agricultural labor is seasonal. It is not permissible to terminate laborers who are not involved in agricultural operations in order to avoid meeting the 240-day requirement. If these employees were let go, it may be considered unfair labor practices. Furthermore, the Industrial and Labour Courts have extensive authority to force the employer to take proactive action in a case of unfair labor practice under "Section 30(1)(b) of the MRTU and PULP Act," including the right to mandate regularization or permanent status.

The meaning of unfair labor practices needs to be understood in the context of the modern world, particularly in light of the ongoing epidemic. To qualify as an unfair labor practice, an act must exhibit elements of arbitrary and unreasonableness; if this is proven, the Indian Constitution's Article 14's fundamental rights will be invoked. In the matter of Food Corporation of India v. Durgapur Casual Workers Union. The dispute in this case concerned regularization workers who had previously been employed by the Corporation on a contract basis at its modern rice mill in Durgapur. Following the closure of the rice mill, the Corporation directly hired these workers in June 1991 as casual employees on a daily salary basis at the Food Storage Depot at Durgapur Corporation.

According to the Central Industrial Dispute Tribunal, persistent the Food Corporation Management was directed to absorb 49 casual workers after it was determined that the casualization of laborers' employment is an unfair labor practice and that the social equity principle demands an order of absorption. The Division Bench of the Calcutta High Court later reversed the ruling that had been maintained by a single-judge bench because of backdoor nominations and constitutional violations of Articles 14 and 16. It should be emphasized that labor courts cannot grant regularization relief merely because an employee has worked for a number of years as a "daily-wage worker, ad hoc worker, or a temporary worker" in the absence of any unfair labor practices.

However, as the case continued, it was determined that Art. 19 did not protect the right to the achievement of all the objectives behind the formation of trade unions. It is important to note that a trade union that is not registered or whose registration has been canceled is not entitled to benefit from any TUA or IDA benefits.

Because collective bargaining happens within trade unions, trade unions are important to industrial relations in India. Collective bargaining is "the technique by which dispute as to conditions of employment is resolved amicably by agreement rather than coercion," according to the Honorable Supreme Court. It should be mentioned that declining to engage in collective bargaining with an employer is considered an unfair labor practice.

Additionally, in the event that neither party is able to reach a collective bargaining agreement, the union may choose to go on strike. In the case of "B.R. Singh v. Union of India," the court acknowledged this option as a means of remedy for workers' grievances. However, there are certain issues with this step because the SC made the underlying premise that a recognized union represents every worker in the industry or industrial venture.

As a result, even those employees who choose not to participate in the strike are nonetheless compelled to do so. The state government may appoint a conciliation officer to investigate disputes, mediate, and promote settlement during the cooling-off period. Additionally, a board of conciliation may also be appointed in equal numbers on the recommendation of both parties. It is important to note that no strikes shall be conducted during this time. The conciliation process begins after the strike. The proceedings began after the conciliation officer receives the notice of strike. I) Settlement; ii) No Settlement; iii) Citation of an industrial tribunal or labor court.

Impact of the Pandemic

Many Indian workers who had relocated in search of work have had their livelihoods destroyed by the pandemic, and the installation of lockdowns has turned into a cruel form of punishment for them. The pandemic has already resulted in a large number of workers losing their employment and a large number of others having their salaries cut. Given this, a lot of states have loosened their labor regulations in order to boost employment and bring in money for the sectors of the economy that the epidemic mostly closed.

The question is whether laborers will benefit from this relaxation or if it will result in unfair labor practices and worker victimization. Let's find out what modifications the states have made and which ones they are, first, before we start speculating. "A number of labor laws, including important ones like the IDA and TUA, have been given temporary exemptions in Uttar Pradesh (UP); these provisions have been suspended for almost three years. In addition, the Labor Amendment Act, which exempts certain IDA provisions and is a crucial measure in preventing labor abuse, has been approved by Madhya Pradesh (MP). The working shift has also been extended from 8 to 112 hours, with the option for 72 hours of overtime.

Written By: Akanksha

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