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Industrial Disputes

Meaning of Industrial Dispute

Industrial dispute means any dispute of difference between employees and employers or between employers and workmen or between workmen and workmen, which is connected with the employment or non-employment of the terms of employment or the conditions of work of any person (The industrial Disputes Act 1947, Section 2K).

Every human being (say a labour) has certain requirements/needs e.g., economic needs, social needs, security requirements. When these requirements do not get satisfied, there arises a conflict between the worker and the capitalist/employer.

The industrial disputes are of two types i.e., individual disputes and collective disputes. The individual disputes may be disputes such as reinstatement, compensation for wrong termination etc. Disputes relating to wages, bonus, profit sharing hours of work etc. are collective disputes.

Causes of Industrial Disputes:

The common causes of industrial disputes are as follows:

Psychological Causes:

(i) Authoritarian leadership (nature of administration).
(ii) Clash of personalities.
(iii) Difficulty in adjusting in given conditions or with each other (employee and employer).
(iv) Strict discipline.
(v) Demand for self-respect and recognition by workers.

Institutional Causes:

(i) Non recognition of trade/labour union by the management.
(ii) Matters of collective bargaining.
(iii) Unfair conditions and practices.
(iv) Pressure on workers to avoid participation in trade unions.

Economic Causes:

(a) Terms and conditions of employment.
(i) More work hours.
(ii) Working in night shifts.
(iii) Disputes on promotions, layoff, retrenchment and dismissal etc.
(b) Working conditions.
(i) Working conditions such as too hot, too cold, dusty, noisy etc.
(ii) Improper plant and work place layout.
(iii) Frequent product design changes etc.
(c) Wages and other benefits.
(i) Inadequate wages.
(ii) Poor fringe benefits.
(iii) No bonus or other incentives etc.

Denial of Legal and other Right of Workers:

(i) Proceeding against labour laws and regulations.
(ii) Violation of already made agreements i.e., between employees and employers.

Results of Industrial Disputes:

Following are some important results which arise out of these disputes.

(i) Strike:

When workers collectively cease to work in an industry, it is called strike. “It means a cessation of work by a body of persons employed in an industry acting in combination; or a concerted refusal of any number of persons who are or have been so employed to continue to work or to accept employment; or a refusal under a common understanding of any number of such persons to continue to work or to accept employment.”
The Industrial Disputes Act 1947, Section 2(a).

For trade union strike is the most powerful weapon for forcing the management to accept their demands.

The following are the types of strikes:

(a) Economic Strike:

Most of the strikes of workers are for more facilities and increase in wage levels. In economic strike, the labourers generally demand increase in wages, leave travel allowance, house rent allowance, dearness allowance etc.

(b) Sympathetic Strike:

When workers of one industry go on strike in sympathy with the workers of other industry who are already on strike, it is known as sympathetic strike.

(c) Stay in Strike:

In this case, workers do not absent themselves from their place of work when they are on strike. They keep control over production facilities but do not work. Such a strike is also termed as ‘pen down’ or ‘tool down’ strike.

(d) Go Slow Tactics:

Here, workers deliberately work to rule and do their work in a very slow manner.

(ii) Boycott:

The workers may decide to boycott the company by not using its products. Such an appeal may also be made to the public in general.

(iii) Picketing:

When workers are dissuaded from work by stationing certain men at the factory gates, such a step is known as picketing. If picketing does not involve any violence, it is perfectly legal.

(iv) Gheraos:

In gherao workers force the employer to remain confined in their office for a considerably long period so as to press for their demands.

(v) Lockout:

An employer may close the place of employment temporarily for those workers who are on strike. Such a step is technically known as Lockout. It is reverse of a strike and is a very powerful weapon in the hands of an employer to pressurise the workers to return to the place of work.
According to the Industrial Dispute Act 1947, Lockout means the closing of-place of employment or the suspension of work, or the refusal by an employer to continue to any number of persons employed by him.

(vi) Termination of Service of Striking Employees:

The employer may also terminate the services of those workers who are on strike by blacklisting them. Their lists are also circulated to other employers so as to restrict or minimize their chances of getting employment from those employers.

Settlement of Industrial Disputes:

If industrial peace is the backbone of a nation, strikes and lockouts are cancer for the same as they effect production and peace in the factories.

In the socioeconomic development of any country cordial and harmonious industrial relations have a very important and significant role to play. Industry belongs to the society and therefore good industrial relations are important from society’s point of view.

Nowadays, industrial relations are not bipartite affair between the management and the work force or employees. Government is playing an active role in promoting industrial relations. The concept of industrial relations has therefore, become a tripartite affair between the employees, employers and the government concerned.

It is possible to settle the industrial disputes if timely steps are taken by the management. Such disputes can be prevented and settled amicably if there is equitable arrangement and adjustment between the management and the workers.

The following is the machinery for prevention and settlement of industrial disputes:

(i) Works Committees:

This committee represents of workers and employers. Under the Industrial Disputes Act 1947, works committees exist in industrial establishments in which one hundred or more workmen are employed during the previous year.

It is the duty of the Works Committee to promote measures for securing and preserving amity and good relations between the employers and workers. It also deals with certain matters viz. condition of work, amenities, safety and accident prevention, educational and recreational facilities.

(ii) Conciliation Officers:

Conciliation Officers are appointed by the government under the Industrial Disputes Act 1947.

The duties of conciliation officer are given below:

(i) He has to evolve a fair and amicable settlement of the dispute. In case of public utility service, he must hold conciliation proceedings in the prescribed manner.
(ii) He shall send a report to the government if a dispute is settled in the course of conciliation proceedings along with the charter of the settlement signed by the parties.
(iii) Where no settlement is reached, conciliation officer sends a report to the government indicating the steps taken by him for ascertaining the facts, circumstances relating to dispute and the reasons on account of which settlement within 14 days of the commencement of the conciliation proceedings.

Boards of Conciliation:

The government can also appoint a Board of Conciliation for promoting settlement of Industrial Disputes. The chairman of the board is an independent person and other members (may be two or four) are to be equally represented by the parties to the disputes.

The duties of the board include:

(a) To investigate the dispute and all matters affecting the merits and do everything fit for the purpose of inducing the parties to reach a fair and amicable settlement.
(b) A report has to be sent to the government by the board if a dispute has been settled or not within two months of the date on which the dispute was referred to it.

(iii) Court of Enquiry:

The government may appoint a court of enquiry for enquiring into any industrial dispute. A court may consist of one person or more than one person in and in that case one of the persons will be the chairman. The court shall be required to enquire into the matter and submit its report to the government within a period of six months.

(iv) Labour Courts:

As per the Second Schedule of the Industrial Dispute Act 1947.
The Government sets up Labour Courts to deal with matters such as:
(i) The propriety or legality of an order passed by an employer under the standing orders.
(ii) The application and interpretation of standing orders passed.
(iii) Discharge or dismissal of workmen including reinstatement, grant of relief to workers who are wrongfully dismissed.
(iv) Withdrawal of any customary concession of privilege.
(v) Illegality or otherwise of a strike or lockout, and all other matters not specified in the Third Schedule.

(v) Industrial Tribunals:

A Tribunal is appointed by the government for the adjudication of Industrial Disputes.

(vi) National Tribunal:

A National Tribunal is constituted by the Central Government for Industrial Disputes involving questions of national importance.

(vii) Arbitration:

The employer and employees may agree to settle the dispute by appointing an independent and impartial person called Arbitrator. Arbitration provides justice at minimum cost.

Written By: Dheeraj Singh

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