Industrial Disputes can be understood by separating the terms industry and disputes. Disputes refer to conflicts that take place because of disagreements in the interests or choices made. Therefore, industrial disputes refer to the conflicts which take place when there is a disagreement in opinions between individuals or employers and employees, which may include matters dealing with employment protocols, wages, and salaries, working hours, job security, working conditions and other aspects relating to employment.
Industrial disputes can be aggravated in any form which may be as silent as negotiation and can even be as violent as strikes, protests, demonstrations, lockouts and which may at last be taken legal actions for. The main aim of Industrial disputes is to resolve the disputes via various alternatives for dispute resolutions like negotiation, mediation, arbitration, and conciliation for protecting the rights of employees and provide them with adequate working conditions along with feasible salaries and working hours. Resolution can take place through various means:
- Arbitration by an arbitrator appointed by the court or tribunal.
- Negotiation between Employers and employees as in the case of wages and salaries.
- Mediation by any neutral third party for abiding by the rules of the contract.
- Conciliation done by the conciliator as appointed by the government.
Though, industrial disputes take place in every country but there are different laws under which it is governed. In India, there are several regulations and laws which include labour laws, dispute resolution acts, collective bargaining agreements and many more which help them to bring industrial peace in order.
INDUSTRIAL DISPUTE ACT, 1947
Industrial Dispute Act, 1947 is a legislation that governs Industrial disputes in India providing a framework to regulate industrial relations in the country. Some notable features of the Act are as follows:
- It provides definitions of the important terms which relate to industrial disputes like employer, workman, industry, industrial dispute, etc.
- It provides details for the authorities in charge for administration and implementation of its provisions like, appropriate government, board of conciliation, the court of inquiry, labour courts, industrial tribunals, etc.
- It allows the recognition of trade unions by employers and provides guidelines for the registration and functioning of trade unions.
- This act also emphasises on the importance of dispute settlement which is amicable via various alternate dispute resolutions namely, arbitration, conciliation, negotiation, and mediation along with providing for the appointment of the relevant officers required for the same.
- This act also regulates and facilitates the legal procedure for strikes and lockouts along with the consequences. It also outlines the obligations of both, employers and employees during strikes and lockouts as per mentioned under the law.
- It also provides for separate labour courts and tribunals wherein parties are referred once there is a failure in the conciliation or adjudicating efforts. The awards pronounced by the authorities are legally binding on the parties and will therefore be executed thereafter.
- This act also contains provisions for the process of retrenchment and layoff which is the termination of employees and temporary suspension of work respectively along with the requirement of prior notice and compensation to be provided to the employees.
- This act also provides for the provisions of compensation to the employees in terms of provident funds, gratuity, and several other benefits.
Though this act was made and enacted decades before, in the current times’ several amendments have taken place with this act is added with several other norms like labour codes etc and judicial precedents which help in the interpretation of laws according to the current times.
There are several judicial precedents that help in interpreting the law as per the recent times and assist the law for its enforcement. A few judgements are as follows:
Minerva Mills Ltd. Bangalore v. Union of India AIR 1980 SC 1789: It is one of the landmark judgements which deals with the disputes between the management and workers which was further referred to the industrial tribunal as prescribed under the law in order to control the limitless power of the Parliament and provides to a new clause added to the basic structure for balancing and harmonising between Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles provided under Constitution.
The Newspaper Ltd. v. the State Industrial Tribunal, UP 1957 AIR 532: It was held in this case by the Hon’ble Supreme Court that though a dispute between an individual employee and employer is not considered as an industrial dispute but if there is a common cause between the individual employee and others then, it will be known as an Industrial Dispute.
Workmen of M/S Dharampal v. M/S Dharampal 1966 AIR 182: The above judgement was then turned in this judgement wherein it was stated that an individual dispute cannot be termed as an industrial dispute unless it includes a significant number of workmen but should not be supported by any trade unions or so. If found as a part then, will not get any remedy for the same, which leads to an increase in the hardship for workmen who were not able to get representation by trade unions.
Lipton Ltd. Case: It deals with a company that was incorporated in the United Kingdom which does approximately 10% of its business Tea and Groceries in London from where it carries out its business to the whole of India via its headquarters in Calcutta (which is Kolkata now). The business includes the manufacturing, processing, and packaging of the packaged tea wherein there was an industrial dispute between the workers of the Delhi Office with the employers as there was no outer connection.
Hissar Central Co-Usable Bank Ltd. v. Kali Ram 2004 (1) LLJ 232 SC: Herein, the Hon’ble Supreme Court dealt with the matter of pronouncement of awards by wages, which rely upon business or non-workers along with various factors dealing with it.
Industrial Dispute Act along with various codes and supporting judgements can lead the pathway in providing a solution to industrial disputes by various means along with providing amicable solutions and recognition of the functioning of the machinery for resolving the disputes by understanding and maintaining good industrial relations with the management and workers. Keeping in mind that the most important thing is to resolve the dispute in such a manner with peace that it does not arise again and disrupt industrial peace. Thus, even though there are several enactments, codes, and judicial precedents still, there is a need for efficacy in implementing the laws throughout India to maintain the dignity of the Constitution, the GrundNorm of the nation.
Author(s) Name: Vidhi Maheshwari (Sharda University, Greater Noida)