The world is undergoing significant changes and developments right now, particularly in the commercial sector, which has seen the establishment of numerous industries, companies, and organizations. In order to raise their concerns or demand any kind of adjustment in their respective company or industry, employers must have some kind of process or activity available to the employees. Strikes and lockouts serve this exact purpose. This status or power imbued by the employer may result in specific issues or points of conflict with the employee or worker. While strikes and lockouts are the most common or well-known methods used by workers, they are not the only options accessible to them. Strikes and lockouts can be seen as a weapon that employees have against their employers.
INDUSTRIAL DISPUTES ACT, 1947
The Industrial Disputes Act, which went into effect on April 1, 1947, gave the right to strike, legal protection in India. Employer & Workmen Conflicts Act, 1869, Trade Disputes Act, 1929, and Rule 81A of the Defence of India Rules were India’s first industrial disputes laws before the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947.
Experiences with the Employer & Workmen Disputes Act of 1869 show that this law was largely in the workers’ favour. A special provision for strikes was included in the Trade Disputes Act of 1929, however, due to strike-related issues and ongoing disputes, this legislation was unable to bring about peace in the industries. During the Second World War, Rule 81A of the defence rule was introduced to further combat this. The Industrial Disputes Act of 1947 was created to resolve disputes in industries after World War II. The entirety of India is included in its scope of application. It applies to active industries, not to dormant ones.
STANDARD VACUUM OIL COMPANY OF MADRAS v. GUNASEELAM
The case’s facts are as follows: in the present, a group of employees from a particular company wanted to take a day off to celebrate “May Day.” Since they were choosing to take a day off, the group of employees was even willing to make up for the company’s losses for the day of “May Day” by working extra hours and thus, asked their employer to declare it a holiday.
However, the workers’ demands and cries for help were all met with a stone wall. As a result, the workers purposefully requested time off because their employer had forgotten to designate May Day as a holiday. Employees’ requests for unscheduled leave were ruled not to constitute a strike because there was no “cessation of work” or organized refusal to work.
A strike is a potent tool used by trade unions, other organizations, or workers to express their demands or complaints against employers or industry management. In a different sense, it is the interruption of labour brought on by widespread protests. By refusing to report to work until their demands have been met, employees put pressure on their employers. Strikes may benefit the welfare of the workforce or they may result in economic losses for the nation.
VARIOUS TYPES OF STRIKES
Based on the global phenomenon of strikes, several types of strikes have been experienced, including economic strikes, sympathy strikes, general strikes, sit-down strikes, slow-motion strikes, hunger strikes, and wildcat strikes.
- Economic Strike: This type of strike is brought on by demands for increased wages and benefits including bonus payments, housing rent allowances, and transportation allowances.
- Sympathy Strikes: During these strikes, unions or employees in one industry join strikes that have already been supported by other unions or employees.
- General strikes are actions taken by all unions or members in a state or region to put more political pressure on the government.
- Sit-down strikes: In this scenario, employees stage walkouts at their places of employment, refusing to report for duty until their demands are met.
- Slow down strike: When employees or unions pressure the industry to meet their demands by limiting or cutting output, they are not going on a complete strike.
- Hunger strike: A difficult form is in which workers go on strike without access to food or water to voice their concerns. In protest of past-due salaries spanning several months, Kingfisher Airlines staff went on a hunger strike.
- Wildcat strikes occur when workers go on strike without the approval of their union or higher authority. In 2004, attorneys staged a wildcat strike at Bangalore’s civil courts in response to reportedly disparaging comments made by an assistant commissioner.
According to Section 2 (q) of the Industrial Dispute Act, a strike is “a cessation of work by a body of individuals employed in any industry acting jointly, or a concerted refusal, or an unwillingness, under a common understanding, of any group of people who are or have been so employed to carry on working or to accept employment.”
In Cox and Kings Limited v. Their Employees, the court determined that a strike can be justified if it is related to a present labour dispute or is intended to protest an unfair labour practice by the employer. One of the most essential tools at the disposal of workers and their organizations to advance their economic and social objectives is strike action. In the event of a labour dispute, it is the most prominent and divisive type of collective action, and it is frequently seen as the final recourse of workers’ organizations in pursuing their goals. Strikes, however, should not be seen separately from the entire field of industrial relations. They are costly and disruptive for employees, companies, and society at large, and when they happen, it is because collective bargaining efforts to improve working conditions failed.
THE REQUIREMENTS OF EXERCISING A STRIKE
The right to strike is frequently subjected to several requirements that must be satisfied by employees and their organizations. However, given the risk that these circumstances could restrict how freely workers and their organizations can plan their actions and develop their programmes, they shouldn’t unnecessarily preclude the use of strikes to protect workers’ interests.
In this regard, the following clauses are frequently included in laws:
- The use of all available conciliation or mediation options before a strike is called;
- The need for a strike ballot to be held, and for a majority of the affected employees to vote in favour of a strike before it can be known.
- The requirement is to give advance notice before calling a strike.
THE BEST WAY TO LIMIT DAMAGE DUE TO A STRIKE
To prevent a closure that would lead to job losses, workers should let the company continue operating. Employers ought to enlist the help of a reliable labour broker who can offer substitute workers during the strike. When dealing with one another, both parties should act politely and professionally.
After researching and examining various aspects of strikes, it can be said or inferred that strikes have repeatedly proven to be a very effective strategy used by both employers and employees to exert pressure on the other party to comply with their demands. Over the years, the strike concept has undergone a lot of advancements, which have also resulted in several changes to its application and scope.
- The Industrial Disputes Act, 1947.
- AIR 1960 Mad 288.
- 1977 AIR 1666, 1977 SCR (3) 332.
- Labour Legislation Guidelines, ILO, https://www.ilo.org/legacy/english/dialogue/ifpdial/llg/noframes/ch5.htm.
This article is written by Sneha Sakshi, a second-year BBA LLB student of SLS Pune.