Royal Commission on Labour in India: Report(1929)||
Fines constitute the commonest form of deduction and the one which is most open to abuse, and there is some justification for the view that they should be made illegal. But the main purpose of fining, namely, the maintenance of efficiency and discipline, is legitimate, and if fines are abolished, other means must be employed for securing this end. It is admitted that the fine, and particularly the harsh fine, does, at a cost, achieve its purpose; thus an employer, who abolished the system of deducting two days' pay for one day's absence, was subsequently faced with increased absenteeism. It is necessary, therefore, to consider the possible alternatives. One large company informed us that it had practically eliminated fining, and we found on enquiry that the practice of suspension had taken its place. This was said to be less unpopular with the men as, unlike a fine, suspension does not enable the employer to obtain work for which he has not paid. It is probable, too, that, were suspension generally substituted for fining, punishments would be fewer and more carefully imposed. On the other hand, suspension involves loss for both worker and employer, for presumably the employer has to secure a less competent substitute or leave the work undone. Moreover, suspension would involve for the worker greater hardship than a system of fines. Another alternative has been adopted by some employers, namely, a system of marking, deducting marks for irregular attendance and other causes, and paying a bonus on the total marks obtained. This has the advantage of securing a definite irreducible wage to the worker and of minimising the possibility of arbitrary action, and its psychological effects are better in that it substitutes for punishments what appear to be rewards. We fear, however, that if fines were abolished the bonus system might easily be developed into something almost indistinguishable from a system of fines. Finally, there is the possibility of dismissal or of the threat of dismissal for repeated offences. The main argument always adduced in favour of fines is that the worker would rather be fined than dismissed. As a rule this is true, but the argument is not as strong as it looks, for employers would not dismiss all the men who are now fined. Even if inefficient or lazy men were dismissed more frequently than at present, the effect might be good, for there would be a bigger premium on efficiency.
But the wider resort to dismissal and to the threat of dismissal which would follow the abolition of fines might result in greater hardship and tend to aggravate the workers' sense of insecurity. It would also give rise to more resentment. While, therefore, we recognise the objections to fines and consider that employers should do their utmost to reduce them to a minimum, we do not recommend their abolition by law. In the case of children, however, on account of their helplessness, inexperience and low scale of wages, we recommend that fining should be prohibited. In the case of adult workers we recommend the regulation of fines, and proceed to show how this can be most effectively accomplished.