National Commission on Labour (1967)||
26.22 The Second Pay Commission, after a review of the existing arrangements for the prevention and settlement of disputes in various Ministries of the Central Government, came to the conclusion that the industrial staff of Government were as well placed to secure satisfaction of their reasonable demands as any other industrial employees. Along with the provisions of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947, the voluntary arrangements set up would, according to it, seem to provide an adequate machinery for discussion and settlement of disputes between Government and their industrial staff. These arrangements for consultation and negotiation in the Ministries of Railways, Posts & Telegraphs and Defence, in its view, contained significant features for the promotion and growth
of joint consultative machinery on the lines of the Whitley Councils, The Commission was in, favour of compulsory arbitration as a method of settling differences not resolved by negotiations. It said, "we are convinced that the conditions in India do not make it imprudent to set up a Whitley type machinery and to provide for compulsory arbitration; on the contrary, the conditions require that such a machinery should be set up and compulsory arbitration provided and we recommend accordingly."1
26.23 The Government of India have now established a machinery for joint consultation and arbitration, with the object of "promoting harmonious relations and for securing the greatest measure of co-operation between the Government in its capacity as employer and the general body of its employees in matters of common concern and with the object further of increasing the efficiency of public service." This machinery has been set up in respect of Central Government employees, including those in Railways, Defence and Posts & Telegraphs. The scheme provides for regional and/or office councils, departmental councils and the national council. The scope of the councils will include all matters relating to conditions of service and work, welfare of the employees and improvement of efficiency and standards of work. However, in regard to recruitment, promotion and discipline, consultation will be limited to matters of general principles and individual cases will not be considered. The scheme also provides for limited compulsory arbitration on three subjects: (i) pay and allowances, (ii) weekly hours of work, and (iii) leave, of a class or grade of employees. As required under Clause 19 of the Scheme, action was initiated to appoint a Board of Arbitration and the Board appointed.
26.24 The Scheme was formally inaugurated in October, 1966 and the first meeting of the National Council was held on December 5, 1966. Departmental Councils have also been functioning in the various Ministries including the departments of Railways, Posts and Telegraphs and Defence.
26.25 The National Council of the JCM has so far taken decisions giving concessions to the employees inter alia on the following items:
(i) leave travel concession; (ii) hospital leave;
(iii) house rent allowance; (iv) night duty allowance; (v) reversion to pre-emergency working hours; (vi) daily allowance and incidental allowance; and (vii) merger of dearness allowance with pay. Departmental Councils have been
1 Report of the Second Pay Commission (1959), p. 551.
set up in almost all the Ministries/Departments, and where they have not been set up, steps are being taken to expedite action. The framing of revised recognition rules is under examination. Pending finalisation, it has been decided that where there has been a recognised federation or federations representing broadly and adequately all the categories of employees of a department, only that federation or federations will be recognised for the purpose of the JCM. In other departments, any other associations/ unions which have been recognised in the past and which adequately represent the categories covered by them will be allowed to participate in the JCM.
26.26 While these have been the positive achievements of the Scheme during the short period since its inception, a major lacuna in it, viz., the absence of machinery for interpretation of disputed clauses, has come to light. The insistence of the staff side of the JCM to refer their demand for need-based minimum wage for compulsory arbitration and Government's refusal to concede that the issue is arbitrable and the subsequent developments leading to the issue of a strike notice by the unions of Government employees, and strike by certain sections of Government employees in spite of a ban on it by an Ordinance, are common knowledge. The Essential Services Maintenance Act, 1968 has since been passed, replacing the ordinance. It empowers Government to ban strikes in Essential Services and to declare prohibited strikes to be illegal, and provides for penalties to persons instigating and financing such strikes. Under Section 2(l)a of the Act, Essential Services mean: (i) any postal, telegraph or telephone service; (ii) any railway service or any other transport service for the carriage of passengers or goods by land, water or air; (iii) any service connected with the operation, repair or maintenance of aircraft; (iv) any service connected with the loading, unloading, movement or storage of goods in any port; (v) any service connected with the clearance of goods or passengers through the customs or with the prevention of smuggling; (vi) any service in any mint or security press; (vii) any service in any defence establishment of the Government of India; (viii) any service in connection with the affairs of the Union, not being a service specified in any of the foregoing sub-clauses; (ix) any other service connected with matters with respect to which Parliament has power to make laws and which the Central Government being of opinion that strikes therein would prejudicially affect the maintenance of any public utility service, the public safety or the maintenance of supplies and services necessary for the life of the community or would result in the infliction of grave hardship on the community, may, by notification in the Official Gazette, declare to be in essential service for the purposes of this Act.
It has been stated by the representatives of Government in their evidence before us that it is the intention of Government to bring forward a comprehensive measure providing machinery for the settlement of disputes that may remain unsettled in the JCM. That is why we do not propose to emphasise the point that any law that takes away the employees' right to strike without simultaneously providing for a self-contained and satisfactory procedure by which they can secure redress for their grievances is open to very serious objections.