National Commission on Labour (1967)||
Shri S. R. Vasavada, Shri G. Ramanujam, Shri R. K. Malviya and Shri Ramananda Das
In Chapter 23, our colleagues have recommended that 'Union Recognition' could be cither by membership or by ballot. They have preferred to leave the choice of the method in a given case to the Industrial Relations Commission. We arc not in agreement with the recommendation for the reasons that follow.
2. Recognition of unions has always posed a problem. Apart from the attitude of employers, the existence of multiplicity of trade unions at the plant, industry and national levels, has also been responsible for the difficulties faced in solving the problem of recognition. The demand for union recognition has been responsible for several disputes and sometimes even long-drawn strikes.
3. The recognition of unions in our country is largely governed by the voluntary arrangement under the Code of Discipline in Industry (the Code). But even prior to the acceptance of the Code, there has been State legislation on the subject, like the Bombay Industrial Relations Act and similar State Acts. There have also been cases of voluntary recognition long before any legislation on the subject was thought of. A central legislation for this purpose was enacted in the early 50s, but was not given effect to. In practice, while some employers refuse to recognise any union, there are others who recognise all the unions, which too in effect means that no one union is recognised.
4. Whether under a Statute or under voluntary arrangement, like the Code, union recognition has always been on the basis of paid membership. Both the Code and the Bombay Industrial Relations Act and similar Acts provide for certain qualitative tests also in addition to the numerical membership strength. This is understandable, for recognition must be both of quality and numbers.
5. There have been elaborate procedures laid down for the verification of membership for purposes of recognition under the Code. The entire manner of verification was likewise the subject-matter of tripartite agreements.
6. The recognition under the Code ran into difficulties because the provisions of the Code in respect of the rights of a recognised union were at variance with the provisions of the Industrial Disputes Act, which did not provide for union recognition. In the face of such a conflict it was only the law that prevailed, thus making recognition under the Code ineffective. Therefore a feeling has been growing that the provisions of the Code and the law should be made to harmonise; or, better still, for the important provisions of the Code be incorporated into the law itself. But the basis of recognition, i.e., paid membership, was not disturbed in any tripartite Conference.
7. Of late, however, a controversy has started that recognition of unions must be based on secret ballot of workers, and not on the basis of paying membership. Our colleagues in the Commission appear generally to have accepted the membership basis, but they have not dismissed the ballot method as unsuitable. Indeed they do not want to be categorical about the manner in which unions should be recognised. They have chosen to pass on the problem to the Industrial Relations Commission, observing that it should be left to the discretion of the Industrial Relations Commission, whether in a given case the union should be recognised based on its paying membership or by secret ballot. It appears to us that our colleagues by coming to such a conclusion have failed to take a decision on a vital subject which will have a great say in the industrial relations in the country.
8. If a Commission of Experts sitting for about three years could not come to a firm conclusion and choose between the two alternatives, any attempt to leave it to the Industrial Relations Commission for a snap decision in individual cases is not going to ensure satisfaction to the parties, nor conduce to industrial harmony .
9. Between ballot and membership, there is a great principle involved. It is not, therefore, in some cases, it could be membership and in some others it could be ballot. If the principle is properly enunciated, understood, accepted and implemented, there cannot be any room for
an alternative. The accepted principle should be made uniformly applicable to all cases. It has, therefore, become necessary for us to differ from our colleagues. We do not want the basis of recognition to be left open to be decided at the discretion of the Industrial Relations Commission in each individual case. We want the Industrial Relations Commission to be given a firm guide-line which it will have to follow invariably in all cases.
10. Before, however, we actually consider the merits and demerits of either method, we would like to discuss the value of recognition itself.
11. Recognition of unions will have value only when the rights and obligations of a recognised union are first settled and accepted not only by the employer, but also by the unrecognised unions and scrupulously adhered to by them. The value of recognition depends equally on the behaviour of unrecognised unions, as on that of the recognised unions. In one of the Indian Labour Conferences the question was discussed at some length and there was a consensus that the unrecognised union should be denied the right to raise disputes affecting the generality of workers. It can at best be given the right to represent grievances of individual workmen who are its members. But how many unrecognised unions would confine their activities within the narrow compass ? The aim of every un-re-cognised union has always been and will perhaps always be to dislodge the recognised union and take its place, by whatever method. Therefore, the unrecognised union is bound to outstep its bounds to bring about a strike even on matters concluded by a settlement with the recognised union, and force the employers to negotiate with it, thus making the recognition of the union meaningless.
12. It is necessary to understand that the difficulties are not confined to the manner of choosing the representative union. The whole problem of recognition of unions bristles with innumerable difficulties in the current context of conditions obtaining in our country. To get over all these difficulties, unions which want to qualify for recognition, must first be required to give an undertaking that, in case, they turn out to be a minority and, therefore, not qualified for recognition, they would scrupulously observe the rules of the game, and will not try to upset the agreements reached with the recognised union, and will confine their activities to individual disputes relating to workmen who are its members. If they overstep the limit, there must be a penal provision disqualifying the unions from the right to claim recognition for a period say of five years. Similarly recognition once granted should not be disturbed at" least for a period, say two years. Therefore, it is not only the employer who will have to recognise and respect the rights of a recognised union, but it must be done by all the unrecognised unions as well.
13. Another problem in regard to the recognition is whether a union should be recognised on the unit-basis or on the industry-basis. Whichever way a trade union is recognised, it is not going to be free from difficulties. If we recognise an industrial union, it is quite possible that the recognised union may not command a majority membership or votes in every one of the individual units. Therefore an agreement with an industrial union may face rough weather in such units where it has no substantial following.
14. If the recognition is granted to unit-wise unions it will not be conducive to either industrial peace, or to the progress of the industry itself; for in units where a union is well organised and strong, and is therefore, equipped with better negotiating power, it can make the employer in that unit pay higher wages, as compared to units where the negotiating power of the recognised union is weak. This will result in unstandardised working conditions and wage costs which would in turn affect the competitive capacity as between unit and unit.
15. A similar difficulty will also arise in respect of concerns with several branches in the country, as well as craft unions. A solution to the problem could be that wherever by tradition industrial unions have been recognised that practice must not be disturbed. In other cases, plant-wise unions may be recognised. Recognition of craft-wise unions should generally be discouraged.
16. Let us now go into the merits and demerits of the positions taken by the supporters of the membership basis and the secret ballot method for finding out the representative union.
17. It is obvious that there can be no trade union minus membership. Therefore, the mainstay of a trade union is its membership, and nothing should be done to affect adversely this fundamental factor.
18. It must also be remembered that the percentage of unionisation in our country is extremely poor. It ranges roughly around 25%. If a strong trade union movement is to develop, the attempt should be to make the remaining 75% feel the need for joining a trade union as
members. If a representative union is to be chosen by secret ballot, there will be no incentive for the workmen to become a member of any union. They will only tell the union not to worry about their membership, as they will vote for the union when the time comes. If every worker takes the same attitude, where will the union be? For, a trade union minus membership is inconceivable.
19. Even if all the employees will not take that stand, and some will really continue to be members of the union, the membership will be small and in consequence the trade union movement will be weak. In view of the smallness of the membership, the trade union finances also will become poor. A weak trade union is bound to act erratic, and that will not be conducive to industrial peace or progress. Since the bulk of the workmen will not be its members, its authority and control to discipline them will be insignificant. The unions will come under a small coterie rule,
20. If the representative union is to be chosen by ballot, the plant will be surcharged with election atmosphere, rather than production atmosphere. Which is the need of our country ? An election is always preceded by reckless election promises. Therefore extravagant demands will be made, and extremist steps will be taken or promised to be taken to win the votes of the workers. Already discipline and productivity in our industries are at a low level. Could we encourage any step that will further lower them?
21. If such extravagant demands arc to decide the extent of a union's following, it will make sober and responsible trade union movement impossible; and if the extremist measures are to be the means for reinforcing such demands, constitutional trade union activity will be at a discount. Should we invite such a situation ?
22. Choosing a trade union by secret ballot will tend to politicalise the trade union movement completely. Already the trade union movement in our country is the victim of exploitation by party politicians, and any intensification of this trend will overpoliticalise the movement and further adversely affect the industry, trade union movement and labour.
23. Looking to how the elections arc taking place in our country, any attempt to choose the representative union by the ballot box will bring in caste, communal, linguistic and regional forces, which will work havoc on the trade union movement and industry. Fortunately, at present, the trade union movement is still somewhat above such disruptive influences as emanating from communal, caste, linguistic and regional considerations. The ballot box will vitiate this atmosphere.
24. In a country where election expenses are becoming colossal, employers and certain political parties with easy money will be able to sway the elections of a representative union in their favour, and that will not be in the interests of the workers themselves. And even those, who got elected after spending huge sums of money, will try to make good the loss; and this will not be possible in industrial relations unless the union becomes an obliging tool of the employer.
25. Also where the difference between the contesting unions, is small, a third and a small union will be able to dictate and decide the issue for a price. In such a case, the elected union will be at the mercy of the minority union.
26. We cannot also forget the fact there may be employers who may utilise the staff and supervisory personnel as a deciding factor to get the union of their choice come up in the elections by utilising their compact block vote according to their dictates. Ballot will thus invite meddling by employers.
27. A union recognised by ballot may not feel the responsibility towards its own members; for, to the members, it will say that it got elected also by non-members; and to the non-member voters, it will say that they are not its members and therefore not answerable to them. The voters, in any case, can have no control over the union in day-to-day working and neither the union on the voters and therefore will not be able to deliver the goods.
28. Unions trying to campaign and conduct elections all over India in companies with branches throughout the country, will find the elections costly and difficult.
29. Elections by ballot will also raise several other basic problems, such as who should be the electorate.
30. If the right of voting is to be restricted only to the members of the different unions, it will first be necessary to verify the membership of each of the contesting unions, so that the electoral list will be correct. But once having verified the membership of each union, we know the relative strength of the unions, and, therefore, ballot becomes superfluous and it will only amount to begging the question.
31. If, on the other hand, the right to vote is to be given to all workmen, regardless of whether they are members of any. union or not, the resulting position will be worse; for, that will give a right to choose the representative union to non-members also who did not care for the union. In fact, by implication, they had, already rejected all the unions as not fit for their support by their refusing to become a member of any union.
32. Further, this process will equate a member with a non-member as both get the same right to decide which should be the representative union. This will act as a big disincentive for any employee to become a member of any union.
33. It is said that if the country is ruled by the ballot box, why not the choice of a representative union be also through ballot ? At first blush the suggestion looks attractive and appears to be indeed unanswerable. But if one looks at it a little closer, one will find the two are not really comparable. Firstly, in a parliamentary democracy, one political party for one country could not be thought of, for that would be the negation of parliamentary democracy. But in industrial relations, one union for one industry is the cherished goal. The nature and objectives of the two being different, the two are not really comparable.
34. Further, election by ballot will lead to election petitions, stay orders, no-confidence motions, defections and mid-term polls, all affecting the industrial relations in the plant, and in the process, upsetting discipline, efficiency and production.
35. Voting by ballot might reflect the result of only a snap decision. An error once made cannot be undone, say for the next two years. But in the membership basis, it is different. There is an opportunity to correct a wrong choice every month.
36. Simply because a union is recognised by ballot, it does not provide any guarantee for industrial peace; for the defeated union could still bring about a strike and force the management to negotiate with it. The system, therefore, has no additional virtue over the membership basis.
37. It must be realised that payment of membership fee to the union is also a vote. It is in fact the most solid vote, it is a consistant vote, because it is paid every month. It will strengthen the trade union movement. It will provide permanent ties between the workmen and the union with mutual accountability. Wherever membership basis had been adopted for recognising a trade union, whether by law or under the Code, we find strong, stable and good unions functioning with a better record of industrial relations.
38. The object of recognising a union is not for negotiation purposes only, because a trade union has many other functions, such as promoting welfare activities of its members, educational, cultural activities and providing such amenities through cooperatives as housing, cheap credit and consumer stores. These activities will be possible only when the union is financially strong and has a loyal, stable, disciplined, paying membership. The ballot can never secure these.
39. Here and there we come across complaints of inflation and manipulation of membership. But it should not be difficult to x-ray and find out the true membership strength by a process of verification which can be left to an Independent agency, a judicial authority, if necessary such as the Industrial Relations Commission recommended by the Commission. Even a check-off System, although it is not an ideal system, may be considered so that at any given point of time, the correct membership figures are readily available.
40. Looking to the merits and demerits in regard to the manner of choosing the representative union, we are convinced that the balance of advantage is certainly in favour of verified membership. A regular paying membership is the backbone of the trade union movement and all efforts, should, therefore, be made to strengthen the membership of our trade union movement. Recognition being one of the important achievements of the trade union movement, should be based on the important factor of movement, viz., membership. We, therefore, do not agree with our colleagues that the manner of choosing the representative union should be left to the -discretion of the I.R.C. in each case. We are convinced that the I.R.G. should be placed under a definite instruction that it should adopt paid-membership as the only method for recognising a union as the representative of the workmen employed in a plant or an industry in a local area.
41. We further recommend that unions seeking recognition should also be required to satisfy certain minimum quality tests as prescribed in the Bombay Industrial Relations Act such as that the union seeking recognition shall give an undertaking that it will not resort to strikes before exhausting all other machinery available for settlement of disputes.
STRIKES AND LOCK-OUTS
42. In Chapter 23, our colleagues have made certain recommendation regarding strikes/lockouts and the role of the State and the Industrial Relations Commission vis-a-vis strikes/lock-outs. We have given our anxious and careful consideration to the afforesaid recommendations of our esteemed colleagues and we regret we are unable to subscribe to the conclusions reached by them, as, in our opinion, their conclusions will result in compulsory adjudication having got to be preceded by a compulsory strike or compulsory lock-out in industries and services other than those classified as 'essential'. We are convinced that although this is the effect of the recommendations of our colleagues, it certainly could not have been their intention.
43. We feel that our colleagues too are for the same objective as ourselves, viz., making strikes and lock-outs unnecessary in all sectors of employment. If they could be avoided, it is obvious, nobody should invite them. It could not, therefore, be the intention of our colleagues to invite a strike or lock-out, where they could be avoided by making available to the parties other and better means and methods for settlement of disputes.
44. According to our colleagues, in the 'essential industries and services', whenever the parties fail to reach an agreement by direct negotiations, and whenever the parties are not willing to submit the dispute voluntarily to arbitration, the Industrial Relations Commission shall automatically step in and adjudicate the dispute. They rightly desire that the resulting award of the Industrial Relations Commission should be final and binding on both the parties. We have no disagreement on this part of the recommendations of our colleagues except to say that such finality should always be subject to the overall authority of Parliament.
45. The difficulty, however, arises in the treatment of industrial disputes in the 'other sector' by our colleagues. Our colleagues have recommended that following the failure of negotiations and refusal by the parties to avail of the voluntary arbitration system in the industries and services not declared as essential, the workers may go on strike, or the employers may declare a lock-out. It is only after thirty days of such strikes or lode-outs, according to our colleagues, that it will become obligatory on the part of the Industrial Relations Commission to take the dispute on its file and adjudicate. According to our colleagues, the appropriate Government too would be rendered helpless in averting the strike or lock-out or prohibiting its continuance during the thirty days of its currency. According to them the Government could at best only petition to the Industrial Relations Commission. May be the Commission accepts the Government's plea and takes the dispute on its file for adjudication, or, may be the Commission rejects the Government's petition and allows the strike or lock-out to continue for the full thirty days period.
46. We feel that this part of the recommendation by our colleagues dealing with strikes and lockouts in industries and services 'other than essential' is ill-conceived and unpractical. Our colleagues' recommendations in regard to the powers of the appropriate Government are inconsistent with their own earlier recommendations in Chapter 22 (Paragraphs 7, 8 and 9). It is unpractical for the reason that no appropriate Government will ever be prepared to give up its right of referring a dispute for adjudication and thus renounce the right of averting or prohibiting the continuance of a strike or lock-out, if, in its opinion, it is necessary to do so. The recommendation is ill-conceived for the reason that a strike or a lock-out becomes compulsory upto 30 days, if one of the parties wants adjudication by Industrial Relations Commission and it would interfere with the right to not-to-go on strike or not-to-declare a lock-out. Adjudication which is a device to avert a strike or lockout, or to make a strike or lock-out superfluous, has been turned into a compulsory device to invite strikes and lock-outs, albeit for a month.
47. It might be remembered that the right to strike includes the right not to strike. The same applies to lock-out also. If workers do not want to go on strike or an employer does not want to declare a lock-out, the recommendations of our colleagues will have the effect of compelling such workers to go on strike for thirty days or the employer to force a lock-out for 30 days, in order to command the services of the adjudication machinery. This surely could not have been the intention of our colleagues.
48. Our colleagues appear to have been carried away by the idea that there must be at least some occasions when some workers should be permitted (or required ?) to go on strike for some days in some industries and services, as, otherwise, according to them, it would appear
before the world that we have denied to the workers the right of strike. They further appear to feel that occasional strikes will do good to the workers and the industry, for, otherwise there will be no occasion for the workers to let off steam, and the bottled-up emotion in consequence will burst one day, much to the detriment of the workers, industry and the economy of the country. We would like to deal with these apprehensions of our colleagues presently before we express our own conclusions on the subject
49. We are agreed that the right to strike is not a fundamental right. It is the right to work that is fundamental. Even so, it could be argued that the right to strike is a basic right or democratic right. Granted that it is so, it cannot be denied that the right to 'not-to-strike' is also a basic right, and an equally democratic right. Therefore, while trying to protect the right to strike, we should not transgress on the right to not-to-strike or for that matter not-to-lock-out.
50. A strike is not an end in itself. It is only one of the several means available to labour in pursuit of its objective. Even at that, a strike appears to be primitive or crude means. Resort to such crude and primitive means and methods were necessary in the early stages, when better wad refined means and methods were not made available to labour, statutorily or otherwise. In the context of availability of superior and refined means of resolving employer-employee differences, resort to strikes and lock-outs would appear to be a retrograde step, and to make such resort compulsory in any industry makes it worse.
51. Times are fast changing; more so, after Independence. Any attempt to lay the same emphasis on strikes now as prior to Independence will be totally inappropriate in the context of conditions obtaining in our country. The emphasis should now be more on civilised methods, such as direct negotiations, arbitration or adjudication.
52. We deliberately use the word 'direct negotiation' and avoid the word 'collective bargaining'. We are inclined to agree with the views of Shri L. K. Jha, Governor of the Reserve Bank of India, on the subject expressed in his evidence before the Commission.'*
"Speaking in a personal way I have grave misgivings about certain things which are taken for granted as axiomatic. We have inherited a certain idiom of thought from the British. The British had a great genius for coining phrases, to make their self-interest appear to be virtuous. If we look to what is known as collective bargaining, which is a well-enshrined and highly respected principle, its roots lay in the British 19th Century Laissez Faire. Collective bargaining was the magic answer to avoid exploitation of labour. That answer did not originate in countries, which had planning; much less in the countries which were socialist. The basic concept of what is proper wage is not something to be decided by trial and error."
53. It is obvious that wherever there is bargaining, there is a commodity involved, and what is the commodity involved in collective bargaining ? It can only be labour. It has always been the contention of trade unionists and progressive thinkers all over the world that labour is not to be treated as a commodity, to be bought and sold in the employment market, depending upon the law of supply and demand. In a country with huge unemployment as ours, we cannot allow Labour's price to be decided on the basis of supply and demand. Further bargaining introduces an element of chance. The intrinsic merit or worth of the commodity may not be 'recognised', much less ensured in that process.
54. We want labour to be given a fair deal with due consideration to the human aspect. We would, therefore, like to avoid the word 'bargaining', notwithstanding the fact that it is very much in vogue and has acquired a certain meaning. We would like to introduce some new thinking on the subject. We would, therefore, substitute the phrase 'collective bargaining' by the phrase 'direct negotiations'.
55. Now coming back to the various refined methods available for settlement of disputes, we must realise that the very concept of the parties to an industrial dispute has changed. It is now recognised as no longer a dispute affecting merely an employer and his labour even in industries and services not falling within the 'essential category'.
56. Between the 'essential' and the 'not so essential', the difference is only a question of degree. There can be nothing which is wholly non-essential. Only it may be less essential than the others. The test is always relative. While in one case, the industrial dispute affects
* Evidence of Shri L. K.Jha, Governor, Reserve Bank of India, before-the Commission on February 1st, 1969 at Bombay.
the community more directly and immediately, in others it may be less so. Nevertheless, the community is being hit in all cases of strikes and lock-outs in varying degrees even as the community is being served by all industries and services through their normal working. Therefore, the third party, viz', the community is always present in every industrial dispute, though often latent. Just because it is not so much organised and, therefore, not so noisy or visible, its interests could not be overlooked. In the true sense, it is the community which is the real and ultimate master, and, therefore, its interests should be paramount. The State, as the representative of the community must, therefore, have the right at all times and in all stages of an industrial dispute to step in and direct the parties to call off the strike or the lock-out, or prevent them from going on strike or enforcing a lock-out and submit their dispute to adjudication by its nominee. Such a right is inherent and inseparable from the functions of a Government in any civilised society. We, therefore, do not agree with our colleagues who want to reduce the appropriate Government to the status of a mere petitioner before the Industrial Relations Commission, which Commission in its wisdom may disagree with the Government and may refuse to adjudicate a dispute which the Government as Government might feel it to be its duty to refer for adjudication.
57. The test of democracy in a country can not be measured or certified by the number of strikes of lock-outs that the country is able to show. Democracy also means restraint and discipline. If there is a proper discipline and a reasonable alternative to strikes and lock-outs, democracy will not come to grief.
58. It is said in defence of the absence of strike in communist countries that there can be no strike in a truly socialist country. If that were so, we do not see how there could be a strike in a true democracy either. If strikes have no place in socialist countries, they have no place in a democracy either. Further, failure of collective bargaining followed by strikes and lockouts cannot co-exist in a planned economy. Whether such strikes and lock-outs are in the more essential or less essential industries and services is beside the point.
59. The argument by our colleagues that our country will be misunderstood if some provision somewhere is not made for some workers going on strike at some time is still less acceptable.
60. Their contention that a strike is a safety valve and is, therefore, even desirable, though occasionally, cannot support the conclusions our colleagues themselves have reached. Assuming that strikes act as a safety valve, they are then more necessary in essential services, where we can ill-afford any explosion. Surely it could not be the argument of our colleagues that if you provide for strike as a safety valve to workers in the non-essential industries and services, the workers employed in essential services and industries will get the benefit out of such safety valve which will eliminate the chance of explosion there. We are afraid that in their enthusiasm to avoid compulsory adjudication, our colleagues have slipped into the dangerous pitfall of making strikes and lock-outs compulsory.
61. Our colleagues' recommendations on strikes and lock-outs are also inconsistent with their own approach indicated in Chapter 6, (para 38).
62. Having pointed out what appeared to us the flaws and inconsistencies in the stand our colleagues have taken, we shall now address ourselves to the positive stand we would like to take.
63. It is not our intention to ban strikes and lock-outs by law. What we would like is to make available to labour superior means and methods so that strikes and lock-outs will stand automatically rejected by the workers and employers. We would also urge that after making available such superior means and refined methods, whether the workers or employers should resort to strikes or lock-outs, or to the other refined method of adjudication in a given case, should be left to the parties concerned ; when we say parties, we would like to repeat that parties include the community and its representative— the State. It is perfectly democratic to leave the choice between strike and lock-out on the one hand and other methods like adjudication to the parties themselves.
64. We, therefore, recommend :
(1) In essential industries and services, following the failure of direct negotiations and non-availability of arbitration, all the points in dispute shall automatically go before the Industrial Relations Commission for adjudication by it.
(2) It is not possible to categorically list out as to what all could be included in essential industries and services. They will keep on changing, and from time to time additions may have to be made. The power to define and name essential industries and services and to add to the
list of entries or delete therefrom should rest with the Parliament.
(3) In the other Industries and services, following the failure of direct negotiations and non-availability of arbitration, parties —labour & management—must be free either to go on strike or declare a lockout, as the case may be, or directly invoke, separately or jointly, adjudication by the Industrial Relations Commission. The choice between strike and lock-out on the one hand and adjudication on the other should rest with the parties.
(4) Such direct access to Industrial Relations Commission should be given in the case of workers only to the union recognised as the representative union under the law for which separate recommendations have been made elsewhere.
(5) Where, however, neither party wishes the adjudication machinery and where the appropriate Government is convinced that it is necessary to refer the dispute for adjudication by the Industrial Relations Commission, it shall have the power to direct the Industrial Relations Commission to adjudicate the matters in dispute and at the same time prevent, or prohibit the continuation of the strike or lock-out.
(6) The finality of an award by the Industrial Relations Commission should be subject to Parliament's right to modify the same in the interests of Community.
JOINT MANAGEMENT COUNCILS
65. In Chapter 24, our colleagues have recommended the amalgamation of the Joint Management Council with the Works Committee holding that multiplicity of bipartite consultative arrangements at the plant level serves no purpose. We regret we are unable to agree with our colleagues in their assessment of the scope, role and activities of the Joint Management Councils and the Works Committees. They seem to have concluded that the Joint Management Council is just one more bipartite committee like the 'Works Committee'; and in their anxiety to avoid duplication of Committees, they have recommended the amalgamation of the two.
66. We are one with them in any endeavour to avoid duplication. But it must be realised that duplication will arise only when the scope and functions are the same. But when they are different, there certainly cannot be any duplication. If our colleagues, therefore, had come to the conclusion that there is duplication as between a Works Committee and a Joint Management Council it appears to us that they have misunderstood the scope and functions of both these bodies as being identical. To us it is clear that the scope and functions of the Works Committee and the Joint Management Council are entirely different. They cannot be combined either. Therefore, their existence, side by side, according to us will not result in any duplication.
67. While the Works Committee is a statutory requirement, it is confined to minor problems of a day-to-day nature arising in the course of working of a plant. Joint Management Council, however, is a voluntary arrangement and functions on a much higher level, with a far wider scope and higher objectives, beyond the reach of the Works Committee. The upland of the Joint Management Councils is beyond the gaze of any Works Committee.
68. Indeed the Joint Management Council is not just one more bipartite Committee—statutory or otherwise. It represents a concrete agency to work out the basic philosophy propounded by Mahatma Gandhi; and unless there is a grasp of the principles underlying that philosophy, the Joint Management Council is apt to get mixed up with the Works Committee as our colleagues appear to have allowed them.
69. The common understanding is that those who invest capital are to be called as employers. This is only partially true, for labour too is an employer. If capital employs labour, labour employs capital, and thus they are both mutually employers. But this again is not the complete truth. It is the community that employs both labour and capital, and it is, therefore, the real and ultimate employer. If the community goes on strike and refuses to purchase the product of a particular plant, then the so-called employer and his employees, i.e., both capital and labour, become unemployed. Therefore, it is a fundamental fact that both labour and capital are co-servants of the community. In other words, both labour and capital are co-partners in the industry in the service of the community. The partner who invests his willing and devoted labour should be considered equal to the other partner who supplies capital and administrative skill, and there should be no high and low between the two, as each thing in its place is the best.
70. The interdependence between capital and labour should be both responsible and balanced.
We should, therefore, put both these partners as equals, and the partner who invests money should not under any circumstance, be allowed to arrogate to himself the position of a superior, as now.
71. We are tempted to quote here Gandhiji's own words on the subject. Said Gandhiji :*
"In my opinion employers and employed are equal partners even if employees are not considered superior. But what we see to-day is the reverse. The reason is that the employers harness intelligence on their side. They have the superior advantage which concentration of capital brings with it and they know how to make use of it. One individual rupee has very little potency but when money combines as capital, the combine derives a power different from and far in excess of the mere sum-total of the individual rupees. A million drops individually are negligible. But in combination, they make the ocean, carrying on its bosom a fleet of ocean hounds. Whilst capital in India is fairly organised labour is still in a more or less disorganised condition in spite of unions and their federation. Therefore, it lacks the power that true combination gives.
"Moreover, it lacks intelligence, so much so that individuals fight against individuals, unions against unions. Lack of intelligence leads to its exploitation by selfish and unscrupulous men even to the point of creating and promoting mischief. They know no better, being ignorant of the secret of non-violence. The net result is that the workers suffer. If labour were to understand the working of nonviolence, the power generated by combination would any day exceed the power of dead metal in the hands of a few capitalists.
"Hence my advice to the employers would be that they should willingly regard workers as the real owners of the concerns which they fancy they have created. They should further regard it as their duty to equip the employees with sound education that would draw out the intelligence dormant in them and gladly promote and welcome the power that this combination of the workers gives them."
72. It is obvious, therefore, that the present relationship of master and servant should change. Labour will ceases to be a wage-serf before long, working just for its wages and begging for more and more amenities from the other partner. At the same time, the other partner cannot arrogate to himself the position of a master and divert to himself the cream of the joint endeavour of labour and capital, retaining labour perpetually in the position of begging for concessions from him. Labour and management should learn to function as real co-partners.
73. It is not that in every partnership the partners function in an ideal manner. Very often the partners become suspicious of each other, and every act of the other looks distorted against the suspicious atmosphere; for suspicion requires no argument. Therefore, it is necessary to make the relations between the partners as near ideal as possible; and for this an atmosphere of mutual respect and confidence should be created. If the two partners in a partnership feel that their interests are mutually conflicting, then it will never be possible for the partnership to thrive. Each of the partners should feel that his interest is common with that of the other,
74. The partnership of the kind that Gandhiji had in mind was not based on class-conflict, but on class-co-operation. In a healthy partnership, there is no conflict of interests between partners; only there is a concurrence of unity of interests. Such a partnership of Gandhian concept completely changes the whole philosophy of labour-management relations currently in vogue whether in the Communist or other countries.
75. Gandhiji wanted each partner to function as a trustee of the other partner. He advised the capitalists to consider themselves as trustees of the labour they are employing and should not take for themselves more than their just needs. They were required to utilise the surplus for the welfare of labour, the other partner. The same would equally apply to labour that labour too should consider itself a trustee of capital; and in its endeavour to secure its just share, it shall not harm the interests of the industry. The next step is that both labour and capital should consider themselves as co-trustees or joint-trustees for the welfare of the community, so that no action of either of these trustees, viz-, capital or labour, shall ever go against the interests of the community. The community for its part too should function as a trustee of both labour and capital and see to it that it does not permit any act which will undermine the safety, security and welfare of either industry or labour.
76. Thus the trusteeship philosophy is not confined to one section of the population or one
* "HARIJAN"—31-3-1946-Page 60.
section of industry. It is not to be a one-way traffic. It is a high and comprehensive thought. The extension of the principle of trusteeship to other spheres of human activity, such as every individual in society as a trustee of other individuals, every class of society as a trustee of every other class, every community as a trustee of every other community in the country, would make for the most positive co-operative endeavour within the nation and will never lead to any conflict of the kind that we are witnessing to-day.
77. The same principle extended to the global level would mean that every nation in the world should consider itself as a trustee and function as a trustee of every other nation in the world. When this materialises there would be no need for wars; for then there would be no conflict of interests among the nations. Each nation would prosper not by exploiting other nations, but by serving the other nations. Therefore, the trusteeship principles propounded by Gandhiji is not a narrow view confined only to industrial relations to substitute class-conflict by class-cooperation. It is the highest form of expression in civilized living that can be extended with advantage right upto the international level.
78. The setting up of Joint Management Councils in industrial units is an attempt to work the philosophy of co-partnership in Industry and co-trusteeship of the community. Joint Management Councils are not to be set up as a result of any condescending act of concession by employers. Such a Council should be set up out of a sincere realisation of the in-alienabIe rights and obligations of both the parties, mutual as well as joint. It is true that in the past there have been several hasty or premature attempts to set up Joint Management Councils in certain units, more for the sake of publicity, than out of a realisation of the basic principles that underline the setting up of such a Council, much less because of the existence of pre-con-ditions to make the scheme a success. No wonder, therefore, those Councils have failed. But that cannot be the reason why we should give up the idea altogether. We should first prepare the ground before we start launching upon the scheme. What is actually needed is an intellectual revolution to carry conviction to both employers and labour about the soundness of this philosophy and its unreserved acceptance by them as the only way for lasting healthy labour-management relations. Effective arrangements must be made to equip labour with sound education, and proper frame of mind so that it can play its new role satisfactorily. And then when the ground has been prepared we should try to put the scheme in practice expanding its role and increasing its responsibility in stages.
79. Our colleagues on the Commission seem to have been weighed down more by the Present conditions. We must remember the Commission's recommendations are going be the guideline for the next twenty or thirty years. We do not believe that there is not going to be any change in the thinking of either employers or labour in the next 20 or 30 years. Both of them are certainly bound to grow wiser and move closer towards a more balanced and proper relationship between themselves and their joint relations towards the community. Raising demands and disputes and securing money incentives to labour will not always be the role of trade unions of the future.
80. It is good to look beyond. The status of the workers should go up, not merely his money earnings. Unless his status goes up and he is recognised as a partner in the industry and as a co-trustee of the community's welfare along with capital, he could not be persuaded to put in his very best. Where money incentives had failed, status-incentive might succeed. The lack of enthusiasm on the part of the worker cannot always be traced to the absence of adequate monetary incentives. So long as the worker is really working for someone else, it will be impossible to generate in him a sense of genuine love and enthusiam for his work. All the time he will be feeling that he is holding somebody's baby and not his own. All that makes him go 'baby-sitting is the money that he gets for it. That money can, no doubt, make him hold the baby for the stipulated time, but it will not make him develop a sense of devotion and love towards that baby. He will be only waiting for his work-period to be over so that he can thrust the baby on his reliever and walk out. The baby was, in fact, a nuisance to him which was just tolerated for the money it gave.
81. It is obvious that if the industrial worker has this feeling of a 'baby-sitter', the work he does will be soul-less. Work for him will just be a nuisance tolerated for the money it gave. Any improvement only in the wages-of the worker i.e., the 'baby-sitter' will not make the child his own, nor produce sustained love or enthusiasm for the work; for, all along the feeling will be persistent that he is only a hired labourer.
82. This, however, should not be taken to mean that the money part of the incentives is not necessary. Indeed it is both necessary and important. But what is equally necessary and important is the status of the worker. The best incentive, therefore, is to raise the status of the
worker in the industry, so that from the position of wage-serf, he becomes a partner in the industry and indeed a part of the industry itself. The Joint Management Council is a device to raise the status of the workers in industry, designed to give labour the status of a co-partner with capital and co-trustee of the community.
83. We, therefore, feel that it would be wrong in principle to suggest the amalgamation of the Works Committee and the Joint Management Council. The two are different and are intended to meet different needs.
84. Wherever there is an enlightened employer and a single, strong and healthy trade union, believing in prosperity through cooperation, and where in consequence there has been a long spell of harmonious industrial relations leading to a sense of belonging in the minds of workers, the Joint Management Council should be tried on a selective basis, gradually increasing the area of consultation and participation so as to be ultimately all-comprehensive. Experience gained thereby could be utilised for the consolidation and further expansion of the scheme.
85. We feel successful Joint Management Councils hold the key not merely to industrial peace, but also to the prosperity of labour, industry and the nation and deserves to be pursued vigorously in its own right.
86. We regret that neither our colleagues nor the Committee on Labour Welfare have made any recommendation regarding Prohibition. Prohibition is one of the important factors contributing to welfare of the community, and more particularly of labour. It has helped to improve the standard of living, both material and moral, of the working class generally. It is not merely enough if the wages of the workers, whether real or monetary, go up; what is more important is that the money earned by the workers should be properly spent. With prohibition, the money saved on drinking would be diverted to more useful and healthy items of the family budget. Prohibition ensures a happy home and a more disciplined worker at the plant.
87. It is often said that prohibition wherever introduced has not proved to be a success because of difficulties of implementation of the law. Any difficulty encountered in implementing a law, cannot be an argument for scrapping the law itself. We have ourselves come across numerous complaints about non-implementation of the provisions of the Minimum Wages Act, and, therefore, about its ineffectiveness. We are not prepared to accept that as the reason for scrapping the Minimum Wages Act. Instead, we have laid great emphasis or more effective implementation of that law. We see no reason why we should adopt a different standard in regard to the prohibition law. If implementation and enforcement of law are halfhearted and, therefore, ineffective, it is the enforcement that will have to be made more effective.
88. Another familiar argument often advanced by certain State Governments, in favour of scrapping prohibition is that they are losing considerable revenue which they would be otherwise getting. This line of argument appears to us wholly untenable. Scrapping of prohibition is not going to create new wealth. Whatever Government might be getting by way of income as a result of excise duty on intoxicants will be more than made good by the receipts on entertainment tax, sales tax, etc. on which the people will be spending the money saved by not spending on intoxicants. States must also realise that any method to augment their income cannot be justified, for the methods adopted also must be good. Earning more revenue cannot be the aim of any State. It is only the means to serve the people better. If earning more is to be the objective, then, the States should even be justified in undertaking propaganda for drinking more, so that they can get more revenue. But that will cut at the root of the moral base of society. Wherever prohibition is introduced, the State has also gained by the resulting higher standard of law and order.
89. Prohibition is also one of the directive principles of State policy embodied in our Constitution. It is regrettable that our colleagues while dealing with the Directive Principles of State Policy in Chapter 6, have overlooked this important item. While any discussion on the introduction of total prohibition throughout the country is beyond our scope, we feel that introduction of prohibition in so far as the working classes are concerned is well within our enquiry. We have, therefore, given our earnest consideration to this problem.
90. We recommend that those States which have not yet introduced prohibition and those which have not yet diluted the prohibition laws, should, in the first instance, be asked to introduce prohibition and effectively prohibit the sale of intoxicants at least in the industrial areas in their States,
KHADI AND VILLAGE INDUSTRIES
91. Even after twenty two years of freedom and eighteen years of planned economy, we have found that the problem of unemployment has been increasing with no hope of solution in the near future. In addition, underemployment in the rural areas is also widespread. While dealing with the problem of unemployment and underemployment, particularly in the rural sector, we cannot ignore the useful role that khadi and village industries could play. They could provide some employment to the unemployed. Even though employment in Khadi and village industries may not ensure a minimum or a fair wage, yet under the present conditions, it is these industries alone which can provide them immediate employment. Even the under-employed could be usefully employed in these industries utilising the idle days or hours and supplement their income.
92. We arc aware that Governments in the Centre and in the States have been assisting the promotion of khadi and village industries; but it seems to us that such efforts are not adequate. We, therefore, recommend the intensification of the State's programme of effective assistance to khadi and village industries which alone holds the key for full employment at present.
S. R. Vasavada
R.K. Malviya Ramananda Das
Minute of Dissent
Shri Manohar Kotwal
Strikes and Lock-outs
While recommending full freedom to strike or to lock-out for the purpose of strengthening collective bargaining, my colleagues in the Commission did not appreciate the necessity of differen-tiating between normal strikes in support of economic demands and other strikes like the defensive strikes, token-strikes, political-strikes and sympathy-strikes, and have reccommended that it should be obligatory on the part of the unions to serve Notice of Strike and take a ballot vote of workers in "all strikes". I differ from this recommendation of the Commission in this form and hope this omission on the part of the Commission will be taken note of by the Government.