National Commission on Labour (1967)||
23.1 While this was the position in the country as a whole, a more purposeful intervention in industrial disputes was attempted in one of the industrially advanced Provinces—the Bombay Presidency. The Bombay Trade Disputes (Conciliation) Act, 19342, introduced for the first time a standing machinery to enable the State to promote industrial peace. A permanent cadre of conciliators was envisaged for settling matters which fell within their jurisdiction. The scope of the Act was limited to selected industries. The experience of the working of the Act, though in a limited sphere, led to the enactment of the Bombay Industrial Disputes Act, 1938 (BID Act). The important features of this new Act were the provisions for (a) compulsory recognition of unions by the employer, (b) giving the right to workers to get their case represented either through a representative union, or where no representative union in the industry/centre or in the unit existed through elected representatives of workers or through the Government Labour Officer, (c) certification of standing orders which would define with sufficient precision the conditions of employment and make them known to workmen, (d) the setting up of an Industrial Court, with original as well as appellate jurisdiction, to which parties could go for arbitration in case their attempts to settle matters between themselves or through conciliation did not bear fruit, and (e) prohibition of strike/lock-out under certain conditions. This law was made applicable only to some industries in the Province. Shortly thereafter, the Government of India promulgated the Defence of India Rules to meet the exigencies created by the Second World War. Rule 81 A gave powers to the appropriate Governments to intervene in industrial disputes, appoint industrial tribunals, and enforce the award of the tribunals on both sides. The BID Act was amended during the war years to provide for compulsory adjudication in unresolved disputes.
23.2 The BID Act was replaced by a more comprehensive legislation, viz., the Bombay Industrial Relations Act, 1946 (BIR Act), but with the basic structure of the BID Act unchanged. At about the same time, the Government of India placed on the statute book the Industrial Employment (Standing Orders) Act, 1946, which provided for the framing and certification of Standing Orders covering various aspects of service conditions including the classification of employees, procedures for disciplinary actions and the like. In a way, this piece of legislation filled a void that existed in the Central industrial relations legislation.
The Industrial Disputes Act, 1947
23.3 The emergency war legislation (Rule 81A of the Defence of India Rules) was kept in operation pending the enactment of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 (the ID Act), which replaced the Trade Disputes Act, 1929, from April 1, 1947, With subsequent amendments, the I.D. Act still continues to be the main instrument for Government's intervention in labour disputes.
1 This was partly due to the recommendation of the Whitely Commission and partly the outcome of the experience gained in the working of the Bombay Trade Disputes (Conciliation) Act, 1934, (Ref. Para 23.1).
2 Labour' has been all along a subject on which both the Centre and the Provinces/Presidencies (now States) have enjoyed powers to legislate since the Government of India Act, 1919.
23.4 The I.D. Act provides for settlement of industrial disputes through conciliation and adjudication. The Act empowers the appropriate Government to appoint conciliation officers and/or constitute Boards of Conciliation to mediate in, and promote settlement of, industrial disputes. It also empowers the appropriate Government to refer disputes for adjudication by an industrial tribunal. The Act makes a distinction between disputes arising in public utility services and those in other industries and provides for compulsory conciliation and adjudication to resolve the former. Besides, the appropriate Government could constitute a Court of Enquiry to enquire into matters pertaining to an industrial dispute. Restrictions are placed on strike/lock-out in public utility services, and during the pendency of conciliation and adjudication proceedings. The procedures and machinery provided under the I.D. Act have been modified from time to time in the light of the actual working of these provisions, the decisions of the judiciary and the influence of the bipartite and tripartite agreements.
23.5 The period 1947-50 witnessed some important developments having a hearing on industrial relations, apart from a basic change in the attitudes of employers and workers. The Central Government was made the appropriate Government for disputes in Banking and Insurance, as these industries extended over more than one State/Province. The Trade Unions Act, 1926 was amended to provide for compulsory recognition of unions.1 The Labour Appellate Tribunal was set up. The work of the tripartite bodies associated with the Labour Ministry started expanding. Comprehensive legislation was drawn up in the form of a bill for putting industrial relations on a sounder footing.
23.6 The First Plan stressed the need for industrial peace for economic progress. While it wanted the State to arm itself with powers for intervention in labour disputes, the endeavour had to be to encourage mutual settlement, collective bargaining and voluntary arbitration to the utmost extent, and thereby to reduce to the minimum, occasions for its intervention in industrial disputes and exercise of the special powers2. The Indian Labour Conference which met as these recommendations were formulated, favoured the retention of powers by Government to refer matters to industrial tribunals rather than sole reliance on collective bargaining. The I.D Act was amended in 1953 to provide for compensation in case of lay-off and retrenchment. The working of the Labour Appellate Tribunal (LAT) came up for criticism in tripartite meetings and a decision was taken in pursuance of the strong feelings expressed in these meetings, particularly by the labour representatives, that the LAT should be abolished.
23.7 The Second Plan envisaged a marked shift in the industrial relations policy consequent on the acceptance of the socialist pattern of society as the goal of planning. It emphasised mutual negotiations as the effective mode of settling disputes. Among the other recommendations in the Plan were demarcation of functions between works committees and unions, and increased association of labour with management. The I.D. Act was amended in 1956. The LAT was abolished through this amendment and a three-tier system of original tribunals—viz., labour courts, industrial tribunals and national tribunals—was brought in force. While the labour court would deal with certain matters regarding the propriety and legality of an order passed by the employer under the standing orders, and discharge and dismissal of workmen including reinstatement, the industrial tribunal adjudicates on matters like wages, allowances, hours of work, leave and holidays and other conditions of service. The national tribunal, to which matters similar to those adjudicated upon by a tribunal are referred, is appointed by the Central Government to decide disputes which involve questions of national importance and those which affect industrial establishments situated in more than one State.
23.8 The 15th Session of the Indian Labour Conference took note of these developments and the Second Plan recommendations and sought to evolve steps for their implementation. The Code of Discipline3 was drawn up and arrangements were made to educate workers through a scheme accepted by the tripartite. Complaints about non-implementation of agreements, settlements and awards were in the meanwhile disturbing the industrial scene. On the administrative side, provision was made to examine such complaints and place the conclusions thereof before a tripartite Evaluation and Implementation Committee. The foundations were thus laid for a policy of giving to
1 This provision was, however, not enforced (See para 20.72). 2 First Five Year Plan p. 573. 3 See Appendix (p. A 28)
the parties themselves a greater share in ensuring better enforcement of agreements, settlements and awards.
23.9 The Third Plan did not suggest any major change in policy. It emphasised the economic and social aspects of industrial peace and elaborated the concept that workers and management were partners in a joint endeavour to achieve common ends. The voluntary arrangements agreed to in the Second Plan were strengthened by the Industrial Truce Resolution, 1962, adopted in the wake of the Chinese aggression. The I.D. Act was amended in 1965 with a view to giving an individual worker the right to raise a dispute connected with his discharge, dismissal, retrenchment or termination of service, even if the cause of the individual workman was not espoused by any union or group of workmen.
23.10 To sum up, the existing arrangements for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes consist of (a) statutory procedures and (b) voluntary arrangements. The former are covered by the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 and certain similar State enactments. In essential details, the machinery provided for under the various enactments consists of works/joint committee, conciliation, voluntary arbitration, and adjudication by tribunals or industrial courts. Voluntary arrangements provide inter alia for recognition of unions, where no statutory provisions for it exist, the framing of a grievance procedure, reference of disputes to voluntary arbitration, setting up of joint management councils, implementation of agreements, settlements and awards and the setting up of industry-wise wage boards.