National Commission on Labour (1967)||
23.12 Except for the industrial relations legislation in some States where arrangements for recognition of unions exist, there is no statutory recognition of unions for the country as a whole. Neither are there provisions which require employers and workers to bargain in 'good faith'. It is, therefore, no surprise that collective agreements have not made much headway in the country so far. Nonetheless, there have been more of such agreements than is popularly believed.
23.13 Some historical factors have also come in the way of collective agreements having a greater share in maintaining industrial harmony. The Whitley Commission found that the only attempt made to set up machinery for regulating the relations between a group of employers and their work-people was at Ahmedabad. Though the assessment of the Whitley Commission was made soon after the Trade Unions Act, 1926 was enforced, the situation did not change significantly in the period 1931 to 1947. Since Independence, however, trade unions have been growing and agreements with employers have become more common. The changing attitude of employers and the emergence of a new generation of employers and workers have also helped. Legal measures, in spite of their limitations, have lent as much support to collective agreements as joint consultations in bipartite and tripartite meetings at the national and industry levels. Even so, a sample study made by the Employers' Federation of India for the years 1956-1960 reveals that the number of disputes settled by collective agreements during the period in question varied between 32 per cent and 49 per cent in the units studied. Broadly, the agreements have been of three types: (i) agreements which have been drawn up after direct negotiations between the parties and are purely voluntary in character for purpose of their implementation; (ii) agreements which combine the elements of voluntariness and compulsion i.e., those negotiated by the parties but registered before a conciliator as settlements; and (iii) agreements which acquire legal status because of successful discussion between the parties when the matters in dispute were under reference to industrial tribunals/courts and could be considered sub judice, the agreements reached being recorded by the tribunals/courts as consent awards.
23.14 Most of the collective agreements have been at the plant level, though in important textile centres like Bombay and Ahmedabad, industry level agreements have been common. These have a legal sanction under the State
Acts and have to be distinguished from others where no statutory sanction prevails. Such agreements are also to be found in the plantation industry in the South and in Assam, and in the coal industry. Apart from these, in new industries like chemicals, petroleum, oil refining and distribution, aluminium, manufacture of electrical and other equipment, and automobile repairing, arrangements for settlement of disputes through voluntary agreements have become common in recent years. In ports and docks, collective agreements have been the rule at individual centres. On certain matters affecting all ports, all-India agreements have been reached. In the banking industry, after a series of awards, the employers and unions are in recent years coming closer to reach collective agreements. In the Life Insurance Corporation of India, except for the employers' decision to introduce automation which has upset industrial harmony in some centres, there has been a fair measure of discussion across the table by the parties for settling differences. On the whole, the record of reaching collective agreements has not been unsatisfactory, though its extension to a wider area is certainly desirable.