National Commission on Labour (1967)||
23.23 Voluntary arbitration as a method of resolving industrial conflicts came into prominence with the advocacy by Mahatma Gandhi of its application to the settlement of disputes in the textile industry in Ahmedabad. The BID Act and the BIR Act recognised voluntary arbitration along with the machinery set up by the State for composing differences between employers and workers. The policies recommended in the Plans specifically mention voluntary arbitration. The I.D. Act was amended to make a provision (Section 10-A) for joint
1 See Para 26.32.
reference of industrial disputes to voluntary arbitration. But apart from the statutory arrangement for recourse to voluntary arbitration, considerable emphasis is placed on this mode of setting disputes in official pronouncements.
23.24 In spite of all these Governmental efforts, resistance to the idea continues. The Code of Discipline (1958) reiterated the faith of parties in voluntary arbitration and enjoined on employers and workers to resort to it on failure of other methods of resolving differences. In view of the continued reluctance of the parties, more particularly of the employers, the matter came up for discussion at various tripartite forums; but barring stray efforts, the situation of indifference to the idea continued throughout the period 1951—61. The Indian Labour Conference in August, 1962 reiterated the need for a wider acceptance of voluntary arbitration. But, as" against the emphasis in the Third Plan which considered that voluntary arbitration should be the normal practice in preference to recourse to adjudication, the Conference felt "whenever conciliation fails arbitration will be the next normal step except in cases where the employer feels that for some reasons1 he would prefer adjudication". A proviso, similar to the one which nullified in effect the operation of the need-based minimum2, was added to this resolution of the Conference also in the following words:
The reasons for refusal to agree to arbitration must be fully explained by the parties concerned in each case and the matter brought up for consideration by the implementation machinery concerned."
the Industrial Truce Resolution, November 1962, while re-emphasising voluntary arbitration, specified certain items which were amenable to this way of settling disputes. These were complaints pertaining to dismissal, discharge, victimisation and retrenchment of individual workmen not settled mutually.
23.25 To make voluntary arbitration more acceptable to the parties and to coordinate efforts for its promotion. Government has recently set up a National Arbitration Promotion Board (NAPB) with a tripartite composition. The Board will review the position, examine the factors inhibiting wider acceptance of this procedure and suggest measures to make it more popular. The NAPB is also to evolve principles, norms and procedure for the guidance of arbitrators and the parties. It would look into the causes of delay and expedite arbitration proceedings, wherever necessary, and also specify from time to time the type of disputes which would normally be settled by arbitration in the light of tripartite decisions. While we wish that the NAPB will achieve its objectives, we are constrained to observe that voluntary arbitration has not taken root in spite of the influential advocacy for it in different policy making forums. Factors which have contributed to the slow progress of arbitration, as mentioned in the evidence before us, inter alia, are: (i) easy availability of adjudication in case of failure of negotiations; (ii) dearth of suitable arbitrators who command the confidence of both parties; (iii) absence of recognised unions which could bind the workers to common agreements; (iv) legal obstacles; (v) the fact that in law no appeal was competent against an arbitrator's award; (vi) absence of a simplified procedure to be followed in voluntary arbitration; and (vii) cost to the parties, particularly workers.
23.26 With little progress made in collective bargaining, which pre-supposes the existence of a recognised union representing all the employees and a responsive employer, who together build up over a period an attitude of mutual trust and an acceptance of bona fides on the two sides, it is perhaps not a matter for surprise that voluntary arbitration has so far had little success in India. We feel that with the growth of collective bargaining and the general acceptance of recognition of representative unions and improved management attitudes, the ground will be cleared, at least to some extent, for wider acceptance of voluntary arbitration. The National Arbitration Promotion Board may then have a better chance of success in the task of promoting the idea. The NAPB should pay special attention to preparing and building up suitable panels of arbitrators. -