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Industrial Disputes And The Conflict B/W Majority And Minority Union

As per Section 2 of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947, "An Industrial Dispute means any dispute or differences between employers and employers or between employers and workmen or between workmen and workmen which is connected with the employment or non-employment or the terms of employment or with the conditions of labour of any person."

Every worker has specific demands, including financial needs, social benefits, and security needs. Conflict between the employee and the employer emerges when such conditions are not met. There are basically two sorts of industrial conflicts: individual disputes and collective disputes. Individual disputes might involve issues including compensation for unlawful termination, reinstatement, etc., whereas collective conflicts could include disagreements over pay, bonuses, profit sharing, duration of work etc.

Settlement Of Industrial Disputes

Many strategies, including negotiations, conciliation, mediation, and arbitration, may be used to settle industrial disputes. Any business, management, or labour union is free to use any strategy it wants to handle such disputes. Industrial disputes need to be settled as soon as feasible, and they need to be settled at the level at which they initially occurred. Both the government and the union should change their attitudes, lay to rest their egos, and seek to resolve the disputes as soon as they possibly can.

Relations gradually deteriorate and become complex when disagreements are not resolved. If management and unions want to be satisfied, there ought to be a WIN-WIN scenario. Relations cannot and will never improve if one wins and the other party loses. Less productivity and financial losses for the firm and the employees are consequences of pending awards. The use of tribunals or conciliation should be avoided as much as possible by both the parties.

The Case Of Ongc Vs President, Oil Fields Employees Association

On August 26, 2016, the appellants, Oil and Natural Gas Company Ltd, received a direct action notice from The Oil Field Employees Association, a union which has been established in the year 2014. The Union represented workers hired by ONGC's contractors. A Conciliation Officer summoned the aforementioned Union and ONGC on September 19, 2016, to discuss the conflict resulting from the aforementioned notice.

It is essential to keep in mind that another Union, which represented 77% of the workers, and the contractor negotiated a settlement on the same day, with ONGC acting as the consenting party. The Union demanded that the wages and employment conditions of contractors' workers be equivalent to those of ONGC employees in a Charter of Demands that was submitted on September 26, 2016. Thereafter, ONGC presented a fair pay policy.

The attempt at conciliation was eventually unsuccessful. A report was subsequently submitted to the Central Government as a result of this. The Centre thereafter brought the matter with the Industrial Tribunal in accordance with Section 10(2A) of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947. At the Bombay High Court, the ONGC contested the validity of the reference order, but the High Court rejected their claim. The Tribunal also charged two other Unions during this time. With regards to the appeal, the High Court upheld the verdict but modified how it was to be implemented.

Citing the definition of "workman" included within Section 2(s) of the act of 1947, the appellants, i.e., ONGC, said that it was unjustified since none of the individuals represented by the Unions were engaged by ONGC. ONGC was the company that filed the appeal. On September 19, 2016, an agreement was made with the union that represented the majority of the workforce. The deal puts all workers in the same position.

In addition, it was stated that, in accordance with a number of judgements, the employees of contractors cannot be considered to be the same as the employees of the principal employer. It was argued that there was no contract stating that ONGC had engaged the individuals who were impacted by the incident. In addition, when contractual work has ended, the principal employer doesn't really acquire the employees who were working under the contract.

Nevertheless, the respondents, i.e., the Unions filed a response asserting that the workers in issue were in fact ONGC employees. It was argued that the settlement reached on September 19, 2016, which would bind the concerned individuals under Section 18(3)(d), should not be considered a settlement until it is completed. It was argued that the arrangement solely applied to contractors' employees, despite the fact that the affected workers were also entitled to service benefits from ONGC.

Upon oral arguments submitted by the appellants and the respondents, the Supreme Court Court came to the conclusion that a minority union of workers who were left out of an agreement in between majority union and the employer can still go forward with a labour dispute on the basis that they were recruited directly by the principal employer.

The bench of Hon'ble Justice Nageswara Rao and Hon'ble Justice Aniruddha Bose did not overturn the ruling of the Bombay High Court. The aforementioned ruling had mainly backed the Central Government Industrial Tribunal, Mumbai's ruling in favour of the workers' union demands for similar guidelines for all ONGC employees, regardless of employment contracts.

After its examination of Section 18 of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947, the Court stated that it was not satisfied that the settlement reached on September 19, 2016, would compel the minority union with regards to the present matter. The only individuals the appellants had any sort of relationship with were the contractors and the labourers who were employed by them.

Reiterating its position from Tata Engineering and Locomotive Co. Ltd. vs. Their Workmen (1981), the court ruled that a minority union of employees may engage in an industrial dispute regardless of whether some other organization representing a majority of them agrees to a resolution with the employer.

To conclude, it could be said that the minority union must be empowered to represent workers in the adjudication of specific concerns such as termination and discharge among others. The appropriate methods are likely to encourage the development of a robust and flourishing trade unionism and, to some extent, eliminate inter-union competition.

The unions will become effective tools for collective action and receive the necessary bargaining parity if one union is required to be recognised for each initiative. The Supreme Court's ruling in the aforementioned case is a positive step towards recognising the rights of the minority union even after an agreement has been made between the majority union and the employer.

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