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Stikes

Strike and lock-out are two powerful weapons in the hands of the workers and the employers. Strike signifies the suspension or stoppage of work by the worker while in case of lock-out the employer compels persons employed by him to accept his terms or conditions by shutting down or closing the place of business. Strike is recognized as an ordinary right of social importance to the working class to ventilate their grievances and thereby resolve industrial conflict.

Skillful use of these weapons, whether threatened or actual, may help one party to force the other to accept its demand or atleast to concede something to them. But reckless use of them results in the risk of unnecessary stoppage of work hurting both parties badly creating worse tensions, frictions and violations of law and order. From the point of view of the public, they retard the nation’s economic development. India cannot tolerate frequent stoppage of work for frivolous reasons that often accompany it.

For these reasons, the Industrial Disputes Act seeks to regulate and restrict strikes and lock-outs so that neither the workmen nor employers may hold the nation to ransom.

Strike:
Definitions:

Strike as defined in clause (q) of Section 2 of the Act means:

  1. Cessation of work by a body of persons employed in any industry acting in combination; or
  2. A concerted refusal of any number of persons who are or have been employed in any industry to continue to work or to accept employment; or
  3. A refusal under a common understanding of any number of persons who are or have been employed in any industry to continue to work or to accept employment.


Thus the definition given in the act postulates three main things or ingredients:

  • (a) Plurity of workmen;
  • (b) Combination or concerted action;
  • (c) Cessation of work or refusal to do work.


Historical Background:
Strikes came into existence in the wake of the Industrial Revolution. With the invention of machinery to supplant human labour, unemployment, lowering of wages in a competitive market, supply of labour in excess of demand - became the order of the day.

The first known strike was in the 12th century B.C., in Egypt. Workers under Pharaoh

Ramses III stopped working on the Necropolis until they were treated better.[1] The use of the English word ‘strike’ first appeared in 1768 when sailors in support of demonstrations in London, struck or removed the topgallant sails of merchant ships at port thus, thus crippling the ships.[2]

As the 19th century progressed, strikes became a fixture of industrial relations across the industrialized world, as workers organized themselves to bargaining for better wages and standards with their employees.

The 1974 railway strike in India was the strike by workers of Indian Railways in 1974. The 20 days strike by 17 lakh workers is the largest known strike in India. The strike was held to demand a raise in pay scale, which had remained stagnant over many years, in spite of the fact that pay scales of other government owned entities had risen over the years.[3]

Strikes became common during the Industrial Revolution, when mass labor became important in factories and mines. In most countries, strike actions were quickly made illegal, as factory owners had far more political power than workers. However, most western countries partially legalized striking in the late 19th or early 20th centuries.

Meaning:
Strike means the stoppage of work by a body of workmen acting in concert with a view to bring pressure upon the employer to concede to their demands during an industrial dispute.

Indian Iron & Steel ltd. v/s Its Workmen

Held: Mere cessation of work does not come within the preview of strike unless it can be shown that such cessation of work was a concerted action for the enforcement of an industrial demand.

Cessation of work or refusal to work is an essential element of strike. This is the most significant characteristic of the concept of strike. There can be no strike if there is no cessation of work. The cessation of work may take any form. It must however be temporary and not forever and it mustbe voluntary. No duration can be fixed for this in fact duration for cessation of work is immaterial. Cessation of work even for half an hour amounts to strike.

Buckingham & Carnatak Co. Ltd. v/s Workers of Buckingham & Carnatak Co. Ltd.

On the 1st November, 1948 night shift operators of carding ad spinning department of the Carnatak Mill stopped work some at 4 p.m. some at 4:30 p.m. and some at 5 p.m. The stoppage ended at 8 p.m. in both the departments. By 10 p.m. the strike ended completely. The cause for the strike was that the management of the Mills had expressed inability to comply with the request of the workers to declare 1st November, 1948 as a holiday for solar eclipse. Supreme Court held it strike.

Concerted action is another important ingredient of strike. The workers must act under a common understanding. The cessation of work by a body of persons employed in any industry in combination is a strike. Stoppage of work by workers individually does not amount to strike.

Ram Sarup & Another v/s Rex

Held: Mere absence from work is not enough but there must be concerted refusal to work, to constitute a strike.

The object of an industrial strike is achievement of economic objectives or defence of mutual interests. The objects of strikes must be connected with the employment, nonemployment, terms of employment or terms and conditions of labour because they are prominent issues on which the workers may go on strikes for pressing their demands and such objects include the demands for codification of proper labour laws in order to abolish unfair labour practices prevalent in a particular area of industrial activity. The strike may also be used as a weapon for betterment of working conditions, for achievement of safeguards, benefits and other protection for themselves, their dependents and for their little ones.

In B. R. Singh v/s Union of India[6] it was held that the strike is a form of demonstration. Though the right to strike or right to demonstrate is not a fundamental right, it is recognized as a mode of redress for resolving the grievances of the workers. Though this right has been recognized by almost all democratic countries but it is not an absolute right.

In T.K. Rangarajan v/s Tamil Nadu[7], the Tamil Nadu government terminated the services of all employees who resorted to strike. The Apex Court held that Government staffs have no statutory, moral or fundamental right to strike.

In 2005, the Supreme Court reiterated that lawyers have no right to go on strike or give a call for boycott and not even a token strike to espouse their causes.

In Dharma Singh Rajput v/s Bank of India, it was held that right to strike as a mode of redress of the legitimate grievance of the workers is recognized by the Industrial Disputes Act. However, this right is to be exercised after complying with the conditions mentioned in the Act and also after exhausting the intermediate and salutary remedy for conciliation.

Causes of Strikes:-

In the early history of labor troubles the causes of strikes were few. They arose chiefly from differences as to rates of wages, which are still the most fruitful sources of strikes, and from quarrels growing out of the dominant and servient relations of employers and employees. While labor remained in a state of actual or virtual servitude, there was no place for strikes. With its growing freedom "conspiracies of workmen" were formed, and strikes followed. The scarcity of labor in the fourteenth century, and the subsequent attempts to force men to work at wages and under conditions fixed by statute, were sources of constant difficulties, while the efforts to continue the old relation of master and servant with its assumed rights and duties, a relation law recognizes to this day, were, and still are, the causes of some of the most bitter strikes that have ever occurred.

Strikes are caused by differences as to[8]:

  1. Rates of wages and demands for advances or reductions i.e. Bonus, profit sharing, provident fund and gratuity.
  2. Payment of wages, changes in the method, time or frequency of payment;
  3. Hours of labor and rest intervals;
  4. Administration and methods of work, for or against changes in the methods of work or rules and methods of administration, including the difficulties regarding labor-saving machinery, piece-work, apprentices and discharged employees;
  5. Trade unionism.
  6. Retrenchment of workmen and closure of establishment.
  7. Wrongful discharge or dismissal of workmen.

Kinds of Strike:
There are mainly three kinds of strike, namely general strike, stay-in-strike and go slow.
  1. General Strike:
    In General Strike, the workmen join together for common cause and stay away from work, depriving the employer of their labour needed to run his factory. Token Strike is also a kind of General Strike. Token Strike is for a day or a few hours or for a short duration because its main object is to draw the attention of the employer by demonstrating the solidarity and co-operation of the workers. General Strike is for a longer period. It is generally resorted to when employees fail to achieve their object by other means including a token strike which generally proceeds a General Strike. The common forms of such strikes are organized by central trade unions in railways, post and telegraph, etc. Hartals and Bundhs also fall in this category.
     
  2. Stay-in-Strike:
    It is also known as ‘tools-down-strike’ or ‘pens-down-strike. It is the form of strike where the workmen report to their duties, occupy the premises but do not work. The employer is thus prevented from employing other labour to carry on his business.

    Mysore Machinery Manufacturers v/s State[9]
    Held: Where dismissed workmen were staying on premises and refused to leave them, did not amount to strike but an offence of criminal trespass.

    Punjab National Bank Ltd. v/s Their workmen[10]
    Held: Refusal under common understanding to continue to work is a strike and if in pursuance of such common understanding the employees entered the premises of the bank and refused to take their pens in their hands would no doubt be a strike under section 2(q).
     
  3. Go-Slow:
    In a ‘Go-Slow’ strike, the workmen do not stay away from work. They do come to their work and work also, but with a slow speed in order to lower down the production and thereby cause loss to the employer.

    Sasa Musa Sugar Works Pvt. Ltd. v/s Shobrati Khan & Ors [11]
    Held: Go-Slow strike is not a strike” within the meaning of the term in the Act, but is serious misconduct which is insidious in its nature and cannot be countenanced.


In addition to these three forms of strike which are frequently resorted to by the industrial workers, a few more may be cited although some of them are not strike within the meaning of section 2(q).

  • i. Hunger Strike: In Hunger Strike a group of workmen resort to fasting on or near the place of work or the residence of the employer with a view to coerce the employer to accept their demands.

    Piparaich Sugar Mills Ltd. v/s Their Workmen[12]
    Certain employees who held key positions in the mill resorted to hunger strike at the residence of the managing Director, with the result that even those workmen who reported to their duties could not be given work. Held: That concerted action of the workmen who went on Hunger Strike amounted to strike” within the meaning of this sub-section.
     
  • ii. Sympathetic Strike: A Sympathetic Strike is resorted to in sympathy of other striking workmen. It is one which is called for the purpose of indirectly aiding others. Its aim is to encourage or to extend moral support to or indirectly to aid the striking workmen. The sympathizers resorting to such strike have no demand or grievance of their own.
     
  • iii. Work to rule: Here the employees strictly adhere to the rules while performing their duties which ordinarily they do not observe. Thus strict observance of rules results in slowing down the tempo of work causes inconvenience to the public and embarrassment to the employer. It is no strike because there is no stoppage of work at all.


Hero Honda
Hero Honda Gurgaon Plant Strike Duration : 10 April 2006 - 14th April 2006

once again Gurgaon has become the centre of workers' unrest following the strike at Hero Honda's Gurgaon plant. Around 4,000 casual workers of Hero Honda were on strike from 10 April 2006 against the anti-worker stance of the management that had ignored the demands of the workers for a long time. The main demands placed were wage hike, job regularization, extra casual leave and medical benefits at par with the permanent workers.

In fact, around 4000 contract workers of Hero Honda's Gurgaon Plant (owned by Pawan Munjal) were denied regularization for the last 7 to 8 years. A contractual Hero Honda worker is paid between Rs. 4000-6700 per month as against Rs. 40,000, the salary of a permanent worker performing the same job. Rs 10 is deducted daily for food and tea only from the casual workers' salary. The three major contractors who operate in the Hero Honda Gurgaon plant include the Sehgal brothers and workers recruited by them not only get low wages but also do not receive any pay slip or cards. The casual helper at the plant gets a meagre Rs. 2000-2500 at the end of the month. The management and the contractors are equally involved in the exploitation of the contract worker.

There is no union in the Hero Honda unit, but the casual workers of the company unanimously decided to protest and braving all kinds of threats and machinations by the management, they determinedly continued with their strike.

Finally, the administration and the management were forced to come to the table. On 14th April, a tripartite meeting was held between Haryana's additional labour commissioner, management and worker representatives and they agreed for a settlement, under which some demands were met with and on the rest, talks will continue. It was an important victory for the contract workers, who are otherwise forced to live in miserable conditions. The agreement included a 30% hike in salary, two days of casual leave every month and medical benefits in accordance with the company rules, issuing identity cards and ATM cards and opening bank accounts for the casual workers. The management also agreed to pressurize contractors to address some of the genuine grievances of the contract workers. The management agreed to review the situation at the earliest and look specifically into the demand for abolition of contract labour and their regularization.

AICCTU expresses solidarity with the movement waged by the casual workers of Hero Honda's Gurgaon unit and welcomes the fighting initiative taken against the repressive management of Hero Honda especially after the brutality meted out to the struggling Honda Motorcycle (HMSI) workers in the recent past. It is truly commendable that the workers have not lost courage to challenge the hideous nexus of the private entrepreneurs, state administration, and labour contractors, particularly in Gurgaon. Their fight for economic rights and their initiative to unionize reflect the spirit of working class offensive against the shrinkage of workers' rights and democratic space for struggle in the era of liberalization, privatization, and globalization.

Hero Honda Motors Limited, based in Delhi, India is a joint venture between the Hero Group of India and Honda of Japan. It has been referred to as the world's biggest manufacturer of 2 wheeler vehicles. It has three manufacturing units based at Dharuhera , Gurgaon and at Haridwar . These plants together are capable of manufacturing 3.9 million bikes per year. Production of the plant, which has a capacity of about 6,000 units per day. There are about 1,200 permanent workers, while 4,000 are on contract.

Case Facts Place:
Hero Honda Gurgaon Plant Strike Duration : 10 April 2006 - 14th April 2006 No. of workers involved: 4000 casual workers Demands: Wage hike, extra casual leave and medical benefits at par with the permanent workers. Financial Loss: Loss of Rs.100 crore .

Background: Around 4000 contract workers of Hero Honda's Gurgaon Plant (owned by Pawan Munjal ) were denied regularization for the last 7 to 8 years. A contractual Hero Honda worker is paid between Rs. 4000-6700 per month as against Rs. 40,000, the salary of a permanent worker performing the same job. Rs 10 is deducted daily for food and tea only from the casual workers' salary.

Contractual workers recruited not only get low wages but also do not receive any pay slip or cards. The casual helper at the plant gets a meager Rs. 2000-2500 at the end of the month. The management and the contractors are equally involved in the exploitation of the contract worker.

Action Taken: On 14th April, a tripartite meeting was held between Haryana's additional labor commissioner, management and worker representatives and they agreed for a settlement, under which some demands were met. It was an important victory for the contract workers, who are otherwise forced to live in miserable conditions.

Solution: The agreement included : 30% hike in salary Two days of casual leave every month and Medical benefits in accordance with the company rules, Issuing identity cards ATM cards Opening bank accounts for the casual workers.

Effect Of The Strike
Production at the plant, which makes about 6,000 bikes a day at Gurgaon was paralyzed. It lead to the loss of Rs. 100 crore to the company. It severely impacted the industrial environment in the state and hence it was a concern for all industry.

Suggestions
Issues between the management and workers should be resolved beforehand. There should be a good communication link between the worker and the management. Management should not suppress or violate the rights of the worker.

Bibliography
1. Chaturvedi S. M. - Labour and Industrial Laws - Thirteenth Edition, Central Law Agency.
2. Dr. Singh Avtar - Introduction to Labour and Industrial Law - Second Edition 2008, Lexis Nexis Butterworths Wadhwa Nagpur.
3. Mishra S. N.- Labour and Industrial Law - 24th Edition, Central Law Publications.
4. Pillai K. M - Labour and Industrial Laws - 11th Edition 2007, Allahabad Law Agency.
5. www.legalserviceindia.com
4 (1967)I LLJ 381 (Pat).
[4] AIR 1953 SC 47
[5] AIR 1949 All 218
[6] (1989) II Lab LJ 591 (SC)
[7] (2003) 7 ACE 30
[8] Industrialrelations.naukrihub.com/strikes.html
[9] AIR 1966 Mys 51
[10] AIR 1960 SC 160
[11] AIR 1959 SC 923
[12] AIR 1960 SC 1258

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