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Critical Analysis Of The Concept Of Collective Bargaining

The area of labour laws has been widely explored and ways to make the working conditions just and humane and to socially and financially uplift the working class of our nation.
Although, several conventions have been made and the international organisations have taken this as their primary resolve, the reforms are slow. India has also been a signatory to many of these conventions and has adopted several international standards to improve and reframe its labour law legislations.

Not only are the countries' adamant in setting better standards for working but the working section itself has taken steps to demand and seek just and favourable conditions of work. Establishment of trade unions to further their resolves have been one such significant step.

The legislations of different countries have often hampered the activities of trade unions in the name of maintaining peace and tranquility of the place. However, the strategy of collective bargaining to secure the rights of working class has overcome this hurdle as it is based on negotiations with the employers.

Simplistically, collective bargaining is a strategy used by the workers of industries where they with the help of their trade unions negotiate with their employers so as to draw a just and suited terms of employment. These terms include their pay, benefits/bonuses/increments, hours of work, leave, health and safety policies, ways to balance work and family, and much more.
The issues with which the concept of collective bargaining deals fall broadly into three different categories:
  1. First comes the issues that are mandatory (mandatory subjects). This includes issues related to salary, workplace safety, overtime etc that basically the law requires of the employer.
  2. Next comes voluntary subjects. It is not mandated by law and includes any negotiable thing like issues related to union, decisions about employer board member etc.
  3. The last one is illegal subjects. These are the issues that infringe the provisions of law for example- workplace discrimination.

The end goal of collective bargaining is to make a collective bargaining agreement through consensus building between the workers and their employers. The agreement that is formed lays out rules of employment for a definite period of time. The members of the union have to pay for this representation and such payment is made in the form of union dues. It is important that consensus be reached and often to make the employers favour their terms, the workers go on labor strikes or employee lockouts. Therefore, it is desirable that the two sides at the end of the negotiation reach an agreement unanimously.

From the reasons stated above, it can be said that collective bargaining is a pro employee strategy as it gives voice to the working section to demand what they deserve. It keeps a check on the abuse of power by the employers through which they exploit their employees by advocating for the rights of the latter.

It works to the advantage of the businesses by avoiding events of strikes that often occurs when there is friction between the employers and his employees. Strikes often hampers the operations and cripples the business. It is not ideal for the business and largely for the economy of a country.

The protection of rights by the trade unions is in respect of all the employees irrespective of whether or not they were members of the union. The employees of a company get the right to question the policies and demand changes if such policies violate their rights. The strategy of collective bargaining has provided a sense of security and stability to the employees.

However, the strategy has some shortcomings too. The issue of equal representation from both the sides often questions the reasonability of the decisions of the negotiations. The business is likely to lose a substantial amount of money from over-compensation or excessive benefits if that be the case.

Collective bargaining also gives too much power to the employees which makes it difficult for the employer to run his business and take important decisions because of the apprehension of possible demands for altering them or strikes and lock outs in its protest.
The time it usually takes for the negotiations to finish and materialise in terms of executing the stipulations in the agreement is long.

The general proposition is that the distribution of salary is done on the basis of seniority and work experience but collective bargaining often fails to access this factor in demanding workers' rights from their employers. Although the aim of collective bargaining is to come up with beneficial solutions to both the management as well as the employees, there are cases where nothing is agreed upon as both the sides fail to reach a consensus. In situations where talks become futile, the situation might aggravate even more instead of mitigating.

This is turn can prove detrimental to the relationship between the employers and the employees and only increase the existing friction between the groups. The strategy of collective bargaining although has proved fruitful in many cases, comes with its own pros and cons that consequentially affect the parties resorting to the strategy. Although, the theory proposes a result that would be mutually beneficial, in reality it is prone to abuse and inequality is inevitable.

The only way to justify resorting to this technique is that the company's resources and growth must not be compromised and at the same time, the employees must be able to achieve what they wish to and what they deserve through peaceful negotiations and such negotiations should make arrangements that enable both the sides (employer's side and the employees' side) to make equal and strong representation for their rights. Only, when the benefits outweigh the shortcomings of it, the strategy can be completed just and good thing to elect.

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