Unfair Labour Practices in India
The article ‘Unfair Labour Practices in India’ by Renuka Bhalerao highlights the important provisions related to the Industrial Disputes Act of 1947 pertaining to the prohibition against unfair labour practices. The Industrial Dispute Act, of 1947 ensures the welfare of the employees.
Work is a necessity for the economic growth and development of every country. It contributes to the production and manufacturing of goods and services, and in exchange, it receives wages as remuneration. An employer and employee together contribute to gaining revenue and profit, but the principle question that arises here is whether; is it so simple to work peacefully and enjoy the benefits. No, in every organization, whether public or private, several disputes arise between the employer and employee.
Either about fair wages, working hours, or trade union demands. To ensure and prevent such disputes and for the welfare of labourers or workmen and their employers, The Industrial Disputes Act of 1947 came into force.
The main objectives of this Act are to promote peace and welfare and create amicable relations between employers and labourers settle industrial disputes, prevent illegal strikes or unfair trade practices, enable employees to pursue their rights effectively, provide for the effective administration of labour laws, protect freedom of association, promote harmony between workers on different jobs at the same plant or elsewhere in the industry, ensure proper representation of workers by unions in management committees, etc.
Protecting the interests of weaker sections in society by providing safeguards against unfair discrimination by employers against them for no good reason except caste prejudice which should be treated as illegal at once under the Industrial Relation Act 1947.
Unfair Labour Practices: Industrial Dispute Act, 1947
- At present, Unfair Labour Practices under the Industrial Relations Code, of 2020 are specified in the Second Schedule, In the year 2020, Unfair Labour Practices under the Industrial Relations Code have been specified in the Second Schedule of the Industrial Dispute Act 1947. The list includes unfair labour practices by employers and trade unions alike.
- The Fifth Schedule of the Industrial Dispute Act 1947 mentions the activities which amount to unfair labour practices. These include:
- The employer cannot prohibit their employees from joining or establishing any trade union or cannot interfere in their work.
- If an employee joins a union, the employer is not permitted to harass or control them.
- The employer cannot bully an employee for being a part of legal lock-outs or strikes.
- Imposing any penalty or giving threats to dismiss them from the services.
Unfair labour practices are not only done by employers, trade unions also sometimes contribute to unfair labour practices. The Fifth Schedule of the Industrial Dispute Act mentions the following practices which are prohibited for trade unions:
- Promoting and supporting illegal strikes.
- Threatening the workers to join trade unions.
- Prohibiting any worker from entering the workplace who is not participating in illegal strikes.
- Using criminal force against workers who are not participating in strikes or lockouts that are not permitted as per the provisions of the legislation.
- Not aiming for workers’ welfare.
- Refusing collective bargaining as representatives of workmen.
- Entering the residence of the employers and damaging their personal property.
To determine if an employer has engaged in unfair labour practice, it is important to take into account the directive principles of state policy contained in Article 43 of the Constitution and such other articles as dealing with decent wages and living conditions for workmen. An employer may not violate any of these directives by paying less than a fair wage or requiring workers to work in unsafe conditions. These practices may be considered unfair under the law because they are against the interests of workers and violate their rights.
In Devendra Kumar C. Solanki v. State of Gujarat and Others, Special Civil Application No. 11919 of 2000, the Supreme Court held that the work done by the concerned workmen was the same as that of permanent workmen and they also worked for a similar number of hours. But, the discrepancy in payment of wages between permanent and non-permanent workmen is alarming, same to be construed as unfair labor practices as defined under section 2(r)(a) of the Act.
In Gangadhar Pillai v. Siemens Ltd., (2007) 1 SCC 533, the appellant served in the respondent company from 1978 as a helper and his service came to an end in 2000. He challenged it as an unfair labor practice under item 6 of Schedule IV of M.R.T.V. and P.V.L.P Act 1971 and failed in his attempt to get a declaration that his ending of service was unfair labor practice. The Supreme Court observed that only because a person had intermittently been engaged as a casual or temporary employee for several years, the same by itself might not lead to the conclusion that such an appointment had been made with the object of depriving him of the status and privilege of a permanent employee.
The Court dismissed the appeal against the ruling that an employer was not guilty of unfair labour practices by reason of the termination of employment of a worker, who was engaged on a contract basis. The appellant had worked for the respondent, who was a small-scale trader. The contract was for one year and it expired in June 2021, when the workman had provided 12 months of service. However, his services were terminated after only two months remaining service due to a lack of work.
The workman filed an application with the National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes under Section 11(3) of the Protection of Civil Rights Act, 1955 (PCR). The Commission found that there were no grounds for terminating him after two months’ employment and ordered his reinstatement on payment of compensation.
However, it was pointed out that Section 2(oo)(bb) of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 provides for retrenchment as a penalty for unfair labor practices in appropriate cases. The Supreme Court held that this provision did not override the provisions under PCR because it is only applicable to those whose dismissal is for reasons other than those mentioned in Section 11(3) PCR except where otherwise stipulated by law or regulation made thereunder;
The Industrial Disputes Act, of 1947 (ID Act), is a landmark legislation that deals with industrial peace and the welfare of labourers from any kind of exploitation. The Act prohibits unfair labour practices and also mentions the penalties for the same. The definition of unfair labor practices has not been mentioned in the Act but it provides what are the activities which constitute unfair labour practices.
Trade unions and employers can both engage in unfair labor practices. Therefore, the Labour Tribunals are set up to entertain appeals against such actions. It is difficult to define an exhaustive or conclusive test of Unfair Labour Practices, but it may be said that any practices which violate the directive principles of state policies contained in Article 43 of the constitution and also other provisions made under the delegated legislation.