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A Brief Look at Strikes as a Legal Concept


Authored by - Sania Vinayan

Keywords - Strike, Employee Dissatisfaction, Legality of Strikes, Types of Strikes


Abstract:


This article tries to understand the concept of strikes and highlight its various types. It discusses essential ingredients for a strike to be legal in India. Strikes are a long-established measure employed to acquire economic, political and social justice.


Introduction:


Strike is a very potent weapon used by trade unions and labour associations to get their requirements recognized and accepted. It is a tool usually used by workers demanding sufficient power back into their own hands. Strikes are typically performed to balance political and economic power. There are many kinds of strikes with varying degree of legality in different countries. In most countries, strikes were quickly banned, especially during the industrial revolution, as demands for labourers increased in factories. But by the end of late 19th and 20th century, strikes were partially legalised in most western countries. Strikes can be performed against any employer. Strikes are done in contempt of unfair economic policies and politics by the government of a country too. In India, the largest ever strike was held against the incumbent government’s economic policies, raging unemployment, and hostile labour laws.


Type of Strikes:

1) Economic Strike: In these types of strikes, laborers or employees ask for increase in wages, allowances of other facilities.

2) Sympathetic Strike: In these kind of strikes, workers of other unions of an industry strike in support of industry unions that are already in strike.


3) General Strike: This is a strike by members most of the unions in an area or an industry. It may be a strike of all the workers in a region of industry to make demands common to all workers. These strikes are usually intended to create political pressure on the ruling government, rather than on any one employer.

4) Sit Down Strike: A sit-down strike is the type in which the employees do not move from their places of work. This puts pressure on the employee to meet the demands of the union.

5) Slow Down Strike: In this type of strike workers deliberately slow down their working process, but do not stop working, to incur losses to their employer. This type of strike is illegal as in the case (Sasa Musa Sugar Works (P) Ltd. vs. Shobrati Khan, 1959), the Supreme Court held that go-slow is not considered as strike within the ambit of Section 2(q), but it is a serious misconduct on part of the workmen.


6) Hunger Strike: In this form of industrial protest, workmen resort to fasting near the workplace in order to demand the employer to redress their grievances


7) Wild Cat Strikes: These strikes are conducted by workers or employees without the authority and consent of unions.


8) All-out Strike: A strike that embraces all workers involved in a dispute and that will continue for as long as it takes to secure a settlement. All-out strikes are different from selective strikes that involve only a proportion of the workforce and protest strikes that may last for only a day or two.


Causes of Strikes


· Dissatisfaction with company policies,

· Wrongful discharge,

· Long hours of work, (The Indian Express, 2015 )

· Minimum wages (The Economic Times, 2016)

Labour Strike Situation in India:


In India, right to protest is a fundamental right under Article 19 of the Constitution of India. But right to strike is not a fundamental right but a legal right and with this right statutory restriction is attached in the Industrial Dispute Act, 1947 which essentially means that strikes are legal with subject to preconditions.

Essentially a strike needs to have:

1) cessation of work due to demands

2) must be done by a body of persons employed in any industry

3) action in combination

4) concerted refusal

5) must be working in any establishment which can be called industry within the meaning of Section 2(j)


According to Section 22(1)


No person employed in a public utility service shall go on strike in breach of contract-

(a) Without giving to the employer notice of strike, as hereinafter provided, within six weeks before striking; or

(b) Within fourteen days of giving such notice; or (c) before the expiry of the date of strike specified in any such notice as aforesaid; or (d) During the pendency of any conciliation proceedings before a conciliation officer and seven days after the conclusion of such proceedings.

Analysis of Industrial Dispute Act, 1947

Section 23 of the ID Act gives a general prohibition on strikes and lockouts if said matter is pending before board, a Labour Court, Tribunal or national tribunal or arbitrator as mentioned under Section 10 & 10A or if the settlement is in operation.

Sub-section (1) of Section 22 of the ID Act requires public utility service workers to give a notice of strike to the employer. Workers can only then commence their strike after 14 days from issue of notice. This is done to give time for the employer to pay heed to the grievances of the employees and make suitable changes. Ultimately helping them minimizes losses from work stoppage.

The notice of strike given by the workers will be valid only for six weeks after which a fresh notice will required to be issued. These strikes are to come to a halt during pendant conciliation proceedings and one week after its conclusion.

A lock-out declared in consequence of an illegal strike or a strike declared in consequence of an illegal lock-out shall not be deemed to be illegal.

Conclusion

Strikes are not completely prohibited for Public Utility workers, including general workers of any organization, in India. Roll back of hostile labour laws reduces the probability of strikes. The government needs an ex-ante approach. In many countries, strikes are used as a last resort of redressal as it runs the risk of losing payments for jobs. The common misconception is that the workers strike because they do not like their work. When in reality, strikes are performed to receive the pay that the workers have worked hard for.


References


1. Central Government. (n.d.). Indian Kanoon. Retrieved from Indian Kanoon website: https://indiankanoon.org/doc/500379/

2. HRM. (n.d.). What is human resource. Retrieved from whatishumanresource.com: http://www.whatishumanresource.com/strikes#:~:text=Strike%20action%2C%20also%20called%20labour,in%20response%20to%20employee%20grievances.

3. Kambalingan vs. Indian Metal & Metallurgical Corporation, Writ Appeal No. 158 of 1960 (Madras High Court 11 March 11 , 1963).

4. News Click. (2020, January 8th). Largest Ever Strike in India Shakes Up Modi Govt. Retrieved from newsclick.in: https://www.newsclick.in/Nationwide-Workers-General-Strike-8-Jan-Modi-Government#:~:text=India%20woke%20up%20on%20January,economic%20policies%20and%20divisive%20politics.

5. Sasa Musa Sugar Works (P) Ltd. vs. Shobrati Khan, 1959 AIR 923 (Supreme Court of India April 29th, 1959).

6. The Economic Times. (2016, September 2nd). Strike by 18 crore workers all over India to push government to raise minimum wages. Retrieved from The Economic Times: https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics-and-nation/strike-by-18-crore-workers-all-over-india-to-push-government-to-raise-minimum-wages/articleshow/53981125.cms?from=mdr

7. The Indian Express. ( 2015 , July 8th). How inhumanly long work hours are killing young doctors, literally. Retrieved from indianexpress.com: https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/how-inhumanlylong-work-hoursare-killing-youngdoctors-literally-2/