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Industrial Acts and Legislations:
Industrial Disputes Act
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Industrial disputes are the disputes which arise due to any disagreement in an industrial relation. The term 'industrial relation' involves various aspects of interactions between the employer and the employees; among the employees as well as between the employers. In such relations whenever there is a clash of interest, it may result in dissatisfaction for either of the parties involved and hence lead to industrial disputes or conflicts. These disputes may take various forms such as protests, strikes, demonstrations, lock-outs, retrenchment, dismissal of workers, etc.

Some of the important causes of an industrial dispute are:-

  • Demand for higher wages and allowances.

  • Demand for payment of bonus and determination of its rate thereof.

  • Demand for higher social security benefits.

  • Demand for good and safer working conditions, including length of a working day, the interval and frequency of leisure and physical work environment.

  • Demand for improved labour welfare and other benefits. For example, adequate canteen, rest, recreation and accommodation facility, arrangements for travel to and from distant places,etc.

  • Besides, poor personnel management; conflicting legislative measure or government policies; and psychological factors such as denial of opportunity to the worker for satisfying his/ her basic urge for self-expression, personal achievement and betterment may also result in labour problems.

In India, the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 is the main legislation for investigation and settlement of all industrial disputes. The Act enumerates the contingencies when a strike or lock-out can be lawfully resorted to, when they can be declared illegal or unlawful, conditions for laying off, retrenching, discharging or dismissing a workman, circumstances under which an industrial unit can be closed down and several other matters related to industrial employees and employers.

The Act is administered by the Ministry of Labour through its Industrial Relations Division. The Division is concerned with improving the institutional framework for dispute settlement and amending labour laws relating to industrial relations. It works in close co-ordination with the Central Industrial Relations Machinery (CIRM) in an effort to ensure that the country gets a stable, dignified and efficient workforce, free from exploitation and capable of generating higher levels of output. The CIRM, which is an attached office of the Ministry of Labour, is also known as the Chief Labour Commissioner (Central) [CLC(C)] Organisation. The CIRM is headed by the Chief Labour Commissioner (Central). It has been entrusted with the task of maintaining industrial relations, enforcement of labour laws and verification of trade union membership in central sphere. It ensures harmonious industrial relations through:-

  • Monitoring of industrial relations in Central Sphere;

  • Intervention, mediation and conciliation in industrial disputes in order to bring about settlement of disputes;

  • Intervention in situations of threatened strikes and lockouts with a view to avert the strikes and lockouts;

  • Implementation of settlements and awards.

According to the Act, the term 'industrial dispute' means "any dispute or difference 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". The basic objectives of the Act are:-

  • To provide a suitable machinery for the just, equitable and peaceful settlement of industrial disputes.

  • To promote measures for securing and preserving amity and good relations between employers and employees.

  • To prevent illegal strikes and lockouts.

  • To provide relief to workers against layoffs, retrenchment, wrongful dismissal and victimisation.

  • To promote collective bargaining.

  • To ameliorate the conditions of workers.

  • To avoid unfair labour practices.

Under the Act, a statutory machinery has been constituted for conciliation and adjudication of industrial disputes. It includes:-

  • The Act provides for appointment of 'Conciliation Officers', by appropriate Government, charged with the duty of mediating in and promoting the settlement of industrial disputes. He/ she may be appointed for a specified area, or for specified industries in a specified area, or for one or more specified industries, either permanently or for a limited period. It is the duty of these officers to bring both the employees and employers together and help them to resolve their differences. If the dispute is settled, he/ she shall send a report, to that effect, to the appropriate Government.

  • The appropriate Government may, as occasion arises, constitute a 'Board of Conciliation', which shall consist of a chairman and two or four other members, as the appropriate Government thinks fit. The Chairman shall be an independent person and the other members shall be persons appointed in equal numbers to represent the parties to the dispute. Where a dispute has been referred to a Board, it shall, without delay, investigate the dispute and do all such things as it thinks fit for the purpose of inducing the parties to come to a fair and amicable settlement of the dispute.

  • The appropriate Government may, as occasion arises, also constitute a 'Court of Inquiry' to inquire into any matter appearing to be connected with or relevant to an industrial dispute. It shall, thereafter, report about it to the Government ordinarily within a period of six months from the commencement of its inquiry. Such a court may consist of one independent person or of such number of independent persons as the appropriate Government may think fit and where it consists of two or more members, one of them shall be appointed as the chairman.

  • The appropriate Government may constitute one or more 'Labour Courts' to adjudicate industrial disputes relating to any matter specified in the second schedule like issues related to standing orders, discharge or dismissal of workers, illegality or otherwise of strikes and lockouts, withdrawal of any customary benefit, etc. and to perform such other functions as may be assigned to them under the Act. A labour court shall consist of one person only to be appointed by the appropriate Government.

  • The appropriate Government may constitute one or more 'Industrial Tribunals' to adjudicate industrial disputes relating to any matter, whether specified in the second schedule or third schedule, and to perform such other functions as may be assigned to them under the Act. A tribunal shall consist of one person only to be appointed by the appropriate Government. The third schedule covers the matters such as wages, bonus, allowances and certain other benefits, certain working conditions, discipline, rationalisation, retrenchment and closure of establishment.

  • The Central Government may, by notification in the Official Gazette, constitute one or more 'National Industrial Tribunals' to adjudicate an industrial dispute which, in the opinion of the Central Government, involve questions of national importance or are of such a nature that industrial establishments situated in more than one State are likely to be interested in, or affected by, such disputes. Such a tribunal shall consist of one person only to be appointed by the Central Government.

  • The Act also makes it obligatory for an employer to set up a 'Grievance Settlement Authority (GSA)' in an industrial establishment in which fifty or more workers have been employed in the preceding twelve months. This authority shall have the responsibility to settle industrial disputes concerning an individual worker employed in that establishment.

No reference can be made under the Act to Conciliation Boards, Labour Courts or Industrial Tribunals, unless the dispute has first been the subject of a decision of a Grievance Settlement Authority.

Under the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947, the Central Government is the appropriate Government for investigation and settlement of industrial disputes in regard to the departmental undertakings of the Central Government, major ports, mines, oil fields, cantonment boards, banking and Insurance Companies, Life Insurance Corporation of India (LIC), Industrial Finance Corporation of India Limited, the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation Limited, the Indian Airlines, Air India, the Airport Authority of India and all air transport services. While in relation to other industrial establishments, the State Government is the appropriate Government.

Accordingly, Central Government Industrial Tribunals (CGITs) -cum- Labour Courts have been set up in different parts of the country. There are at present 17 CGITs to whom industrial disputes could be referred for adjudication. These CGITs-cum-Labour Courts are at New Delhi , Mumbai (2 CGITs ), Bangalore, Kolkata, Asansol, Dhanbad (2 CGITs ), Jabalpur, Chandigarh, Kanpur, Jaipur, Lucknow, Nagpur, Hyderabad, Chennai and Bhubaneshwar. Out of these CGITs, 2 CGITs namely Mumbai-I and Kolkata have been declared as National Industrial Tribunals.

Besides, the Organization of the Chief Labour Commissioner( Central) acts as the primary conciliatory agency in the Central Government for industrial disputes. There are the Regional Labour Commissioners (Central) and Assistant Labour Commissioners (Central) who on behalf of the Chief Labour Commissioner (Central) act as Conciliatory Officers in different parts of the country.

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Ministry of Labour and Employment
The Industrial Disputes Act, 1947
Industrial Relations Division
Central Industrial Relations Machinery (CIRM)
Labour Courts, Industrial Tribunals and National Tribunals
The Industrial Disputes (Amendment) Act, 1996
Monitoring of Industrial Relations
FAQ's on Industrial Disputes
Labour Bureau
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