Prior to the year 1947, industrial disputes were being settled under the provisions of the Trade Disputes Act, 1929. Experience of the working of the 1929 Act revealed various defects which needed to be overcome by a fresh legislation. Accordingly the Industrial Disputes Bill was introduced in the Legislature. The Bill was referred to the select committee. On the recommendations of the Select Committee amendments were made in the original Bill.
The Industrial Disputes Bill having been passed by the Legislature received its assent on 11th March, 1947. It came into force on first day of April, 1947 as THE INDUSTRIAL DISPUTES ACT, 1947 (14 of 1947).
According to this Act, no employer can take an action against any workman for any misconduct during the pendency of an industrial dispute in conciliation, arbitration and adjudication, except with the prior written permission of the authority concerned [Central Labour Commissioner or his Officers]. In matters, not concerned with the dispute, the employer can take action. However if such action involves discharge/ dismissal, the employer has to pay the workman wages for one month, and simultaneously apply to the authority for the approval of such action.
The Industrial Disputes (Amendment) Act, 2010 (No. 24 of 2010), has come into force from 15th September, 2010. The Industrial Disputes (Amendment) Act, 2010 have brought few significant changes to the Industrial Disputes Act, which are produced under the following headings:
Section 2 (a) : Amplification of the definition of the Appropriate Government
The Amendment Act, 2010 has amplified the definition of “appropriate government” under Section 2(a) of the Act. The Central Government is the appropriate Government as per the categories listed in Section 2 (a)(i) of the Industrial Dispute Act, 1947. Adding up to this, it is further clarified that “Central Government would be appropriate government for any company in which not less than 51 percent of the paid up share capital is held by the Central Government, or any corporation, established by or under any law made by the Parliament, or the Central Public Sector Undertaking, subsidiary companies set up by the principal undertaking and autonomous bodies owned or controlled by the Central Government. Further, State Government is also covered under the definition of appropriate Government in relation to any other industrial dispute, which includes the State Public Sector Undertaking, subsidiary companies set up by the principal undertaking and autonomous bodies owned or controlled by the State Government.” The Act has incorporated the recommendation of the Standing Committee, to amplify the definition of “appropriate government”, in order to eliminate all the ambiguities in interpretation of the definition. Henceforth, the industrial disputes between a contractor and contract labour employed in any industry is also brought under the purview of “appropriate government” i.e. Central or State Government, as the case may be.
Section 2 (s) (iv) : Enhancement of wage ceiling in the definition of workmen
The wage ceiling limit in the definition of workmen under Section 2(s) (iv) of ID Act, 1947 has been enhanced from Rs. 1,600 per month to Rs. 10,000 per month. This ceiling limit enhancement is done to bring in the wages of industrial workers in parity with different labour laws.
Section 2A – Direct reference of disputes relating to Termination/ Dismissal/ Retrenchment/ Discharge to Industrial Tribunals
By the Amendment Act, 2010, a, provision has been made for the workman/employee pertaining to retrenchment, discharge, dismissal or termination of services etc. to directly approach the Labour Court or Tribunal for adjudication of disputes after the expiry of three months from the date he had made the application to the conciliation officer of the appropriate government. The application shall be made to the Labour Court or Tribunal before the expiry of three years from the date of discharge, dismissal, retrenchment or otherwise termination of service.
Chapter IIB – Substitution of new chapter IIB titled as Grievance Redressal Machinery(GRM)
The amendment provides that, every industrial establishment employing 20 or more workmen shall have to constitute one or more Grievance Redressal Committee (GRC) within their organization for the resolution of disputes arising out of individual grievances. The Grievance Redressal Committee shall consist of equal number of members from the employer and workman and the total number of members should not exceed more than six. And as far as practicable, if the committee has two members out of which one member should be a woman, and in case of increase in number of members, the participation of women members may be increased appropriately. The GRC may complete its proceeding within 45 days on receipt of a written application by or on behalf of the aggrieved party. The setting up of the GRM will in no way effect the right of the workman to raise dispute on the same issue under provisions of this Act. The workman aggrieved of the decision of the GRC may prefer an appeal to the employer, who shall within one month from the date of receipt of such appeal, dispose of the same and send a copy of the same to the workman concerned.
Section 7 and 7A – Scope of qualification of Presiding Officers
The scope of qualifications of Presiding Officers of Tribunal and Labour Court has been expanded. Now the Deputy Chief Labour Commissioner (Central) or Joint Labour Commissioner of the State Labour Department or Grade III officer of the Indian Legal Service will be eligible for appointment for the post of Presiding Officers.
Section 38(2)(c) – Changes in salaries and other terms and conditions of Presiding Officer
As per the amendment in Section 38(2)(c) there is a specific provision in the Act, according to which the appropriate government will frame rules to decide and review salaries, allowance and other terms and conditions for the appointment of Presiding Officers.
Section 11 – Enforcement of Orders arrived at by Labour Court or Tribunal
The amendment lays down that the awards, orders of settlements arrived at by the Labour Court or Tribunal will be executed in accordance with the procedure laid down for execution of orders and decree of Civil Court. This is to check the better enforcement of the awards passed by the Labour Courts or Tribunal and to empower them.
Conclusion: The amendments will serve to address few issues that have been pressing all stake holders. The important among them are the following:
- The introduction of permanent grievance machinery which will help employees, trade unions and employers settle issues at the work place itself, instead of dragging it through long and laborious process.
- The enhancement in the salary levels for consideration under the act, will not only bring harmony between legislations, but also enhance the coverage and protection for workers.
- Another area of change will be on labour administration front, where by changing the definitions of qualification and reviewing remuneration of Presiding offices, efficiency of the system can be improved.