Collective Bargaining Practices in India

Collective bargaining in India has been the subject matter of industrial adjudication since long and has been defined by our Law Courts .Collective bargaining is a technique by which dispute as to conditions of employment is resolved amicably by agreement rather than coercion. Collective Bargaining machinery essentially is a reflection of a particular social and political climate. The history of the trade union movement shows that union is affiliated to one or the other political parties. As a result most of the trade unions are controlled by outsiders. Critic says that the presence of outsiders is one of the important reasons for the failure of collective bargaining in India.

The Trade Unions Act, 1926, permits outsiders to be the office bearers of a union to the extent of half the total number of office bearers. So, it permits one to be the leader of the union who does not actually work in the industry. Sometimes a dismissed employee working as a union leader may create difficulties in the relationship between the union and the employer.

Nevertheless, experience shows that outsiders who have little knowledge of the background of labor problems, history of labor movement, fundamentals of trade unionism and the technique of the industry and with even little general education assume the charge of labor union and become the self-appointed custodian of the welfare of workers. The employers, therefore, have been reluctant to discuss and negotiate industrial matters with outsiders, who have no personal or direct knowledge of day to day affairs of the industry.

The process of collective bargaining is not likely to succeed unless the threat of strike/lockout is there in the back-ground. Strike and lock-out are the weapons used by both the parties daring the collective bargaining process. Without having these weapons at hands, neither of the party to the dispute can defeat the claim of the other. The peculiar feature of our country while compared to the advanced nations of the world is that the economic condition of the workers is very poor and as a result they cannot afford a long standing strike.

In Indian labor arena we see, multiplicity of unions and Inter-union rivalry. Statutory provisions for recognizing unions as bargaining agents are absent. It is believed that the institution of collective bargaining is still in its preliminary and organizational stage. State, therefore, must play a progressive and positive role in removing the pitfalls which have stood in the way of mutual, amicable and voluntary settlement of labor disputes.

The labor policy must reflect a new approach. Hitherto the State has been playing a dominant role in controlling and guiding labor-management relation through its lopsided adjudication machinery. The role of the industrial adjudicator virtually differs from that of a judge of ordinary civil court.

The judge of a civil court has to apply the law to the case before him and decide rights and liabilities according to its established laws, whereas industrial adjudicator has to adjust and reconcile the conflicting claims of disputants and rights and obligations of the disputants. In deciding industrial disputes the adjudicator is free to apply the principle of equity and good conscience.

For an effective Collective Bargaining in India, recognition of trade union has to be determined through verification of fee membership method. The union having more membership should be recognized as the effective bargaining agent. The State should enact suitable legislation providing for compulsory recognition of trade union by employers. The provision for political fund by trade unions has to be done away with since it invariably encourages the politicians to prey upon the union. State has to play a progressive role in removing the pitfalls which stand in the way of mutual, amicable and voluntary settlement of labor disputes.

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