Strike and lock-out are two powerful weapons in the hands of the workers and the employers. Strike signifies the suspension or stoppage of work by the worker while in case of lock-out the employer compels persons employed by him to accept his terms or conditions by shutting down or closing the place of business. Strike is recognized as an ordinary right of social importance to the working class to ventilate their grievances and thereby resolve industrial conflict.
Skillful use of these weapons, whether threatened or actual, may help one party to force the other to accept its demand or atleast to concede something to them. But reckless use of them results in the risk of unnecessary stoppage of work hurting both parties badly creating worse tensions, frictions and violations of law and order. From the point of view of the public, they retard the nation’s economic development. India cannot tolerate frequent stoppage of work for frivolous reasons that often accompany it.
For these reasons, the Industrial Disputes Act seeks to regulate and restrict strikes and lockouts so that neither the workmen nor employers may hold the nation to ransom.
Strike as defined in clause (q) of Section 2 of the Act means:
- Cessation of work by a body of persons employed in any industry acting in combination; or
- A concerted refusal of any number of persons who are or have been employed in any industry to continue to work or to accept employment; or
- A refusal under a common understanding of any number of persons who are or have been employed in any industry to continue to work or to accept employment.
Thus the definition given in the act postulates three main things or ingredients:
- Plurity of workmen;
- Combination or concerted action;
- Cessation of work or refusal to do work.
- Historical Background
Strikes came into existence in the wake of the Industrial Revolution. With the invention of machinery to supplant human labour, unemployment, lowering of wages in a competitive market, supply of labour in excess of demand – became the order of the day. The first known strike was in 12th century B .C., in Egypt. workers under Pharaoh Rames III stopped working on the Necroplis until they nwere treated better.
The use of the English word ‘strike’ first appeared in 1768 when sailors in support of demonstrations in London, “struck or removed the top gallant sails of merchant ship at port thus, the crippling the ships.
As the 19th century progressed, strikes became a fixture of industrial relations across the industrialized world, as workers organized themselves to bargaining for better wages and standards with their employees.
The 1974 railway strikes in India was the strike by workers of Indian Railways in 1974. The 20 days strike by 17 lakh workers is the largest known strike in India. The strike was held to demand a raise I pay scales, which had remained stagnant over many years, in spite of the fact that pay scales of other government owned entities had risen over the years.
Strikes became common during the Industrial Revolution, when mass labor became important in factories and mines. In most countries, strike action were quickly made illegal, as factory owners had far more political power than workers. However ,most western countries partially legalized striking in the 19th or early 20th centuries.
Strike means the stoppage of work by a body of workmen acting in concert with a view to bring pressure upon the employer to concede to their demands during an industrial dispute.
Cessation of work or refusal to work is an essential element of strike. This is the most significant characteristic of the concept of strike. There can be no strike if there is no cessation of work.
Causes of Strikes
In the early history of labor troubles the causes of strikes were few. They arose chiefly from differences as to rates of wages, which are still the most fruitful sources of strikes, and from quarrels growing out of the dominant and servient relations of employers and employees. While labor remained in a state of actual or virtual servitude, there was no place for strikes. With its growing freedom “conspiracies of workmen” were formed, and strikes followed. The scarcity of labor in the fourteenth century, and the subsequent attempts to force men to work at wages and under conditions fixed by statute, were sources of constant difficulties, while the efforts to continue the old relation of master and servant with its assumed rights and duties, a relation law recognizes to this day, were, and still are, the causes of some of the most bitter strikes that have ever occurred.
- Strikes are caused by different way :
- Rates of wages and demands for advances or reductions i.e. Bonus, profit sharing, provident fund and gratuity.
- Payment of wages, changes in the method, time or frequency of payment;
- Hours of labor and rest intervals;
- Administration and methods of work, for or against changes in the methods of work or rules and methods of administration, including the difficulties regarding laborsaving machinery, piece-work, apprentices and discharged employees;
- Trade unionism.
- Retrenchment of workmen and closure of establishment. Wrongful discharge or dismissal of workmen
- Kind of Strike :
There are mainly 3 kind of strikes ;
- General Strike
- Stay-in-Strike &
- Go slow
- General Strike
In General Strike, the workmen join together for common cause and stay away from work, depriving the employer of their labour needed to run his factory. Token Strike is also a kind of General Strike. Token Strike is for a day or a few hours or for a short duration because its main object is to draw the attention of the employer by demonstrating the solidarity and co-operation of the workers. General Strike is for a longer period. It is generally resorted to when employees fail to achieve their object by other means including a token strike which generally proceeds a General Strike. The common forms of such strikes are organized by central trade unions in railways, post and telegraph, etc. Hartals and Bundhs also fall in this category.
It is also known as ‘tools-down-strike’ or ‘pens-down-strike. It is the form of strike where the workmen report to their duties, occupy the premises but do not work. The employer is thus prevented from employing other labour to carry on his business.
- Go slow
In a ‘Go-Slow’ strike, the workmen do not stay away from work. They do come to their work and work also, but with a slow speed in order to lower down the production and thereby cause loss to the employer.
In addition to these three forms of strike which are frequently resorted to by the industrial workers, a few more may be cited although some of them are not strike within the meaning of section 2(q).
- Hunger Strike: In Hunger Strike a group of workmen resort to fasting on or near the place of work or the residence of the employer with a view to coerce the employer to accept their demands
- Sympathetic Strike: A Sympathetic Strike is resorted to in sympathy of other striking workmen. It is one which is called for the purpose of indirectly aiding others. Its aim is to encourage or to extend moral support to or indirectly to aid
- Work to rule: Here the employees strictly adhere to the rules while performing their duties which ordinarily they do not observe. Thus strict observance of rules results in slowing down the tempo of work causes inconvenience to the public and embarrassment to the employer. It is no strike because there is no stoppage of work at all.