Date: 13 October, 2020
by Upamanyu Ganguly, ILS Law College, Pune
The Industrial Relations Code (‘The Code’), 2019, entails the criteria for recognition of trade unions, industrial dispute resolution and the basic notion that surrounds strikes and lock-outs, standing orders and the like.
The Code is enacted in order to integrate three erstwhile industrial labour legislations, namely, the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947, the Trade Unions Act, 1926 and the Industrial Employment (Standing Orders) Act,1946.
Section 6 of The Code provides for the requirements for a trade union to be registered. Under Section 6, a trade union must have seven or more members along with ten percent of the workers or hundred workers are engaged in employment in the concerned industry to apply for registration as a Trade Union under The Code.
Section 7 gives certain discretionary powers to the executive of Trade Unions as well as the requirements the Trade Unions are required to give for registration such as name of the Trade Union, number of members, fees paid for such membership etc.
Negotiating councils have been defined under The Code as a union with seventy-five percent of the workers as members will be the sole negotiating council and
Section 42 of The Code provides for disputes to be referred to Arbitration voluntarily by the parties in dispute, through mutual consent, or through a pre-attested agreement.
Section 43 provides for a government appointed conciliating officer, who is a person basically appointed to settle any disputes that arise under The Code.
Section 44 lays the foundation for the government in the creation of Industrial Tribunals, with one judicial member and one administrative member constituting the bench to adjudicate disputes, and in case of any dispute that has a question of national importance, the government, by notification, set up a National Industrial Tribunal.
Courts of Enquiry and Labour Courts have been removed under the Code and the Dispute Resolution Mechanisms include Industrial Tribunals and National Industrial Tribunals.
STRIKES AND LOCKOUTS
Section 62 of The Code mandates that workers can go on strike, or employers can lock-out any number of workers after they have given a sixty day notice to the concerned party. Strikes or lock-outs that take place during the pendency of a dispute resolution proceeding, or sixty days after the proceedings have concluded are deemed to be illegal, under Section 63.
Section 63 also states that any strike or lock-out that is declared in consequence to an illegal strike or an illegal lock-out shall not be deemed to be illegal
Under The Code, the validity of strikes and lock-outs has been increased to sixty days from the original six-week limit. The definition of “strike” also includes “mass casual leaves”.
LAY-OFF AND RETRENCHMENT
Under Section 67 of The Code, any worker, who has worked for one year or more has been laid-off, the employer must pay the worker fifty per cent of the total sum of wages that the worker would have earned during the time he was laid-off, extending to forty-five days. If the lay-off goes beyond forty-five days, the compensation payable to the worker won’t go beyond forty-five days if there is an agreement between the employer and the worker.
Under Section 70, an employee cannot be retrenched without giving him a notice containing reasons for such retrenchment, or if the worker has been paid wages worth fifteen days of average pay or due to any notices served by the government.
Under The Code, threshold for laying-off and worker retrenchment has been increased from one-hundred to three-hundred
ANALYSIS OF THE CODE
The Code, essentially, gives more leeway to the employers when it comes to hiring and firing workers, with a noticeable increase in the threshold for worker lay-offs and retrenchment
Trade Unions and activists have pointed out that strikes are now virtually impossible to initiate due to the numerous restrictions The Code has laid down
The Executive branch of the Government has been given discretionary powers by the Code, which experts have called an undesirable move