Scope of Collective Bargaining
Collective bargaining broadly covers subjects and issues entering into the conditions and terms of employment. It is also concerned with the development of procedures for settlement of disputes arising between the workers and management.
A few important issues around which collective bargaining enters in this developing country are as follows:
“Recognition of the union has been an important issue in the absence of any compulsory recognition by law. In the under-developed countries in Asia, however, on account of the tradition concept of management functions and the immaturity of the industrialist class there is much resistance from the employers to recognise the status of the unions.”
Bargaining upon wage problems to fight inflation or rising cost of living and to resist wage cuts during depression has resulted in several amicable agreements. But, no statistics are available for such amicable settlements. Therefore, Daya, points out, “It has been customary to view collective bargaining in a pattern of conflict; the competitively small number of strikes and lock-outs attract more attention than the many cases of peaceful settlement of differences.”
Another issue on which bargaining takes place is seniority, but in India, it is of less importance than in western countries. But, in India, lay-off, retrenchment, dismissal, rationalisation and participation in the union activities have been important issues for collective bargaining.
Regarding bargaining on hours of work, it has recognized that “in one form or another subject of working time will continue to play an important part in collective bargaining; although the crucial battles may be well fought in the legislative halls.”
Overtime work, holidays, leave for absence and retirement continue to be issues for bargaining in India, although they are not regarded as crucial.
The union security has also been an issue for collective bargaining, but it could not acquire much importance in the country, although stray instances are found. The Tata Workers union bargained with M/s Tata Iron and Steel Co. Ltd., Jamshedpur, on certain issues, one of which was union security and in the resulting agreement some of the union security clauses were also included.
The production norms, technical practices, details of working rules, standards of performance, allowance of fatigue, hiring and firing, protection of life and limb, compensation for overtime, hours of work, wage rates and methods of wage payments, recognition of unions, retrenchment, union security, holidays and competence of workmen form the subjects of negotiations and agreements through collective bargaining. Customary practices are evolving procedures to extend the area of collective bargaining. Collective bargaining has been giving official sanction to trade experiences and agreements.
Collective bargaining, thus, covers the negotiation, administration, interpretation, application and enforcement of written agreement between employers and unions representing their employees setting forth joint understanding, as to policies and procedures governing wages, rates of pay, hours of work and other conditions of employment.
The collective bargaining reached has been of three types:
(1) Agreement arrived at after voluntary direct negotiations between the parties concerned. Its implementation is purely voluntary;
(2) Agreements between the two parties, though voluntary in nature, are compulsory when registered as settlement before a conciliator; and
(3) Agreement which have legal status negotiated after successful discussion between the parties when the matter of dispute is under reference to industrial tribunal/courts.
Many agreements are made voluntarily but compulsory agreements are not negligible. However, collective bargaining and voluntary agreements are not as prominent as they are in other industrially advanced countries. The practice of collective bargaining in India has shown much improvement after the passing of some legislation like The Industrial Disputes Act 1947 as amended from time to time. The Bombay Industrial Relations Act 1946 which provided for the rights of workers for collective bargaining. Since then, a number of collective bargaining agreements have been entered into.
Issues Involved in Collective Agreements:
A study conducted by the Employer’s Federation of India revealed that out of 109 agreements, ‘wages’ was the most prominent issue in 96 cases (88 percent) followed by dearness allowance (59 cases) retirement benefits (53 cases), bonus (50 cases) other issues involved were annual leave, paid holidays, casual leave, job classification, overtime, incentives, shift allowance, acting allowance, tiffin allowance, canteen and medical benefits.
A study of various collective agreements entered into in India, certain trends in collective bargaining are noticeable.
(i) Most of the agreements are at plant level. However, some industry-level agreements are also there;
(ii) The scope of agreements has been widening now and now includes matters relating to bonus, productivity, modernisation, standing orders, voluntary arbitration, incentive schemes, and job evaluation;
(iii) Long term agreements ranging between 2 to 5 years, are on increase;
(iv) Joint consultation in various forms has been provided for in a number of agreements; and feasible and effective.
Reasons for the Growth of Collective Bargaining:
(1) Statutory Provisions:
Which have laid down certain principles of negotiations, procedure for collective agreements and the character of representation of the negotiating parties?
(2) Voluntary Measures:
Such as tripartite conferences, joint consultative boards, and industrial committees at the industry level have provided an ingenious mechanism for the promotion of collective bargaining practices.
(3) Several Governments Measures:
Like schemes for workers’ education, labour participation in management, the evolution of the code of Inter-union Harmony, the code of Efficiency and Welfare, the Code of Discipline, the formation of Joint Management Councils, Workers Committees and Shop Councils, and the formulations of grievances redressal procedure at the plant level— have encouraged the collective bargaining.
(4) Amendments to the Industrial Disputes Act:
The Amendments to the Industrial Disputes Act in 1964 provided for the termination of an award or a settlement only when a proper notice is given by the majority of workers. Agreements or settlements which are arrived at by a process of negotiation on conciliation cannot be terminated by a section of the workers.
(5) Industrial Truce Resolution:
The Industrial Truce Resolution of 1962 has also influenced the growth of collective bargaining. It provides that the management and the workers should strive for constructive cooperation in all possible ways and throws responsibility on them to resolve their differences through mutual discussion, conciliation and voluntary arbitration peacefully.
Government Policy to Encourage Collective Bargaining:
Ever since independence, it has been the declared policy of the Central Government to encourage trade unions development and the settlement of differences in industry by mutual agreement.
Article 19 of the constitution guarantees for all citizens the right to form associations or unions, only by reserving to the state powers in the interest of public order to impose reasonable restrictions on the exercise of this right.
The Industrial policy Resolution of 1956 declared that, “in a socialist democracy labour is a partner in the common task of development”, thus following out the resolution of the Lok Sabha of 1954 which set India on the path towards a “‘socialistic pattern of society.”