Workers’ Participation in Management After Independence:
In fact, the first major step in the direction of workers’ participation in management in India was the enactment of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 with the dual purpose of prevention and settlement of industrial disputes. The Industrial Policy Resolution, 1948 advocated WPM by suggesting that labour should be in all matters concerning industrial production. Article 43 A of the Constitution of India has provided for WPM in these words:
“The State shall take steps, by suitable legislation, or in any other way, to secure the participation of workers in management of undertakings, establishments or other organisations engaged in an industry”.
The First Five-Year Plan and the successive plans emphasised the need for workers’ participation in management. For example, the Second Five-Year Plan’ stressed the need for WPM in the following words:
“It is necessary in this context that the worker should be made to feel that in his own way he is helping build a progressive state. The creation of industrial democracy, therefore, is a prerequisite for the establishment of a socialist society”.
The Government of India set up a ‘Study Group on Workers’ Participation in Management’, in 1956, consisting of representatives of the government, employers, and workers to examine the system of WPM in the UK, Sweden, France, Belgium, West Germany and Yugoslavia and make recommendations for the Indian case.
The Group submitted its report in May 1957 with the following recommendations:
- WPM schemes should be introduced in selected undertakings on a voluntary basis.
- A sub-committee consisting of representatives of workers, employers and government should be set up for considering the WPM in India.
The above recommendations, among other things, were accepted by 15th Indian Labour Conference held in July 1957. The Conference appointed a 12 member sub-committee to look into further details of the scheme. The recommendations made by the sub-committee were discussed in a “Seminar on Labour-Management Co-operation” held in New Delhi on January 31 and February 1, 1958. It drew up a “Draft Model Agreement” between labour and management for the establishment of the Joint Management Councils (JMCs) which would have the following three sets of functions:
First, to fulfill its functions as an advisory body.
Second, to receive information on certain matters.
Third, to fulfill administrative responsibilities.
Besides, the Seminar on Labour Management Co-operation also took the size of the Councils, its office bearers, term of office, etc. Thus, the Joint Management Councils (JMCs) were set up in 1958.
Following the recommendations of the Administrative Reforms Commission, the Government of India accepted the inclusion of the representatives of workers on the Board of Directors of public sector undertakings. Following this, the Nationalised Banks (Management and Miscellaneous Provisions) Scheme 1970 also provided for the appointment of worker director to their Board. One director was from among employees (who are workmen) and another from among officers for tenure of 3 years.
Thus up to July 1975, there had been three forms of workers’ participation in management introduced in India: Works Committees, Joint Management Councils and Workers-Directors (public sector) on Boards of Directors.
Under the Government of India’s 20-Point Economic Programmes, a new scheme of shops and plants councils was introduced in 1975 after the emergency was declared in June 1975. In the following year 1976, the Government of India amended the constitution to incorporate workers participation in management as one of the Directive Principles of State Policy.
In June 1977, the Government of India set up a high-powered Expert Committee on Companies and MRTP Acts under the Chairmanship of Rajinder Sachar with terms of reference to:
(i) Consider the provisions of the Companies Act and MRTP Act and
(ii) To suggest measures participation in management and share capital of companies can be brought about. The Sachar Committee submitted its report in August 1978.
Meanwhile, the Janata Government also set up a “Committee Workers’ Participation Management and Equity” in September 1977 under the Chairmanship of Ravindra Varma the then Union Minister of Labour The Committee consisted of 18 members representing Central Organisations of trade unions and employers and some of the States and professional institutions of management.
The strength of Committee increased to 21 by nominating three additional members in January 1978. The terms of reference of the Committee were to consider, among other things, the need for a statutory scheme for workers’ participation in management. The Committee was also to study and recommend an outline of a comprehensive scheme of workers participation at different levels of management in industrial establishments and undertakings
The Committee submitted its report to the Government in March 1979. The report showed that the majority of the members favoured adoption of a three-tier system of participation, viz., at the shop, plant and corporate or board levels. However, the employer of private sector did not favour board or corporate level participation in management. It also recommended to enact legislation on workers participation in management covering all undertakings, be public or private, employing 500 or more workers.
The Government accepted the recommendations made by the 21-Member Committee on Workers’ Participation in Management and Equity. Based on a review of the working of the various schemes of workers’ participation in management and experiences so gamed the Government formulated and notified a new comprehensive scheme on a voluntary basis for ‘Workers’ Participation in Management’ on 30th December, 1983.
The salient features of the scheme were:
- The scheme will be non-legislative.
- It will apply to all central public sector enterprises, expect those specifically exempted.
- It envisaged constitution of bipartite forums at shop and plant levels.
- The mode of representation of workers representatives was to be determined by consultation with the concerned unions.
- A wide range of work related issues were brought within the ambit of the councils.
However, a host of constraints such as multiplicity of unions, inter-union rivalry, lack of proper knowledge on the part of workers about the scheme, etc., served as stumbling blocks in the successful working of the scheme.
Participation of workers in management bill 1990 (Bill No. XXVIII of 1990):
So far, all the schemes pertaining to the workers’ participation in management have been non-statutory which failed to provide meaningful participation to workers in management.
To remedy the situation, the Government has, therefore, introduced a Bill in the Parliament on 25th May 1990 to provide for:
- Meaningful three-tier participation of workers in management in all industrial establishments.
- Formulation of scheme specifying criteria regarding nomination of representatives from workers.
- The principle of secret ballot for determining the representation of workers on the shop floor and establishment level councils.
- Rules for monitoring the scheme.
- Deletion of Section 3 of the Industrial Dispute Act, 1947.
- Rules for appointment of Inspector.
- Imprisonment up to 2 years or a fine up to Rs. 20,000 or both for contravention of the provisions.