The industrial labour display their protests in the form of strikes, gheraos, go slow tactics, demonstrations and so on, whereas the employers show their might by retrenchment, dismissals, lockouts etc. Industrial unrest causes industrial recession and decline in national income.
The Great Unrest, also known as the Great Labour Unrest, was a period of labour revolt between 1911 and 1914 in the United Kingdom. The agitation included the 1911 Liverpool general transport strike, the Tonypandy riots, the National coal strike of 1912 and the 1913 Dublin lockout. It was United Kingdom’s most significant labour unrest since the Industrial Revolution but is not as widely remembered as the 1926 general strike. The period of unrest was labelled “great” not because of its scale, but due to the level of violence employed by both the state and labourers; including deaths of strikers at the hands of police and sabotage on the part of the workers.
The major factors behind such unrest in recent times are as follows.
(a) The trade union leaders try image-building exercises.
(b) Taking advantage of the political instability the country, the trade union leaders seek concessions from the government and factory owners.
(c) Rampant trade unionism has led to a deteriorating work culture among workers.
(d) The New Economic Policy, 1984 empowered the employers to punish workers by endorsing the methods of lockout.
The share of lockouts in total man-days lost is on the increase. Thus, there has been a qualitative change in the industrial disputes which strongly suggests an unfavourable treatment of the labourers.
Causes of Industrial Unrest:
- Lack of Welfare and Social Security:
Social security measures can be divided into two categories
(i) Social insurance
(ii) Social assistance
Social insurance schemes are generally financed by the employees, employers and the State.
However, such welfare measures face the following problems:
- Lack of employment insurance
- Insufficient coverage
- Inherent bottlenecks of an exit policy
- Overlapping schemes
- Lack of facilities vis-a-vis requirement of beneficiaries.
- Wage Related Issues:
The wage levels in different industries vary tremendously. The disparity in wages between skilled and unskilled labour is large even within an enterprise. This is true in both the organised and the unorganised sectors. The demand for higher bonus has been a major cause for industrial disputes.
- Improved Working Conditions:
Demand for lesser working hours, better-safety measures, holidays, leave etc., provoke trade unions to fight against employers.
- Wave of Globalisation:
The new policy of Liberalisation has opened up the avenue of foreign investment in India resulting in an intense competition in the economy. The entrepreneurs are often forced to squeeze wages and push productivity for survival in today’s market-driven economy.
- New Lifestyles:
The workers are increasingly adopting new urban lifestyles and this is expensive and requires a larger income for the family. The workers are often drawn into industrial battle by such compulsions.
- Low-cost Production Alternatives:
The employers often defeat the purpose of trade unions by searching out low-cost production alternatives in the form of small-scale subsidiary units in smaller towns where low wages will do.
- Rising Wages and Low Productivity:
The big companies often close down their units because labour productivity often fails to keep pace with inflated wages. Such moves taken often invite industrial tension.