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Industrial Relations Bill renders strikes much more difficult

Workers to mandatorily provide a notice of two to six weeks to the employer before such action

It will become a substantial problem for the trade unions to call a strike if the proposed Industrial Relations Bill is enacted.

A provision in the draft Bill states the moment workers issue a notice to call a strike, they will not be able to take part in it because conciliation proceedings will begin when the notice reaches the conciliatory officer.

Statistics on Work Day LostWorkers in all industries will have to mandatorily provide a notice of two to six weeks to the employer before going on a strike. According to the proposed Bill, a strike will be termed illegal if it takes place during conciliation proceedings and during pendency of a case in the tribunal. When a strike notice is received by a conciliation officer, the proceedings will be deemed to have commenced.

"Conciliation proceedings shall be deemed to have commenced on the date a notice of strike or lockout is received by the conciliation officer," says the draft Bill.

At present, only workers in public utilities are required to issue a notice to employers before declaring a strike. It is only in public utilities that conciliatory proceedings begin when a notice reaches the conciliation officer. This will now be extended to all industries.

The punishment for participating in illegal strikes has increased manifold, making it more difficult for workers to stage an illegal strike. A worker participating in an illegal strike will have to pay a fine of Rs 20,000 which may extend to Rs 50,000 or imprisonment of one month or both. At present, a worker involved in an illegal strike has to pay Rs 50 as fine or imprisonment of up to one month or both.

Workers will not be allowed to 'go-slow', gherao, squat on premises or stage demonstrations at managers' houses during conciliation proceedings. Instigating "such forms of coercive action" will not be considered legal, according to the proposals.

Mass casual leave will be considered a strike. The proposal states if more than half the workers are on casual leave, it will be treated as a strike.

"The Bill has imposed so many restrictions that it will become practically impossible for trade unions to call a strike. No strike will ever be termed legal if the proposals in the Bill are enacted. This right of the worker will be snatched away. Penalties have also been raised steeply. Workers cannot go on strike even seven days after conclusion of conciliation," said A K Padmanabhan, president of the Centre of Indian Trade Unions.

The trade unions have opposed the Bill and have threatened to go on a day's strike on September 2. The Centre has set up a ministerial panel to address their demands.

It has Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office Jitendra Singh, Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan, Power Minister Piyush Goyal and Labour Minister Bandaru Dattatreya. The panel is likely to meet trade unions representatives in the last week of June.


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