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Essay on Industrial Disputes in India


In this essay we will discuss about Industrial Disputes in India. After reading this essay you will learn about: 1. Definition of Industrial Disputes 2. Magnitude of Industrial Disputes in India 3. Causes 4. Settlements.


  1. Essay on the Definitions of Industrial Disputes
  2. Essay on the Magnitude of Industrial Disputes in India
  3. Essay on the Causes of Industrial Disputes in India
  4. Essay on the Settlements Industrial Disputes: Policy of the Government

1. Essay on the Definition of Industrial Disputes:

In capitalist and mixed economy, industrial disputes are very much common. Industrial disputes are the result of conflicts between employers and workers. While the employers are always trying to resist increase in wages and also try to increase the hours of work but the workers or employees are organising themselves through trade union for raising their wages along with betterment of other conditions of work.


In order to achieve their goal, workers are following the path of protests by resorting to gherao, go-slow, demonstrations, strikes etc. and the employers in order to enforce discipline and to safeguard their interest may go for retrenchment and dismissal of employees and in the extreme case may declare a lock-out.

Thus both the strikes and lock-outs are the two extreme measures followed by employees and employers respectively in extreme cases. Thus these sorts of conflicts between the employer and employees are known as industrial disputes. The industrial disputes result in huge loss of mandays as well as production.

The industrial relations are disturbed by industrial disputes and growing industrial disputes may pollute the entire industrial climate of the country leading to a total chaos in the economy.

2. Essay on the Magnitude of Industrial Disputes in India:

In India industrial disputes are growing with the progress of industrialisation in the country. Increasing price level, rising cost of living, growing industrial inefficiency, indiscipline and sickness are the most responsible factors for the growing industrial disputes in the country.


In 1951, total number of work stoppages was about 1,071 which involved nearly 6.9 lakh workers and resulted in a total loss of 38.2 lakh man-days. During the planning period, the problem of industrial disputes magnified considerably. In 1974, total number of work stoppages rose to 2,938 and number of workers involved significantly increased to 28.55 lakh resulting in a huge loss of 402.6 lakh man-days.

Due to the imposition of various suppressive measures during emergency in 1975, there was a significant fall in the case of industrial disputes. But after the restoration of normal conditions, there was a sudden spurt in industrial disputes during 1977 and 1978. 1992 experienced a prolonged general strike of textile workers in Bombay which resulted in a huge loss of man-days to the extent of 748 lakh in that year.

In recent years also, the industrial disputes remain unabated. Thus the number of man-days lost due to strikes and lockouts over industrial disputes was 307.7 lakh in 1989-90 which declined significantly to 236.0 lakh in 1990-91. But in 1991-92, there was a sharp increase in the man-days lost to the tune of 341.5 lakh. There has however, been a steep decline in the mandays lost in 1992-93 which stood at 22.97 million mandays.

This is mainly due to the fact that there were quite a few bandhs and strikes both at the state and national level and widespread social unrest. All these have resulted in a substantial loss in mandays worked and also in production. However, industrial unrest in general remained confined to cotton and jute textile and engineering industries located in the states like Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, West Bengal and Tamil Nadu.


A recent study made by the CMIE on the current position of industrial disputes in India shows that in 1992, total number of industrial disputes was 1,737 out of which 1034 were strikes and 703 were lockouts. Total number of workers involved in these disputes was 1.34 million. Total number of mandays lost was 2 lakh. The study shows that even during 1991 and 1992, lockouts accounted for nearly 53 per cent of man- days lost.

Thus this higher share of lock-outs in the total man-days lost is to be re-assessed and the factors responsible for such lock-outs should be tackled properly so that repeated use of lock-outs against the working class be controlled. Thus the policy of industrial relations should be updated considering the changes in the character and composition of industrial disputes.

Industrial relations have shown a steady improvement in the years following the economic reforms introduced in India. Mandays lost due to strikes and lockouts declined significantly from 34.57 million in 1991-92 to 20.44 million in 1993-94 and then to 17.99 million in 1995-96. This was mainly due to improvement in the industrial relations situations in Cotton, Engineering, Coal and non-Coal mining, Beverages, Tobacco and Tobacco products, Jute and Rubber industries.

During 1991-94, industrial unrest mainly witnessed in the states of Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra. Government’s proactive role through timely and effective conciliation of industrial disputes and involvement of the social partners in the formulation and implementation of labour and industrial relation policies and programme has successfully harmonised the interests of employers and workers through a change from confrontation to collaboration, and their appreciation that employment security is promised upon productivity and viability of the enterprise.

Table 9.20 shows the industrial relations scenario of the country in recent times:

Industrial Relations Scenario

There has been an improvement in the industrial relations scenario of the country in the 1990s as compared to the 1980s as reflected in the statement of mandays lost on account of strikes and lockouts. The above table reveals that the number of strikes which was 732 in 1995 has increased to 793 in 1997 and then it declined to 173 in 2012.

The number of lockouts also increased initially from 334 in 1995 to 512 in 1997 and then it declined to 121 in 2012. Total number of strikes and lockouts which was 1,066 in 1995, gradually increased to 1,305 in 1997 and then it declined to 181 in 2013. There have been a few instances of protests by workers in response to restructuring measures in the infrastructure sector like power and ports and docks.

The reduction in strikes and lockouts was more prominent in public sector and the central sphere compared to the private sector and the state sphere. The proactive role of the Government, seeking solutions through involvement of social partners in various tripartite for arriving at policies impending on labour interests, was responsible for bringing down the outbreak of strikes and lockouts.


The man-days lost on account of strikes and lockouts have however, increased from 16.3 million in 1995 to 3.29 million in 2013. Man-days lost due to strikes increased to 2.05 million whereas mandays lost due to lockouts decreased to 0.84 million in 2010.

Among the states, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat and West Bengal recorded most of the agitations. Cotton textiles, engineering and jute hemp and mesta textiles were the industrial groups which witnessed the maximum loss of mandays on account of strikes and lockouts.

In 1998, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Gujarat experienced maximum instances of strikes and lockouts. The industries facing the highest incidence of strikes and lockouts were coal, mining, engineering and cotton textiles.

Wage and wage related issues were the important reasons behind the strikes along with personal issues and retrenchment. There were also incidents of protests against privatisation and multi-nationals.


During 2007-08, till November 2007, West Bengal experienced the maximum instances of strikes and lockouts followed by Tamil Nadu and Gujarat. Industrial disturbances were concentrated mainly in textiles, financial intermediaries (excluding insurance and pension fund), engineering and chemical industries.

Considering the radical changes that have taken place in the domestic industrial scenario and the labour market, Second National Commission on Labour was set up to suggest among others, rationalisation of the existing laws in the organised sector so as to make them more relevant and appropriate in the changing context of globalisation and opening up of the Indian Economy.

3. Essay on the Causes of Industrial Disputes in India:

Causes of industrial disputes in India are varied. The following are some of the important causes of industrial disputes in India:

(i) Demand for Wages and Allowances:


The most striking cause of industrial disputes in India is the demand for higher wages and allowances by the workers. While the price level has been increasing constantly at a higher rate but the increase in the rate of wages could not keep pace with it. This led to a situation where workers resort to strike for raising their rate of wages.

In India most of the industrial disputes have resulted from demand for the higher wages. If steps could have been taken for ensuring a system of automatic adjustment process in the wages and prices then the number of disputes would have been reduced to minimum.

(ii) Demand for Bonus:

Another important cause of industrial disputes in India is the demand for bonus by the workers. This has resulted from workers’ increasing demand to share profits of the industrial units and employers’ non-acceptance of this provision. During emergency the government reversed its decision and reduced the rate of bonus from 8.33 per cent to 4 per cent. Later on the rate of minimum bonus was raised to 8.33 per cent again.

The economic demand for workers, i.e., for wages and bonus has resulted in about 46 to 50 per cent of industrial disputes in India during 1961-71 and during 1976-84 wages and bonus has been responsible for 32 to 40 per cent of industrial disputes in the country.

(iii) Personnel and Retrenchment:


Another important cause of industrial dispute in India is the retrenchment and personnel which accounted nearly 29 per cent of the total disputes during 1961-76. During 1981-84, these causes resulted in about 21 to 22 per cent of the total industrial disputes occurred in the country.

(iv) Demand for Improved Working Conditions:

Industrial disputes in India has also resulted from demand for improved working conditions such as leave, lesser hours of work, better working conditions like better safe measures, canteen facilities etc. About 2 to 3 per cent of the total disputes is resulted from such demand.

(v) Other Causes:

There are varieties of other causes which are also very much responsible for higher incidence of industrial disputes in the country. These causes include introduction of rationalisation measures in the factory, employers’ apathy to recognise trade unions, conflict between rival unions, insult of union leaders by the employer, fear of retrenchment arising through computerisation, strikes of political nature etc.

All these other causes are responsible for about 30 per cent of the disputes during 1961 and 1976 and around 40 per cent during 1981-86.

(vi) Lock-Outs:

Lock-out declared by the employers to counter the militant workers is also another important cause of industrial disputes in the country. Lock out is the result of prolonged strikes and irresponsible trade unionism.

The major causes of increasing number of lock outs are:

(a) lower labour productivity,

(b) rising wage rate,

(c) increasing competition arising through the introduction of liberalisation policy,

(d) higher degree of bargaining power of employer etc.

Thus the bargaining power of the trade unions has weakened considerably due to the policy of liberalisation and restructuring introduced in the country in recent years.

4. Essay on the Settlements of Industrial Disputes: Policy of the Government:

Growing industrial disputes is not a healthy sign of industrial development in the country. Thus from the very beginning the Government has been taking various steps and policies for the settlements of industrial disputes in the country.

The main objectives of industrial relation policy of India are:

(a) Prevention and peaceful settlement of industrial disputes and

(b) Promotion of better industrial relations.

The Industrial Disputes Act 1947 and its Amendments in 1956:

In order to prevent and settle the industrial disputes, the Government of India passed the Industrial Disputes Act in 1947 which was later on amended in 1956.

Following are some of the provisions of the Act to settle industrial disputes in the country:

(a) Work Committees:

Work committees are to be formed taking the employers and employees together for all undertakings employing 100 or more workers for maintaining good relations between them. At the end of December 1987, work committees were functioning in 546 establishments.

(b) Conciliation:

This Act permits the Government to appoint conciliation officers and also to constitute board of conciliation, representing employers and workers for the settlement of such disputes.

(c) Court of Enquiry:

When conciliation failed to yield any result then the matter must be referred to court of enquiry for making investigation on the dispute and report it to the Government.

(d) Labour Courts:

Labour Courts were set up by the State Governments to consider the disputed matters like dismissal, suspension of employees, legality of strikes and lock-outs etc.

(e) Industrial Tribunals:

Two types of industrial tribunals were set up by the Government which includes: (i) state tribunals and (ii) national tribunals. These tribunals are adjudicating disputes relating to wages, bonus, profit sharing etc. The adjudications of these tribunals has a binding on the concerned parties.

Moreover, in recent years some other practices are introduced for settling industrial disputes in the country.

These include:

(a) Formation of joint management Councils with the participation of workers in the management for bringing better relationship between management and labour;

(b) Introducing code of discipline evolved in Indian Labour Conference 1958 by which the employers and workers voluntarily agree to maintain mutual trust and co-operation within the industrial unit;

(c) Adopting industrial truce resolutions in 1962 by the central organisation of employers and employees pledging neither to interrupt nor to slow down production; and

(d) Setting up of National Arbitration promotion Board in July, 1967 by the Government for settling industrial disputes.

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