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Types of Industrial Disputes: 7 Major Types


Everything you need to know about the types of industrial disputes. According to the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947, Section 2(k), “Industrial disputes means any dispute or difference between employers and employers, or between employers and workmen or between workmen and workmen, which is connected with the employment or non-employment or terms of employment or with the conditions of labour of any person.”

Industrial disputes, mean disputes relating to existing industry. It must be a real dispute and the person regarding whom the dispute is raised and the parties to a dispute must have a direct or substantial interest.

Some of the types of industrial disputes are:- 1. Strikes 2. Lockouts 3. Picketing 4. Gherao 5. Lay Off 6. Retrenchment 7. Boycott.

Types of Industrial Disputes: Strikes, Lockouts, Picketing, Gherao, Lay Off, Retrenchment and Boycott

Types of Industrial Disputes – Strikes, Lockouts, Picketing and Gherao 

Industrial disputes are a part of organizational life and arise out of various economic or non-economic causes. The economic causes relate to compensation such as wages, bonus, allowances, conditions of work, working hours, leave, holidays without pay, unjust layoffs, and retrenchments. The non-economic factors include victimization of workers, ill-treatment by staff members, sympathetic strikes, political factors, indiscipline, etc.


Trade unions and other forums generally bargain for higher wages and allow­ances to meet the rising cost of living and to increase their standards of living. Differences of opinion in these issues lead to disputes. Retrenchment and layoffs also continue to be important factors that give rise to industrial disputes. Indiscipline, unruliness, disorderliness, disruptive behaviour, aggres­sion, hostility, violence, etc., jeopardize the normal working in any type of organization. Industrial disputes also revolve around the number of leaves and working hours though they have not been so important causes.

Industrial disputes can be broadly categorized in the following ways:

Type # 1. Strikes:

A strike is a very powerful weapon used by trade unions and other labour associations to get their demands accepted. It generally involves quitting of work by a group of workers for the purpose of bringing the pressure on their employer so that their demands get accepted. When workers collectively cease to work in a particular industry, they are said to be on strike.


According to Industrial Disputes Act 1947, a strike is “a cessation of work by a body of persons employed in an industry acting in combination; or a concerted refusal of any number of persons who are or have been so employed to continue to work or to accept employment; or a refusal under a common understanding of any number of such persons to continue to work or to accept employment”.

This definition throws light on a few aspects of a strike. Firstly, a strike is a referred to as stoppage of work by a group of workers employed in a particular industry. Secondly, it also includes the refusal of a number of employees to continue work under their employer.

In a strike, a group of workers agree to stop working to protest against something they think is unfair where they work. Labours withhold their services in order to pressurize their employment or government to meet their demands. Demands made by strikers can range from asking for higher wages or better benefits to seeking changes in the workplace environment. Strikes sometimes occur so that employers listen more carefully to the workers and address their problems.

Causes of Strikes:


Strikes can occur because of the following reasons:

1. Dissatisfaction with company policy

2. Salary and incentive problems

3. Increment not up to the mark

4. Wrongful discharge or dismissal of workmen

5. Withdrawal of any concession or privilege

6. Hours of work and rest intervals

7. Leaves with wages and holidays

8. Bonus, profit sharing, provident fund and gratuity


9. Retrenchment of workmen and closure of establishment

10. Dispute connected with minimum wages

Types of Strikes:

i. Economic Strike:


Under this type of strike, labours stop their work to enforce their economic demands such as wages and bonus. In these kinds of strikes, workers ask for increase in wages, allowances like traveling allowance, house rent allowance, dearness allowance, bonus and other facilities such as increase in privilege leave and casual leave.

ii. Sympathetic Strike:

When workers of one unit or industry go on strike in sympathy with workers of another unit or industry who are already on strike, it is called a sympathetic strike. The members of other unions involve themselves in a strike to support or express their sympathy with the members of unions who are on strike in other undertakings. The workers of sugar industry may go on strike in sympathy with their fellow workers of the textile industry who may already be on strike.

iii. General Strike:


It means a strike by members of all or most of the unions in a region or an industry. It may be a strike of all the workers in a particular region of industry to force demands common to all the workers. These strikes are usually intended to create political pressure on the ruling government, rather than on any one employer. It may also be an extension of the sympathetic strike to express generalized protest by the workers.

iv. Sit Down Strike:

In this case, workers do not absent themselves from their place of work when they are on strike. They keep control over production facilities. But do not work. Such a strike is also known as ‘pen down’ or ‘tool down’ strike. Workers show up to their place of employment, but they refuse to work.

They also refuse to leave, which makes it very difficult for employer to defy the union and take the workers’ places. In June 1998, all the Municipal Corporation employees in Punjab observed a pen down strike to protest against the non-acceptance of their demands by the state government.


v. Slow Down Strike:

Employees remain on their jobs under this type of strike. They do not stop work, but restrict the rate of output in an organized manner. They adopt go-slow tactics to put pressure on the employers.

vi. Sick-Out (Or Sick-In):

In this strike, all or a significant number of union members call in sick on the same day. They don’t break any rules, because they just use their sick leave that was allotted to them on the same day. However, the sudden loss of so many employees all on one day can show the employer just what it would be like if they really went on strike.

vii. Wild Cat Strikes:

These strikes are conducted by workers or employees without the authority and consent of unions. In 2004, a significant number of advocated went on wild cat strike at the City Civil Court premises in Bangalore. They were protesting against some remarks allegedly made against them by an Assistant Commissioner.

Type # 2. Lockouts:

A lockout is a work stoppage in which an employer prevents employees from working. It is declared by employers to put pressure on their workers. This is different from a strike, in which employees refuse to work. Thus, a lockout is employers’ weapon while a strike is raised on part of employees.

According to Industrial Disputes Act 1947, lockout means the temporary closing of a place of employment or the suspension of work or the refusal by an employer to continue to employ any number of persons employed by him.

A lockout may happen for several reasons. When only part of a trade union votes to strike, the purpose of a lockout is to put pressure on a union by reducing the number of members who are able to work.

For example, if a group of the workers strike so that the work of the rest of the workers becomes impossible or less productive, the employer may declare a lockout until the workers end the strike. Another case in which an employer may impose a lockout is to avoid slowdowns or intermittent work-stoppages. Occupation of factories has been the traditional method of response to lockouts by the workers’ movement.

Type # 3. Picketing:

When workers are dissuaded from work by stationing certain men at the factory gates, such a step is known as picketing. If picketing does not involve any violence, it is perfectly legal. Pickets are workers who are on strike that stand at the entrance to their workplace. It is basically a method of drawing public attention towards the fact that there is a dispute between the management and employees.

The purpose of picketing is:

a. To stop or persuade workers not to go to work

b. To tell the public about the strike

c. To persuade workers to take their union’s side

Type # 4. Gherao:

Gherao in Hindi means to surround. It denotes a collective action initiated by a group of workers under which members of the management are prohibited from leaving the industrial establishment premises by workers who block the exit gates by forming human barricades. The workers may gherao the members of the management by blocking their exits and forcing them to stay inside their cabins. The main object of gherao is to inflict physical and mental torture to the person being gheraoed and hence this weapon disturbs the industrial peace to a great extent.

Prohibition of Strikes and Lockouts:

Employees are prohibited from striking according to the section 22 of Industrial Disputes Act, 1947. Employees, who are working in a public utility service, cannot go on a strike without giving a notice of strike within the six weeks before striking. They cannot go on strike either within fourteen days of providing the strike notice or before the expiry of the date of strike specified in any such notice.

The same rule applies to the employers. Employers who are carrying on a public utility service cannot lockout any of their employees without giving them a prior notice within six weeks before the lockout or within the fourteen days of giving such a notice. Moreover, the notice of strike or lockout is to be given in a prescribed manner showing the number of persons involved in the strike/lockout.

A notice should be issued on the day on which the lockout is declared just to intimate the appropriate authorities about the lockout. The employer is supposed to report the number of notices of strikes received by him to the appropriate government or the authority prescribed by the government within the five days of receiving such notices.

Illegal Strikes and Lockouts:

A strike or a lockout is illegal if it is declared in noncompliance with the section 22 of Industrial Disputes Act 1947, that is, if the notice period is not served or if the strike is held within the fourteen days of issuing the notice of strike. If a strike or lockout has already taken place and is being referred to a Board, the continuance of such a strike or lockout is not illegal provided it is in compliance with the provisions of Act. Moreover, a lockout declared in consequence of an illegal strike or a strike declared in consequence of an illegal lockout shall not be deemed to be illegal.

Penalty for Illegal Strikes and Lockouts:

A workman who is involved in an illegal strike can be penalized with imprisonment for a term extendable to a month or with a fine or fifty rupees or both. In similar way, an employer who initiates and continues a lockout is punishable with imprisonment extendable to a month or with a fine of one thousand rupees or both.

According to Section 25 of Industrial Disputes Act 1947, no person should provide any sort of financial aid to any illegal strike or lockout. Any person who knowingly provides such a help in support of any illegal strike or lockout is punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to six months, or with fine which may extend to one thousand rupees, or with both.

Types of Industrial Disputes – Strike and Lockouts

Industrial disputes are basically of two types:

1. Strike and

2. Lockouts.

1. Strikes:

Strikes are the off-shoot of more fundamental maladjustments, injustice, and economic disturbances. According to Peterson, “Strike is a temporary cessation of work by a group of employees in order to express their grievances or to enforce a demand concerning changes in work conditions”.

According to Section 2(q) of the Industrial Dispute Act, 1947, “Strike is a cessation of work by a body of persons employed in any industry acting on combination, or a concerted refusal under a common understanding of a number of persons who are or have been employed to continue to work or to accept employment”.

Strikes are of two types, namely:

i. Primary Strikes and

ii. Secondary Strikes.

i. Primary Strikes:

These are strikes against the management.

The different types are:

a. Stay away strike – Workmen stay away from the work by organizing rallies, demonstrations etc.

b. Sit down strike – Workmen come to work but sit idle.

c. Tools/pens down strike – Strikers do not touch tools, put down pens in case of office workers and do not teach in case of teachers.

d. Token strike – Strikers do not work for certain hours to warn the management of impending full scale strike in case of its persistent indifference to their demands.

e. Lightening strike – Strike called out without any prior notice is lightning strike.

f. Go slow strike – Workers reduce their pace of functioning.

g. Work to rule – Workmen work strictly according to rule or job description without doing any extra work and not staying late even for a single minute after their stipulated work time.

h. Boycott – Disturbing the normal functions of an enterprise is boycotting.

i. Gherao – It is a physical blockage of a target area by encirclement intended to block the entry and exit from the premises.

j. Hunger strike – Strikers abstain from food for a limited number of hours in a day to register their protest thereby drawing the attention of management to their demands.

k. Picketing – It is an act of posting pickets or patrolling of workmen in front of the premises of the employer.

ii. Secondary Strikes:

These are strikes against a third party. Hartals, political bandhs, etc., are examples of secondary strike.

Legal Strike or Justifiable Strike:

The following requirements make strike a justifiable strike:

i. Strike called for pressing economic demands like pay hike, DA, increments, leave, fringe benefits, etc.

ii. Demands of workers are reasonable, for example, inhuman working environment, unsafe, production process, lack of canteen or transport, housing facilities, etc.

iii. Summary withdrawal of existing facilities like closure of PR, ration benefit, education loan, healthcare benefit, insurance benefit, etc.

iv. Management pursuing unfair labour practices.

Prevention of Strike:

The following measures prevent strike:

i. Progressive HR policy aimed at maintaining cordial industrial relation.

ii. Speedy grievance redressal system.

iii. Proper recognition given to union representatives.

iv. Timely implementation of HR policies.

v. Encouraging collective bargaining.

vi. Promoting joint consultation across various levels of the organization.

vii. Providing congenial work environment.

viii. Effective implementation of labour welfare measures.

ix. Putting in place sound incentive system.

x. Practicing participative management.

xi. Impeccable recruitment, selection and promotion policies.

xii. Ensuring effective two-way communication.

xiii. Sharing vital financial information with workers and increasing contact with workmen.

xiv. Sharing gains of participation with the workers.

xv. Arranging get-togethers and greeting workers on their anniversaries. ,

xvi. Rewarding and recognising the exemplary talents of workers.

xvii. Taking unions into confidence before putting in place any major change in the work method.

xviii. Conducting morale and job satisfaction survey to spot out grey areas of dissatisfaction and taking proactive measures to weed out cropping up resentment.

2. Lockout:

According to Industrial Disputes Act, 1947, lockout means closing of a place of business of employment or the suspension of work or refusal by an employer to continue to employ any number of persons employed by him. Thus, lockout means refusal of employer to give work to workmen with the intention of arm-twisting them to accept the will of the player or to force workers to withdraw their demands.

Features of Lockout:

i. Closure of industrial undertaking when employer apprehends a destruction (or) damage to his property in the event of industrial dispute.

ii. As long as employer refuses to give work, there is suspension of employer-employee relationship.

iii. It is a weapon in hands of the employer to force them to give in to his demands. It is an antithesis of strike.

Following acts do not amount to lockout:

i. Termination of employee by retrenchment.

ii. Termination of more than one person at a time.

iii. Prohibiting an employee from working.

iv. Declaration of lockout on the ground that workers have refrained from attending work.

Types of Industrial Disputes – According to the Code of Industrial Relations in the United Kingdom: Lay Off and Retrenchment

Disputes according to the code of Industrial Relations introduced in the United Kingdom in 1972, are of two kinds:

(a) Disputes of right, which relates to the application or interpretation of an existing agreement or contract of employment.

(b) Disputes of interest, which relates to claims by employers or proposals by a management about the terms and conditions of employment. According to the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 and the many judicial decisions which have been handled down by courts and tribunals, industrial disputes may be raised on any one of the following issues –

(i) Fairness of the standing orders.

(ii) Retrenchment of workers following the closing down of a factory, lay off, discharge or dismissal, reinstatement of dismissed employees and compensation for them.

(iii) Benefits of an award denied to a worker; non-payment of personal allowance to seasonal employees; the demand of employees for medical relief for their parents.

(iv) Wages, fixation of wages and minimum rates, modes of payment and the right of an employee to choose , one of the awards when two awards on wages have been given.

(v) Lockout and claim for damages by an employer because employees resorted to an illegal strike.

(vi) Payment of hours, gratuity, provident fund, pension and travelling allowance.

(vii) Disputes between rival unions.

(viii) Disputes between employers and employees.

1. Lay Off:

According to Section 25A of the Act, provisions relating to lay off, contained in 25C, to 25E, shall not apply to industrial establishments such as – factory, a mine and a plantation or – (a) to industrial establishments in which less than fifty workmen on an average per working day have been employed in the preceding calendar month or (b) to industrial establishments which are of seasonal character or in which work is performed only intermittently.

In the case of a factory, mine and plantation the Act has made special provisions relating to lay off. In the case of the other two types of establishments, however, the Act itself has made an exception. As such, in case a question arises whether an industrial establishment, is of a seasonal character or whether work is performed therein only intermittently the decision of the appropriate government shall be final.

According to Section 25C, a workman who is laid off is entitled to compensation equivalent to 50% of the total basic wages and dearness allowance for the period of lay off this right of compensation is, however, subject to conditions under the Act.

2. Retrenchment:

According to Section 2(00) of the Act “retrenchment” means the termination of a workman for any reason whatsoever otherwise than as a punishment implicated by way of disciplinary action but does not include –

(a)Voluntary retirement of the workman; or

(b) Retirement of the workman on reaching the age of superannuation if the contract of employment between the employer and the workman concerned contains a stipulation in that behalf, or

(c) Termination of the service of workman on the ground of continued ill-health. As pointed out by the Supreme Court in State Bank Vs N. Sundra Money, 1976 the word ‘termination’ may refer either to termination by the notice or by afflux of time.

Accordingly, the employer may give a composite order; both for employment and termination this section does not explain the phrase, ‘for any reason whatsoever’. However barring the three circumstances, a workman may be retrenched for any reason such as – automation, rationalization, financial loss, etc.

Section 25G of the Act lays down the procedure to be adopted by the employer while retrenching workman. According to this section the employer has to follow the principle of ‘last come, first to go’ and retrench the workman who was the last person to be employed in that category of workman. This is the ordinary principle to be followed for the purpose of retrenchment or workmen belonging to different categories.

However, if the employer retrenches any other workman than the one who was employed last he has to record the reasons for doing so. This procedure need not be followed if there is an agreement between the employer and the workman to the contrary. Further, this procedure is applicable only to the citizens of India.

If after retrenchment the employer proposes to employ persons he has to according to Section 25H, give an opportunity to the retrenched workmen for re-employment and such retrenched workmen who offer themselves for re-employment shall have preference over other persons. Even this provision is applicable to citizens of India.

Types of Industrial Disputes – 4 Forms: Strikes, Lock Outs, Gherao or Surround, Picketing and Boycott

There are 4 forms of conflicts as under:

(a) Strikes:

A strike is a spontaneous and concerted withdrawal of labour from production (or service giving) temporarily. It is a collective stoppage of work try a group of workers for pressuring, their employers to accept their demands. The Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 has defined a strike as “an assertion of work by a body of persons” employed in an industry under a common understanding of any number of persons, who are or have been so employed to continue to work or to accept employment strikes are of 9 types-

(i) Sympathetic strike to show sympathy to workers of other industries

(ii) General Strike by all or most of the unions in an industry

(iii) Unofficial Strike – Strike undertaken without the consent of the unions

(iv) Sectional Strike – refusal by a section of a given class of workers, to perform their normal duties

(v) Bumper Strike – When the unions plan to paralyse the industry. Such strikes are supported by the contributions of those who are still at work.

(vi) Sit down or tool down or pen down strike – workers cease to perform their duties, but do not leave the place of work.

(vii) Show down strike or Go slow strike – workers do not stop working, but put breaks to the normal way of doing things.

(viii) Lightning Strike – Strike out of provocation, workers may go on strike, without notice or at a very short notice.

(ix) Hunger Strike – To gain sympathy from the public and get noticed by the employer, workers may decide to forego food for a specified period. Small batches of workers may also go on a relay hunger strike, in a sequential order.

(b) Lock Outs:

Lock out is the counterpart of strike. It is the weapon available to the employer to dose down the factory till the workers agree to recover work on the condition laid down by the employer. If it is impossible to meet the demands of the workers, employers may decide to go for lock out. An employer may pull down the shutters (or close the factory’s main gate) so as to bring psychological pressure on the workers, to agree to conditions or face the closure of the unit.

(c) Gherao or Surround:

Gherao means to surround. In the method, a group of workers initiate collective action, aimed at preventing members of the management from leaving the office. This can happen outside the factory premises too. The person who are gherao are not allowed to move for a long time, sometimes even without food or water.

The National Commission on Labour has opined that gherao tend to inflict physical duress (as against economic pressure) on the persons affected and endanger not only industrial harmony but also create problems of law and order

(d) Picketing and Boycott:

When picketing, workers often carry / display signs, banners and play cards, prevent others from entering the place of work and persuade others to join the strike. Boycott aims at disrupting the normal functioning of an enterprise. Through forceful appeals and negative behavioural acts, striking workers prevent, others from entering the place of work, and persuade them they not to cooperate with the employer.

Types of Industrial Disputes – As per Industrial Dispute Act, 1947

The various types of industrial disputes are categorized into four categories:

1. Gherao:

In this method the employees prevent members of management from leaving the office. The NCL refuses to accept it as a form of industrial protest because it amounts to criminal conspiracy under section 120-A of the IPC and is not saved by section 17 of the Trade Unions Act, 1926.

2. Lock-Out:

As per section 2(1) of the I.D. Act, 1947, lock­out means the “closing of a place of employment or the suspension of work, or the refusal of an employer to continue to employ any number of persons employed by him”. Thus lock-out is the counter part of strike and in general, favoured to the employer because by the use of this weapon the employer resists the demands of the workers. In the same way, the temporary suspension of work called lay-off is not lock­out.

3. Boycott:

Boycott means absence from work place and to disturb the normal working of the organization and not to cooperate with the employer.

4. Strike:

As per section 2(q) of the I.D. Act, 1947 strike means “a cessation of work by a body of persons employed in any industry acting in combination, or a concerted refusal under a common understanding of any number of persons who are or have been so employed to continue to work or to accept employment”.

Strikes may take place in a number of ways as:

(i) General strike – It is a strike by all or most of the unions in an industry or a region.

(ii) Stay-in-strike, sit-down, pen-down, tool down – In these types of strikes the worker presence on the work place but cease to perform their duties.

(iii) Go-slow strike – In this type of strike the workers do not stop working but reducing the output and entitled for full wages. This situation is to be more harmful than total cessation of work by strike.

(iv) Hunger strike – All or some of the workers may decide to forego food for a specified period in order to gain sympathy from the public, government and others.

(v) Lightning strike – In this type of strike the workers may go on strike without notice or very short notice by provocation but such strikes are prohibited in public utility services under section 22 of the ID Act, 1947 in U.P., M.P. Gujarat and Maharashtra where notice is required to be given.

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