Academic journal article Indian Journal of Industrial Relations

Quo Vadis, Industrial Relations Disputes Resolution ...?

Academic journal article Indian Journal of Industrial Relations

Quo Vadis, Industrial Relations Disputes Resolution ...?

Article excerpt

Quo Vadis, Industrial Relations Disputes Resolution.?

The clamor for labor law reforms is back to centre stage with the change of guard at the Centre in India and the first move has been initiated by a state government run by the same party now in charge of labor policy changes at the Centre. The targets again are three labor legislations which have been the focal points in the labor market flexibility debate--The Industrial Disputes Act (1947), Contract Labor (Regulation & Abolition) Act, 1970 and the Factories Act (1948) (indianexpress, rajasthan-shows-way-in-labour-reforms).Many of these moves are in response to demands from industry associations. For instance, according to FICCI, "The multiplicity of labor laws has created confusion and complexity." (economictimes. indiatimes, 2014dl-sachdev).With the clear objective of asserting the managerial prerogative of employers, according to FICCI the Industrial Disputes Act should be amended to facilitate 'hire and fire' to meet market demands and to give employers the power to change service conditions without the statutory 21 day notice that needs to be given to employees before any such change is implemented. Trade unions have their own stand on the reforms debate as reflected in statements by their leaders. According to the General Secretary of the Centre of Indian Trade Unions, "The labor force is the real contributor to the value-added society so they should be treated as human beings and not as a commodity. Proper enforcement and protection of laws should be there for the labor force. Labor standards are often ignored by employers and exploitation of workers takes place. These violations should be taken seriously by the government and the violators should be punished." (economictimes.indiatimes, 2014dl-sachdev).

The stage is thus set with the players ranged on various sides of the reforms debates and demands with the inevitable differences and disputes which will be played out in the various theatres of representative forums on offer in a democratic setting made possible by the mosaic of the Indian Constitution. While there are many themes which will be the focus of the reforms drama and the diverse enactments of dramatis personae, this paper will focus on one area which will always remain significant in employer-employee relations whatever the denouement on other reform themes which are likely to be enacted in the near future. The area in question is that of disputes and disputes resolution in employer-employee relations and the question to be addressed here is related to the nature of reforms in this important sphere of stakeholder engagement.

Ecosystem of Industrial Relations Disputes

A consideration of the changes needed in disputes resolution will have to take into account the ecosystem of industrial relations disputes in today's context. The history of industrial relations shows that as long as there is an employer and an employee, and there are terms and employment contracts, there will be differences and disputes, conflicts over rights and conflicts over interests, standoffs between what the employee is expected to deliver and what the employee gets in return from the employer. Even if all the laws are amended in line with organizational-managerial and investor demands, the fundamental contradictions between employer and employee will remain on the workplace justice fronts. Disputes in industrial relations cannot be wished away through legal reforms in the thrust towards greater "labor market flexibility". The removal of prevailing fences and boundaries which may result from such changes will necessitate higher order disputes resolution agencies, strategies, methods, processes and competencies in order to create a fair workplace informed by human dignity and speedy disposal of industrial relations disputes.

Table 1 gives a glimpse of the causes of disputes in industrial relations during the period 1961-2011. Disputes over wages and allowances, bonus, personnel, retrenchment, leave and working hours, indiscipline and violence and a whole host of causes under the category "others" which include layoffs, workload issues, union rivalries, have held constant over the past fifty years. …

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