"Better to starve fighting than to starve working".
~A slogan of the Lawrence, Massachusetts "Bread and Roses" strike of 1912.
The feeling of demand or rebellion against a motion has always been a part of any society. These conflicts are a constant reminder that though sometimes everything is in order but they are not in order. Similarly, in any industrial endeavour, the workers and labourers make through and portray their grievances and interests through weapons known as strikes. This struggle between the labour and capital has been quite a history in itself.
Strike works as a bargaining process where the workers solve the differences between the management to secure economic justice. There several types of strikes which are divided on the basis of the demands and grievances. They are:
● General Strike: This type of strike happens to build up political pressure in the current government by the members usually.
● Economic Strike: This is the most common strike that occurs in order to get an increment in allowances, wages, salary, etc.
● Hunger Strike: One of the most painful strikes is the hunger strike where the workers go on strike and don't consume anything until and unless their issues are redressed.
● Sympathy Strike: This is an influential strike where one group of workers join an already happening strike.
● Sit Down Strike: Herein, the workers do go to the place of employment but refuse to work. No one is absent in the whole process until their issues are resolved.
● Wildcat Strike: This type of strikes occurs in the absence of consent from the authority or union.
● Slow Down Strike: This type of strike takes place when workers don't refuse to work but put pressure on the industries that they would reduce or restrict the output or the production process.
STRIKES AND THE INDUSTRIAL DISPUTES ACT,1947
According to the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947, strikes are defined in Section 2(q):
"A cessation of work by a body of persons employed in any industry acting in combination, or a concerted refusal, or a 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".
In Punjab National Bank v. All India Punjab National Bank Employees’ Federation , the court held that if the workers mark their full presence in the premises of their workplace and refuse to work or refuse to work in large number then it would be considered as a sit-down strike and hence will be included in Section 2 (q) of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947.
The Section 22 deals with the provisions applicable to prohibition of strikes and lockouts in public service utility. The strikes and lockouts are not totally prohibited but following the instructions and details enacted in the section.
Lockout in Section 2(l) of the Act is defined as "a 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."
Whereas Section 23 deals with the general prohibition of strikes and lockouts applying to both public utility as well as to non-public utility establishments.
No workman who is employed in any industrial establishment shall go on strike in breach of contract and no employer of any such workman shall declare a lock-out-
(a) during the pendency of conciliation proceedings before a Board and seven days after the conclusion of such proceedings;
(b) during the pendency of proceedings before 1[a Labour Court, Tribunal or National Tribunal] and two months after the conclusion of such proceedings;
3[(bb) during the pendency of arbitration proceedings before an arbitrator and two months after the conclusion of such proceedings, where a notification has been issued under sub-section (3-A) of Section 10-A; or]
(c) during any period in which a settlement or award is in operation in respect of any of the matters covered by the settlement or award.
The whole concept behind the restrictions is to maintain a peaceful environment among the workers and well as in their workplace. Therefore, it also ensures conciliation is taking place in an undisturbed manner and it should be considered that conciliation proceeding before the conciliation officer is no bar to a strike under this section.
Ballarpur Collieries Co. vs. The Presiding Officer , Central Government Industrial Tribunal,
“It was held, if a person was employed in public utility services then, he/she cannot go for a strike without the consent and gathering the procedures which must be satisfied in the provisions.”
The constitutional validity of the strike is covered under Article 19 of the Constitution of India. The article protects the concerns of right to freedom of speech and expression and to assemble peaceably and without arms. Unlike the international laws, Indians don't have the right to strike as a fundamental human right but India does give reasonable restrictions which compliments the right.
In the case of ‘All India Bank Employees Association v. I. T. ’,
The Supreme Court held that “the right to strike or right to declare lockout may be controlled or restricted by appropriate industrial legislation and the validity of such legislation would have to be tested not regarding the criteria laid down in clause (4) of Article 19 but by totally different considerations.”
STRIKES AND ITS ILLEGALITY
Section 24 of the Act categorises the prohibitions declared Sections 22 and 23 to be illegal if not implemented.
(1) A strike or a lock-out shall be illegal
(I) it is commenced or declared in contravention of Section 22 or
Section 23; or
(ii) it is continued in contravention of an order made under sub-
section (3) of Section 10 4[or sub-section (4-A) of Section 10-A]
(2) Where a strike or lock-out in pursuance of an industrial dispute has already commenced and is in existence at the time of the reference of the dispute to a Board, [an arbitrator,] [a Labour Court, Tribunal or National Tribunal], the
continuance of such strike or lock-out shall not be deemed to be illegal, provided that such strike or lock-out was not at its commencement in contravention of the provisions of this Act or the continuance thereof was not prohibited under sub-section (3) of Sec.10 7[or sub- section 4(A) of Section 10-A].
(3) A lock-out declared in consequence of an illegal strike or a strike declared in consequence of an illegal lock-out shall not be deemed to be illegal.
CONSEQUENCES OF ILLEGAL STRIKES
The consequences of illegal actions are faced by both the employee and the employer. Ginormous number of losses can be witnessed which can lead to bankruptcy of the workplace. This inturn benefits the rival company to collect as much opportunity to increase their sales. The market to some extent gets affected because of the disruption caused by one company. These losses include loss of capital, shares, partners, profits and most importantly the goodwill. A social drawback is observed on the part of the employee where he loses the job which directly affects the family and their existence. If the strike conducted turns out to be illegal then both employees and employers have to face their share of legal consequences. The actions related and conducted before, in and after the strike will be thoroughly scrutinized and hence the quantum of punishment will be decreed.
In the case of Crompton Greaves Ltd. vs Its Workmen  it was observed that,
"It is well settled that in order to entitle the workmen to wages for the period of strike, the strike should be legal as well as justified. A strike is legal if it does not violate any provision of the statutes. Again, a strike cannot be said to be unjustified unless the reasons for it are entirely perverse of unreasonable. Whether a particular strike was justified or not is a question of facts which has to be judged in the light of the facts and circumstances of each case. It is also well settled that the use of force or violence or acts of sabotage resorted to by the workmen during a strike disentitles them to wages for the strike period."
The right to strikes and lockouts is not absolute in India. Having a right on certain problems or objections doesn't imply that it will be misused at every level in every possible means. Actions have consequences which can be good or bad. Therefore, it is the duty of employers and as well as employees to mark their boundaries in the compulsory arbitration system. On the part of the Legislative and Judiciary, the laws obviously need a renovation and an air of fresh breath which can comply with most of the concerned people. Policy oriented methods would do wonders if implemented and interpreted properly with a wider horizon in the years to come.