Balmer Lawrie Workers Union, Bombay v. Balmer Lawrie & Company (1984 SC)

Spread the love

You can grab notes for other topics from here.

 The Maharashtra Recognition of Trade Unions and Prevention of Unfair Labour Practices Act 1971 provides for recognition of a union if it complies with certain conditions specified in the Act. The Act also enumerated the rights of a recognized Union, which included an exclusive right of the recognized union to represent workmen of an undertaking in disputes and make the decision made in such proceedings binding on all the employees.
 The facts are that after a strike, the employer entered into a settlement in respect of a number of pending industrial disputes with its union, which was recognized under the 1971 Act. Clause 17 of the Settlement provided that the company shall deduct an amount equivalent to 15% of the gross arrears payable under the Settlement to each employee towards contribution to the fund of the recognized union.
 The appellant, a non-recognized union challenged before the High Court the constitutional validity of Clause 17 of the Settlement on the grounds, inter alia. (i) that Clause 17 permits a compulsory deduction not warranted by the Payment of Wages Act from workmen who are not the members of the recognized union; (ii) that the 1971 Act is unconstitutional, since (a) it denies to the workman who are not members of a recognized union, the fundamental freedom guaranteed under by compelling the Workmen to join the union which has acquired the status of a recognized union even if it followed a socio-economic or socio-political philosophy contrary to the philosophy of non-members; (b) it denies to the unrecognized union, the right to effectively participate in any proceeding concerning the workmen of an industrial undertaking, some of whom have formed a separate trade union and (c) it does not treat all the unions at par as the members of non-recognized union are compelled to be bound by the action of the recognized union.
 The High Court dismissed the petition and the Supreme Court agreed with the High Court. The SC reviewed the Scheme of the 1971. It observed that upon the advent of industrial revolution which aimed at mass production of commodities, large scale industrial units came to be set up resulting in concentration of workmen at one place under one employer. Trade union movement representing the organized labour developed as an adjunct of political party. The organized Labour as a vote bank was wooed by political parties. Every political party with a view to controlling vote banks set up its labour wings. Combinations and fragmentations of politics] parties had an adverse effect on trade unions. Multiplicity of political parties led to multiplicity of trade unions seeking to represent workmen in an industrial undertaking. The fall out of the multiplicity of unions was inter union and intra-union rivalry which threatened peaceful working of the industrial undertaking.
 Each union, tried to over-reach the rival by occasionally making untenable demands. The emerging situation led to conflict and confrontation disturbing industrial peace and harmony directly affecting production. Therefore, a need was felt that where there are multiple unions seeking to represent workmen in an undertaking or in an industry, a concept of recognized union must be developed. In fact, even amongst trade union leaders there was near unanimity that the concept of recognized union as the sole bargaining agent must be developed in the larger interest of industrial peace and harmony. Then the question arises as to the method of ascertaining which amongst various unions must be accorded the status of a recognized union. Initially it was the view that the union which represents the largest number of workmen working in the undertaking must acquire the status as that would be in tune with the concept of industrial democracy.
 A recognized union has an exclusive right to represent workmen in any proceeding under the IDA. However, an individual workman, who has his individual dispute with the employer arising out of his dismissal, discharge, retrenchment or termination of service will not suffer any disadvantage if any recognized union would not espouse his case and he will be able to pursue his remedy under the IDA. Once this protection is assured, the question is whether the status to represent workmen conferred on a recognized union to the exclusion of any individual workman or one or two workmen and who are not members of the recognized onion would deny to such workmen the fundamental freedom guaranteed under Article 19. The court held that the restriction on the right to appear and participate in a proceeding, of a workman who is not prepared to be represented by the recognized union, in respect of a dispute not personal to him alone does not deny him the freedom of speech and expression or to form an association. Conferring the status of a recognized union on the union satisfying certain pre-requisites which the other union is not in a position to satisfy does not deny the right to form association.
 A recognized union has an exclusive right to represent workmen in any proceeding under the IDA. However, an individual workman, who has his individual dispute with the employer arising out of his dismissal, discharge, retrenchment or termination of service will not suffer any disadvantage if any recognized union would not espouse his case and he will be able to pursue his remedy under the IDA. Once this protection is assured, the question is whether the status to represent workmen conferred on a recognized union to the exclusion of any individual workman or one or two workmen and who are not members of the recognized onion would deny to such workmen the fundamental freedom guaranteed under Article 19. The court held that the restriction on the right to appear and participate in a proceeding, of a workman who is not prepared to be represented by the recognized union, in respect of a dispute not personal to him alone does not deny him the freedom of speech and expression or to form an association. Conferring the status of a recognized union on the union satisfying certain pre-requisites which the other union is not in a position to satisfy does not deny the right to form association.
 When a settlement is reached in a proceeding under the IDA in which a representative union has appeared, the same is to be binding on all the workmen of the undertaking. However, the representative union has the obligation to act in a manner as not to discriminate between its members and other workmen of the undertaking who are not its members. Both the benefits, advantages, disadvantages or liabilities arising out of a settlement by a representative union shall be equally applicable to each workman in the undertaking.
 No deduction could be made from the wages and salary payable to a workmen governed by the Payment of Wages Act unless authorized by that Act. However, a settlement arrived at on consent of parties can permit a deduction as it is the outcome of understanding between the parties even though such deduction may not be authorized under the Payment of Wages Act.
 Through the settlement, all workers are getting rights as well as liabilities. Making the settlement applicable in its totality has to be understood in the context of strengthening the trade union movement There is nothing objectionable in Clause 17 of the Settlement which directs the employer to make a deduction under the settlement as contribution to the trade union funds. Thereby the workman is not subscribing to the philosophy of rival union but he is merely paying the price of the advantage obtained. Therefore deduction clause of the Settlement would not be invalid despite the lack of consent of the workmen who are members of the unrecognized union. The settlement having been made by the representative union, its right to represent all workmen would imply the consent of the members of the rival union.

You can grab notes for other topics from here.


Spread the love

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *