constitutional and legal framework of Industrial Relations, maintaining effective employment relations, Employee Relations, MS-24

Explain the constitutional and legal framework of Industrial Relations. Discuss how constitutional and legal framework is being used in maintaining effective employment relations citing examples from your organization or any organization you are familiar with. Briefly describe the organization you are referring to.

For long several commissions and commissions debated reforms to industrial relations seeking to amend trade union act to make registration requirements relatively more stringent than at present (from any 7 being able to form a union proposed to be revised to 100 or 10% of the employees), provide for statutory mechanism for recognition, deny industrial relations to unregistered/minority unions, and specify more clearly not only trade union rights, but also trade union obligations/responsibilities. The Dispute Act is also proposed to be amended to provide for more emphasis on relations than disputes and set up an independent Industrial Relations Commfssion in the place of existing dispute resolving machinery. Proposals have also been made to consider constitution-negotiating councils where there is more than one union.

The central law, Trade Unions Act, 1926 provides for trade union registration, not trade union recognition. By convention, all registered unions have begun to have industrial relations rights, de facto, though not de jure. With the law permitting any seven employees being able to form and register a union, the ground was open for a variety of craft, category, caste, etc., based unions. Labour being a concurrent subject, certain state governments (like Maharashtra, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh) have passed separate legislations provided mandatory mechanism for trade union recognition. Certain states like Andhra Pradesh made secret ballot a must. But statutory provisions concerning union recognition did not, unfortunately, ease conflict on this count. The biggest strike in post-independence India occurred in the Bombay Textile Industry in 1982 over the issue of, primarily, representative character of two rival unions. A variety of methods are available for determining the representative union. It can be done through any of the following methods: secret ballot, check-off of membership verification. Union shop method is not prevalent in India. However, selection of representative union for recognition as collective bargaining agent which is necessary to engage in collective bargaining has itself become a major problem because different national federations of trade unions did not agree to a common methods and left the problem for settlement according to location realities! Even the National Labour Commission has left it vaguely. Proposals to alter the situation, along with other major changes in the Trade Unions Act have become abortive since 1978.
In India, the role of national federations of trade unions and employers' organisations is limited, in collective bargaining, to a small nucleus of industrial associations which have a long tradition of collective negotiations with their counterpart trade union federations of workers. Among such employer associations, notable mention may be made of the Ahmedabad Mill Owners' Association, Ahmedabad, the Bombay Mill Owners' Association, Bombay, the Indian Sugar Mills Association, New Delhi, the Tea Association of India, Calcutta, the Indian Jute Mills Association, Calcutta, the Cement Manufacturers' Association, New Delhi, the United Planters Association of South India, coonoor, the Southern India Mill Owners' Association, Coimbatore, the Indian Banks Association, Bombay and the Indian Port Association, New Delhi. The confederation of Indian Industry, which till last year (1991) represented mainly the engineering Industry, which negotiating region-cum-industry agreements for member firms who assigned to them in writing such responsibility.

"The role of industry associations in collective bargaining seem to vary depending upon the profile and background of industry and entrepreneurship. In a traditional, the engineering industry, profession managers are the charge of variations in processes and outcomes are discernible in each case which merit detailed study."

In some Industrial centres, both trade unions and employers, particularly have set up coordination committees to adopt a joint/collective strategy to deal with collective bargaining and related matters. This process has started in Bangalore and Hyderabad and spread to other places. Industry wise coordination is also taking place with the commencement of industry wide agreements in core sectors like coal and steel. Oil industry, all of which is in public sector now, also has a coordination committee though it does not have an industry wide agreement.

For public employees, Joint Consultative Machinery and Board of Arbitration have been constituted. Public pay is revised through pay commissions which are usually adopted once every 12 years or so. The significant gap between central government pay systems and industrial pay systems created considerable heartburn and discontent to those who feel they were adversely affected particularly in the wake of some Supreme Court judgments pronouncing public sector as the State.

In a few industries such as cement arbitration has replaced collective bargaining over wages and working conditions while in others like media (newspapers) and sugar wage boards still decide the wages and working conditions. In all other cases, with all its distortions, collective bargaining is the main mechanism through which wages and working conditions are decided. Over the years, the scope of collective bargaining has been widened to include virtually every possible aspect of working relation including the quantum of overtime, shift manning, discipline promotions and transfers, for instance. An industrial society is highly complex and dynamic arrangement of differentiated groups, activities and institutional relationships intertwined with a variety of attitudes ad expectations. Consequently, any specific social phenomenon, such as industrial relations, cannot and should not be viewed in isolation from its wider context. The 'context' of industrial relations may usefully be divided into three major elements

The Industrial Relations 'System'. The roles, relationships, institutions, processes and activities which comprise the phenomena of industrial relations exist both in a wide variety of industries and services and at a number of levels ranging from the suborganisational (work group, section or department) and organisational (site or company) levels through the industry level to the national level. This inevitably creates a pattern of internal influences both horizontally (between different organisations/industries) and vertically (between different levels). Consequently, the industrial relations system, in terms of the attitudes and activities existing within it at any point of time, provides its down context or climate for the individual industrial relations situations.

• Other Segments of Social Activity. Industrial relations is only one segment of a society's structure and activity and as such is influenced by, and in turn influences, other segments of the society's activity. The economic, social and political segments are of particular importance in this respect. Actions or changes in these areas may directly stimulate or constrain specific industrial relations activities as well as indirectly influence the attitudes of the participants. It is important to recognise that these environments exert an influence at all levels of industrial relations and therefore, as Fox argues, "organisational issues, conflicts and values are inextricably bound up with those of society at large".

• Time. The present is only part of a continuum between the past and the future; consequently, current industrial relations owes much to its past (whether last week, last year, the last decade or even the last century) and the participant's goals and expectations for the future. At the micro level, the time context may be evidenced in two ways: (a) today's problem stems from yesterday's decision and its solution will, as the environment change, become a problem in the future, and (b) the attitudes, expectations and relationships manifest by the participants are, at least in part, the product of their past individual and collective experiences. At the macro level, industrial relations as a whole is subject to adjustment and development as society, expressed through changes in the economic, social and political environments, it change and develop.

At the same time it is important to recognise that the 'mass media' provide an additional, and very significant, context for industrial relations by virtue of their role in shaping attitudes, opinions and expectations. Any individual, whether as a manager, trade unionist or part of the 'general public', has only a partial direct experience of the full range of activities present in a society. Most knowledge and appreciation of economic, social, politcal and industrial relations affairs is, therefore, gained indirectly from the facts and opinions disseminated through newspapers and television.


The term 'industrial relations' is used to denote a specialist area of organizational management and study which is concerned with a particular set of phenomena associated with regulating the human activity of employment. It, is however, difficult to define the boundaries of this set of phenomena, and therefore the term itself, in a precise and universally accepted way. Any more specific definition must, of necessity, assume and emphasize a particular view of the nature and purpose of industrial relations - consequently, there are as many definitions as there are writers on industrial relations. For example, the two most frequently used terms of 'industrial relations' and 'employee relations' are, in most practical senses, interchangeable; yet they have very different connotations. The former, more traditional, term reflects the original historical base of unionized manual workers within the manufacturing sector of the economy whilst the latter has come into greater use with the development of less unionized white collar employment and the service and commercial sectors of the economy. The term may be used in a very restrictive sense to include only the formal collective relationships between management and employees (through the medium of trade unions) or in an all inclusive sens to encompass all relationship associated with employment (those between individuals at the informal level as well as those of a formal collective or organisational nature). However, it is doubtful whether the two approaches can, or should, be separated so easily-informal, interpersonal or group relationships are influenced by the formal collective relationships which exist within the industrial relations system and, it may be argued, the formal collective relationships are themselves in part determined by the nature of individual relationships within organisations cannot provide a natural boundary for the subject matter of industrial relations. The way we perceive the overall nature of this area of organisational study determines to a very large extent not only how we approach and analyse specific issues and situations within industrial relations but also how we expect others to behave, how we respond to their actual behaviour and the means we adopt to influence or modify their behaviour. In examining the different approaches it is useful to differentiate between those approaches which are concerned with the industrial relations system itself

• They are primarily analytical categorizations rather than causative theories or predictive models, and
• There is no one 'right' approach; rather each approach emphasizes a particular aspect of industrial relations and taken together can provide a framework for analysing and understanding the diversity and complexity of industrial relations, i.e the complexity of the human aspect of work organisations.