Sutirtho Patranobis, Hindustan Times
New Delhi, December 4, 2006
The numbers are worrying. India lost 13.75 million man-days and incurred Rs 181.82 crore as production-related losses because of strikes and lockouts in the first nine months of 2006, data with Ministry of Labour and Employment has revealed.
The Ministry, however, says the lining of hope is the reduction in the number of strikes and lockouts as compared to 2005 or even 2004. The total number of strikes and lockouts till September 2005 were 397. The corresponding figure for this year is 346.
Minister of State for Labour and Employment Oscar Fernandes told Lok Sabha on Monday that there was no proposal to review the existing mechanism; to avoid strikes as the Industrial Disputes Act of 1947 provides a mechanism to maintain harmonious relationship between employer and employee.
The Act provides a framework for investigation and settlement of the Industrial disputes. It also seeks to regulate illegal strikes and lockouts, and provides protection to the workmen in case of lay-off, retrenchment and closure of establishments.
The declining trend in strikes and lockouts was around 4 per cent in 2005 compared to 2004. During 2004, the rate was 13 per cent as compared to 2003.
West Bengal, though its government is considered to be a progressive one at present, is an easy first among states in terms of losing out on man-days. In 2005, West Bengal was responsible for the loss of 13.99 million man-days or 60.15 per cent of the total man-days lost. In 2004 too, West Bengal led accounting for 17.56 million man-days.
A Ministry official said the definition of a man-day may vary from one company to the other, but on average it comprises a working day of eight hours. He added that while employees trigger strikes, the employer puts lockouts in force. “Reasons for a lockout could vary from weakening demand of the company's product, resulting losses or indiscipline on the part of workers,'' he said.
The official said the last few years have seen comparative industrial peace with none of the major strikes – with the possible exception of state bank employees' strike that lasted for a few days – having an impact on general life.