Strikes

  • A strike is a powerful weapon used by trade unions or other associations or workers to put across their demands or grievances by employers or management of industries.
  • Strikes are characterized by the fact that employees temporarily cease to fulfil their contractual obligation to perform work. Non-performance of the work stipulated by the contract of employment constitutes the essence of a strike.
  • During strikes, workers put pressure on the employers by refusal to work till fulfilment of their demands. A strike is usually of a collective nature. A sufficient number of workmen participate in the strike to create enough pressure. Similarly, it is a collective commitment on the part of the employees as a group. This collective commitment on part of employees is the main ingredient of the strike.

Definition of “strike” under the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947:

  • Section 2 (q) of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 defines the term “strike” as
  1. Cessation of work by a body of persons employed in any industry acting in combination; or
  2. a concerted refusal of any number of persons who are or have been employed in any industry to continue to work or to accept employment; or
  3. a refusal under a common understanding of any number of persons who are or have been employed in industry to continue to work or to accept employment.

Definition of “strike” under The Maharashtra ESMA, 2017:

  • The definition of ‘strike’ as laid down in [S. 2(b)] of The Maharashtra Essential Services Maintenance Act, 2017 (Mah. Act No. XVIII of
    2018), is an improved version of Section 2( q) of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947.
  • Section 2 (b) of Act says “ strike ” means the cessation of work by a body of persons employed in any essential service 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, and includes,— (i) refusal to work overtime, where such work is necessary for the maintenance of any essential service ; (ii) any other conduct, which is likely to result in, or results in, cessation or substantial retardation of work in any essential service ;

Essential Characteristics of a Strikes:

  • There should be a cessation of work,
  • The cessation of work should be by a body (group) of persons,
  • The body of persons ceasing to work should be employed in any industry,
  • The body of persons ceasing to work must be acting in combination,
  • There must be a concerted refusal or refusal under common understanding by such body of persons,
  • The persons refusing should be those who are or have been employed, and
  • The object of refusal is not to continue to work or to accept employment.

Case Laws:

Northbrook Jute Co. Ltd. V. Their Workmen (1960, I LLJ 580 SC)

  • In this case, the Court held that when workers are not bound to do particular work, refusal to do that work does not amount to strike, despite the fact that their refusal is concerted or under a common understanding.

Buckingham and Camatic Co. Ltd. v, Certain workmen, (1953, I LLJ 181 SC)

  • It was held that once there is a cessation of work as aforesaid, the mode of the duration of stoppage is immaterial and of no consequence.

Punjab National Bank Ltd. v. Their Workmen (1959, I LLJ 666 SC)

  • The court held that a pen-down stoppage of work was a strike within the meaning of section 2(q) of the Act.

Ran Sarup v. Rex (AIR 1949 AII. 218)



  • The court held that as the cessation of work must necessarily have been effected by a concerted refusal to work or a refusal under common understanding, when two workmen were absent on a particular day, it could not, in the absence of any evidence to establish concerted action, be said that they had gone on strike.

Raja Bahadur Motilal Poona mills v. Tukaram Piraji Masale, (1956 SCR 939)

  • The Court held that short duration of strike cannot exculpate the participants from the consequences of an illegal strike. In this case, it was also held that “concerted and combination is immaterial”.

National Textiles workers’ Union v. Sree Meenakshi Mills Limited, (1951, (2) LLJ 516)

  • Court held that workers may often leave the employment to fulfil some social obligations like attending the funeral of the co-workers, etc. But under such circumstances, the workers at least are expected to consult and obtain the permission of their employer before leaving the workplace. Otherwise, it may amount to strike.

Sitapur Sugar Works. V. State of Bihar (1958 Pat. 120)

  • Actual participation of the employee in the strike is often insisted. Mere witnessing the strike along with crowd may not amount to strike.

In Standard Vacuum oil Company Madras v. Gunaseelan (M.G) and others (1954 (2) LLJ 656)



  • where the workers refused to work on May Day but accepted to compensate the work by working on other holiday was held not to be a strike.

Bharat Barrel and Drum Mfg., Co. Ltd. v. Their workmen (1952 (2) LLJ 532 at 536)

  • In deciding an act of the workmen whether it amounts to strike or not the tribunals should not assume anything from its point of view

Mangaram v. Labour Appellate Tribunal, (1957 (1) LLJ 603 (614-615) All (DB)):

  • the Allahabad High Court held neither demonstration nor delay in starting work amounts to a strike.

Patiala Cement Co. Ltd. v Certain workmen, (1952 (2) LLJ 57)

  • Workers working in boiler room may leave the place of employment as the boiler was overheated may burst at any time. Here the action of the workmen may not amount to strike

Notes:

  • If the decisions given by the Supreme Court are taken into consideration cases are a cessation of work even for a minute also amounts to strike.
  • Sometimes circumstances may warrant the employer to come to the conclusion that the action of the employees amounts to a strike, like a very large number of employees and their representatives have applied for leave for various reasons and refusing to attend work in spite of best efforts made by the officers amount to strike.

Types of Strikes:

General strikes:



  • This strike intended to increase the political pressure in the ruling party by all unions or members in a region or state.

Sit down or tool down strikes:

  • In such case, workers hold strikes at the workplace and none of the workers stays absent from duty but they all refuse to work till their demands are fulfilled. This type of strike is generally staged in manufacturing and service establishment.

Slow down or go slow strikes:

  • It means workers or unions don’t refuse to work but put pressure on industries to get their demand by reducing or restricting the output of the production of industry. This type of strike is generally staged in manufacturing and service establishment.

Pen down strikes:

  • In such cases employee attend the work but refuse to do any clerical work. This type of strike is generally staged in service, administrative and accounting establishment.

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