Levels of Collective Bargaining

Collective bargaining agreements have been concluded at various levels in India—at plant level, industry level and national level.

At Plant Level:

A collective agreement at plant level is reached only for the plant for which it has been drafted, and its scope and extent are limited only to that particular unit or undertaking. The agreement generally provides for certain common norms of conduct with a view to regulating labour management relations and eliminating hatred and misunderstanding. It contains provisions for a quick and easy solution of those issues which require immediate and direct negotiation between the two parties, and lays down a framework for their future conduct if and when controversial issues arise. Since 1955, a number of plant level agreements have been reached. These include: The Bata Shoe Company Agreement, 1955,1958 and 1962; the Tata Iron & Steel Co. Agreement, 1956 and 1959; the Modi Spinning and Weaving Mills Company's Agreement of 1956; the National Newsprint Nepanagar Agreement of 1956; the Belur Agreement of 1956 (between the Aluminum Co. and its employees); The Metal Corporation of India Agreement of 1960 and 1961; the agreement reached between Caltex India and its workmen in 1959, and the one arrived at between the Hind Mercantile Corporation and the workers of the manganese mines at Chikangyakam Haiti, in 1968; the Bhilai Steel Plant and its workers.

At the Industry Level:

The best example of an industry level agreement is offered by the textile industry of Bombay and Ahmedabad. The agreements between the Ahmedabad Mill owners' Association and the Ahmedabad Textile Labour Association, which were signed on 27th June, 1955, laid down the procedure to be followed for the grant of bonus and the voluntary settlement of industrial disputes. The salient features of the first agreement are:

The agreement applied to all the member mills of the Association and contained terms for the determination and set dement of bonus claims for four years—from 1953 to 1957. It was agreed between the parties that the bonus would be payable only out of an "available surplus or profit" after all the charges had been provided for—charges for statutory depreciation and development rebate, taxes, reserves for rehabilitation, replacement and/or modernization of plant and machinery, including a fair return on paid-up capital. The fair return would be computed at 6 per cent on the paid-up capital in cash or otherwise, including bonus shares and reserves employed as working capital. The bonus would be paid to employees out of the available surplus or profit at a rate which would be not less than 4.8 per cent and not more than 25 per cent of the basic wages earned during a particular year.

The two Associations agreed that they would jointly determine the quantum of the available surplus or profit, and fix the quantum of bonus to be distributed by each mill. If mere was any difference of opinion between the two Associations, the matter would be referred for decision to the President of the Labour Appellate Tribunal or, if he was not available, to an umpire to be mutually agreed upon under the second agreement or, in his absence, to a person acceptable to both the parties; and that decision would be final and binding on both.

The second agreement provided that all future industrial disputes between the members of the two Associations would be settled by mutual negotiation, failing which by arbitration, and that they would not resort to any court proceedings for the purpose of resolving their disputes. If arbitration was agreed upon, each party would constitute a panel of arbitrators and also jointly nominate a panel of umpires consisting of not less than two and not more than five independent persons. Whenever there was an industrial dispute which had not been settled by mutual negotiation each party would nominate its own arbitrator from a Board of Arbitrators. This Board would select an umpire out of the panel or from among outsiders so that, in the event of a difference of opinion between the two arbitrators, their individual decisions might be referred to him for evaluation. The award given by the umpire would then be final and binding on both the parties.

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