Feb 23, 2022

The new labour regime and the Right to Strike

The Nurses Union of All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi has called off its strike after a meeting with the hospital administration, hours after the Delhi High Court restrained it from continuing the agitation. Around 5,000 nurses went on a strike from Monday over long pending demands, including better pay.


Legal regulation of strikes

Among India’s new labour codes which will soon come into force, the Industrial Relations Code, 2020 regulates trade unions and strikes.


What is a strike?

According to the Code, a strike occurs when a group of employees in any industry either:

  • Act together and stop working
  • Jointly/commonly refuse to continue work or accept employment.  

A strike includes a situation where at least fifty percent of industry workers jointly take a casual leave on a specific day.


What rules should strikers obey?

Workers should notify their employer about any upcoming strike at least fourteen days before going on strike, and the strike should happen within sixty days of the notice. If the notice mentions a specific date, the strike cannot happen before that date.


Workers cannot strike when:

  • conciliation proceedings are pending before a conciliation officer, and seven days after they are completed; or 
  • Legal proceedings are pending before a Industrial Tribunal/National Industrial Tribunal or arbitrator, and sixty days after they are completed.

Further, when these authorities give a settlement or award, workers cannot go on strike for the issues covered by the settlement or award (till they expire).


When is a strike illegal?

If workers start or declare a strike without following the procedure or rules as mentioned above, the strike is illegal. 


If an industrial dispute has been referred to arbitration and arbitration proceedings are ongoing, the concerned Government may prohibit the continuance of any strike connected to the dispute. In this case, it is illegal to continue the strike.


No person should knowingly spend money to directly support any illegal strike.


Punishment for an illegal strike

Any worker who starts, continues or supports an illegal strike can be punished with imprisonment for up to one month and/or a fine of Rupees one thousand to ten thousand.


Anyone who instigates others to take part in an illegal strike or financially supports it, can be punished with imprisonment for up to one month and/or a fine of Rupees ten thousand to fifty thousand.