Is Union Legal? What Legal Protections Available for Union Members?

Part 1 – Unions Essential for Healthy Business

Part 2 – Yamaha Workers Strike and What It Means for IT Employees

Part 3 – When To Join Union? After Layoff, Too Late

This post is the next part on the topic of union rights.

Is Union Legal and protection available for union members?

I have written several posts on advantages of having union in IT industry, who has to join union as part of my IT Life Fun or Problem Series 1 & 2. I also touched base with various difficulties when new unions are formed as part of my Yamaha workers strike article and advantages of section 2K in protecting various employee rights.

As a continuation of this, we will see more about labor unions by trying to answer the following queries:

  1. We don’t have any unions within any of the IT companies in India. In this case, can NDLF legally fight on behalf of IT employee of particular company?
  2. Can my company allow me to join NDLF labor union?
  3. Can a company threaten any employee for their association with labor union?
  4. Can I canvas my colleagues to join NDLF labor union?
  5. Can a company discharge or punish an employee because he/she canvas other employee to join union?
  6. Can management discharge or dismiss an employee for taking part in any strike?
  7. Can company refuse to promote or provide hikes due to employee association with union?
  8. Can a company transfer employees in illegal way to other locations?

Currently many IT employees are getting awareness on labor unions and this is evident from the increasing number of counselling calls we are getting every day.

But the current problem is IT employees have mindset of joining unions only when they face job threat. They don’t bother on any other issues. For example, Tech Mahindra has reduced the retirement age of certain category people from 58 to 55. If this happened in any sector where labor union exists, it will be a national news. There will be a big protest and people will fight back against the company in very big manner. But as IT unions are not strong and employees are hesitant to join unions, companies formulate internal policies and reduce employee workforce to increase their profit margin. This is one typical example on what will be the impact of not having strong unions and what difference it will make if we have strong unions. I will cover this news of Tech Mahindra reducing retirement age in a separate article soon.

Due to this fear, we have only common unions like NDLF, FITE supporting IT employees working in many companies. If there are no specific unions within company, employees of the company can join union common to their industry. There are many evidence of judgement which confirm employees joining common unions based on their work nature. Federation of Medical and Sales Representatives’ Associations of India is a union for medical representatives working in many companies.

So definitely NDLF can raise concerns for IT employees in common for their rights.

Indian law allows all employees to join labor unions. These unions are controlled and formulated by various laws. All employee as per their constitutional right can join any trade union. Many of the IT companies have internal policy to encourage employees joining labor union. So the myth that labor union is not allowed in IT companies is completely wrong.

We have seen in detail about sections 2A and 2K in detail in various articles. The answer to questions 2-8 is given as guidelines as part of section 2RA under Industrial Disputes Act. This section speak that an employee can canvas for union, can do union activities. Harassing them or punishing them by company due to this association is illegal as per section 2RA. The company should not discharge any employee based on his/her union association and if company prefers to do this, employee can complain as part of union under section 2RA.

Refer the link in detail about section 2RA in the advocate forum for various queries asked: 

I want to highlight what is not allowed as per Section 2RA in a nutshell:

  1. To interfere with, restrain from, or coerce, workmen in the exercise of their right to organize, form, join or assist a trade union or to engage in concerted activities for the purposes of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection, that is to say.-
    (a) threatening workmen with discharge or dismissal, if they join a trade union;
    (b) threatening a lock-out or closure, if a trade union is organized;
    (c) granting wage increase to workmen at crucial periods of trade union organization, with a view to undermining the efforts of the trade union at organization.
  2. To encourage or discourage membership in any trade union by discriminating against any workman, that is to say,
    (a) discharging or punishing a workman, because he urged other workmen to join or organize a trade union;
    (b) discharging or dismissing a workman for taking part in any strike (not being a strike which is deemed to be an illegal strike under this Act);
    (c) changing seniority rating of workmen because of trade union activities;
    (d) refusing to promote workmen to higher posts on account of their trade union activities;
    (e) giving unmerited promotions to certain workmen with a view to creating discord amongst other workmen, or to undermine the strength of their trade union;
    (f) discharging office-bearers or active members of the trade union on account of their trade union activities.
  3. To discharge or dismiss workmen
    (a) by way of victimization;
    (b) not in good faith, but in the colorable exercise of the employer’s rights;
    (c) by falsely implicating a workman in a criminal case on false evidence or on concocted evidence;
    (d) for patently false reasons;
    (e) on untrue or trumped up allegations of absence without leave;
    (f) in utter disregard of the principles of natural justice in the conduct of domestic enquiry or with undue haste;
    (g) for misconduct of a minor technical character, without having any regard to the nature of the particular misconduct or the past record or service of the workman, thereby leading to a disproportionate punishment.
  4. To transfer a workman malafide from one place to another, under the guise of following management policy.
  5. To insist upon individual workmen, who are on a legal strike to sign a good conduct bond, as a precondition to allowing them to resume work.

So it is very clear from legal terms that employee can have association with labor union and company cannot punish/dismiss any employee for their association with labor unions.

We can fight for various rights only when we form union and put our needs as collective dispute to companies. So the intention of this article is to clear various myths on labor union and to clear wrong perception employees has on joining labor unions.

As part of NDLF, as I am repeatedly saying awareness among IT employees is the best remedy for many crisis situation. So we are cautiously spreading this awareness by writing various articles.

But compared to our other articles that complain about specific instance or against companies, awareness articles are not spread among employees. I feel these awareness articles are most important one to spread rather than reading specific complaint issues. This awareness only will safeguard individuals in crisis situation. So please read and spread this article which will save many employees and help in unions to gain success over a period of time.

Shyam Sundar, President
NDLF IT Employees Wing

Please read the book “IT Employees Life – Fun or Problems?”.

Locations to pick up “IT Employees Life – Fun or Problems?”

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