When To Join Union? After Layoff, Too Late

We have written an article on strike of Yamaha workers and its association with IT sector. There are many strikes happening across various companies front run by different labor unions.

Employees joining together and forming union gives them power to negotiate with management on equal footing.

In the last article, I have mentioned that if union exists, we can ask even for reducing fares in office canteens. To illustrate that point, I want to mention another protest by employees working in the canteen of Ashok Leyland. The main demand of canteen employees is to reinstate 5 terminated employees and to revise the salary structure of workers. This gives a simple example of having section of unions in different sectors. Unions exist among sanitary workers, bank employees, teachers, workers in various factories and various other industries.

The main advantage of union is taught to us in our kindergarten school as a story called Lion and Four bulls.

It is common to notice very specific demands by various unions which is reinstating of terminated workers. I have written various articles covering how employees fight for their reinstatement using 2A and 2K clauses of Industrial Disputes Act  in labor department. But still I see people are not clear on difference between 2A and 2K and we will use the example of Ashok Leyland canteen workers association to understand the difference.

The unions should be generally formed by employees working in the company. For example, in the above example of Ashok Leyland, employees working in Ashok Leyland canteens will become members of a particular union. These union members elects office bearers and working committee among themselves. They collect subscription fees for membership. In case of NDLF, subscription fee is Rs 150 for 1 year period and members have to renew their membership once in a year by paying Rs 100.

After an employee becomes member of union, then union has the authority to represent any issues of union members in labor office or in labor court. If a canteen worker is terminated by the management, as they are member of union, union can pass resolution in their meeting to demand reinstatement of terminated employees, record the meeting minutes and file 2K petition in labor department. The main advantage here is union can fight the case legally on behalf of employee.

The below tabular column gives the better view of difference between 2A and 2K petitions:

2K

2A

Employee is enrolled in the union before dispute (termination or other issues) Employee is not enrolled in any union before disputedate
Union will fight for the affected employees (job reinstatement or other demands) Employee has to file independently in labor office
Office bearers of union can represent in labor office and labor court. Affected employee presence is not mandatory. Generally, legal fees is shared by union account Employee has to physically present in labor department and labor court. They have to bear the legal expenses.
Management has more pressure to address the issue as demand is collective. It attains more importance in labor office, government and by management As this case is individual specific, management gives less preference.
Union can address various issues like salary increment, bonus issues, security concerns, additional benefits in addition to job reinstatement using 2K Employee can file 2A only when they have lost their job. Individual employee cannot complain for any issues other than job loss in labor department

As we compare the difference, we clearly understand 2K is much better compared to 2A for representing employees interests. But the main problem with IT sectors is the mindset of IT employees.

Currently employees in IT sector think that labor unions will be required only when they face job loss crisis. If management terminates an employee suddenly, union cannot directly support affected employees as they are not enrolled as union members. In such case, they have to take up the fight independently and unions can backup only.

In addition to this, office bearers can have direct interaction with top management and resolve basic issues directly without taking to labor office. Nearly 99% of worker issues are addressed and settled between union members and management directly and unions are going to strike situation in very rare scenario where solution is not attained amicably. So the mindset that unions will go for protest and strikes alone is also not correct. Unions are for the workers and by the workers.

The other common query many employees has is taking the appeal with labor office and labor court. The tabular column below gives the clear differentiation between labor office and labor court appeals

Labor office

Labor court

Affected employee in case of 2A and union office bearers in case of 2K will represent the dispute. Lawyers are not allowed in labor office Lawyers only represent the employee concerns
Employee has to raise dispute in labor office before going to court. The role of labor officer is like conciliation officer in case of divorce case. This conciliation officer explores possibility of reunion of married couple and settles the case amicably. If they cannot resolve the dispute, they give failure report Some judges may not take petition directly if it is not gone through labor officer process. But an employee or unions can directly approach court if they feel issue is more serious and important
Labor officer has limited powers. They usually will not make any orders even they have power to do so. They try to resolve the dispute in mutually beneficial way Judge has more power and they can pass orders like reinstatement of employment
There is no cost involved for raising a dispute in labor office as no lawyers are involved Employee/unions has to pay for lawyer fees and court fees. Unions have dedicated lawyers and fees are usually reasonable for union members compared to non-union members

So approaching labor office is the pre-requisite for an employee to appeal in labor court. There is no cost involved for filing dispute in labor office and if both parties comes to amicable solution, case will be settled in a short span of time.

The other main advantage of unions is employees will get all awareness and education from senior members of union. For example, our NDLF IT Employees Wing Honorary president Suba Thangarasu has experience in unions for more than 30 years and have seen multiple cases in his experience. Labor officers also will have respect for senior union members. So, we can proceed in better way on the dispute issue if it is taken through union.

So definitely this mind set of joining unions only after job loss is big bottleneck and all employee should come forward to join union

We as NDLF support the issue of Ashok Leyland canteen worker protest and wish them success in their struggle.

We as more educated set in the community of workers, should come forward in learning the importance of unions from our blue collar brethren.

Shyam Sundar, President,
NDLF IT Employees Wing

Permanent link to this article: http://new-democrats.com/when-to-join-union-after-layoff-too-late/

1 comment

    • Balajiraman on September 28, 2018 at 6:11 am
    • Reply

    Useful articles for trade union activities and Labour laws

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