Industrial Disputes -Meaning,Definition and Forms

Industrial Disputes


The relations between employers and the employees are frequently clouded by a sense of exploitation, distrust and discontent. They give rise to Industrial conflicts or disputes. Industrial disputes are organized protests against existing terms and conditions of employment. These disputes are symptoms of industrial unrest in a country. For a dispute to become an industrial dispute it should satisfy the following essentials :

  1. There must be a dispute or a difference between
  2. Employers and employees
  3. Employers and employers
  4. Workers and workers
  5. It must be concerned with employment or non employment or the terms of employment or with the conditions of labour of any person.
  6. There must exist a relationship of employers and workmen as a result of the contract of employment and the workmen must be actually employed.

Industrial dispute is not a personal dispute of one person. It generally affecs a large number of workers having community of interest. The parties to the dispute have direct and substantive interest in the dispute.


According to Industrial Dispute Act, 1947, Section 2 (k)

Industrial Dispute means any dispute or difference between employers and employers or between employers and workmen or between workmen and workmen, which is connected with the employment or non employment or the terms of employment or with the conditions of labour of any person.

Forms of Industrial Disputes

Whenever an industrial dispute occurs, both management and workers try to pressurize each other. The management may resort to lock-out and the workers may resort to strike, gherao, picketing etc. Following are the common forms of industrial disputes:

  1. Strikes

Strike is a very powerful weapon used by a trade union to get its demands accepted. It means quitting work by a group of workers for the purpose of bringing pressure on their employer to accept their demands.

According to Industrial Dispute act, 1947

Strike means a cessation of work by a body of persons employed in any industry 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.

Based on this definition strike has three main elements:

i. Plurality of workmen

ii. Cessation of work or refusal to do work

iii. Combined or concerted action

Types of Strikes

i. Stay away Strike

In this type of strike workers do not come to the workplace during the prescribed working hours. Instead they organize rallies and demonstrations with a view to drawing the attention of the employer to their grievances.

ii. Sit down or Stay in Strike

When workers do not leave their place of work, but stop doing work they are said to be on sit down strike. It is also known as tools down or pen down strike. The workers remain in their workplace and also keeps their control over the work facilities.

iii. Token or Protest Strike

It is of a very short duration strike and is in the nature of a signal for the danger ahead. Such a strike is accompanied by threats of a strong dose of the direct action on the part of workmen and their purpose is simply to inform the employer about the feelings of the employees against any decision taken by him. The purpose is to exert moral persuasion rather than to precipitate a crisis. The intention is not to disrupt the business of the employer but to communicate to him the sentiments of the employees on the matter at issue.

iv. Lightening or Cat-call Strike

This type of strike is suddenly announced generally by way of surprise without notice or at very short notice, and thereafter the issues in dispute are discussed. Usually such a strike takes place because of some provocation, and the real cause may be some discontent on the more fundamental issues involving employer-employee relations. Such strikes are generally legal except where a notice is required to be given and where the employer undertakes to move for conciliation and adjudication.

v. Go- Slow Strike

Employees remain on their jobs under this type of strike. They do not stop work, but restrict the rate of output in an organized manner. They adopt go-slow tactics to put pressure on the employers.

vi. Picketing and Boycott

Picketing is an act of posting pickets and implies marching or patrolling of workmen in front of the premises of the employer, carrying and displaying signs, banners and placards for the purpose of preventing others from entering he place. In other words it is watching and dissuading those who go to work during a strike. It is designed to give to the workers a method of drawing the attention of the public by advertising that there is a dispute between employer and labour. It is legal as long as no violence is involved.

Boycott aims at disrupting the normal functioning of the enterprise. It is an appeal for all voluntary withdraw of co-operation, and so it is persuasive in nature, but negative in approach. On the other hand, picketing is positive in approach because it involves the taking if necessary and adequate measures to prevent the co-operation by others in the normal functioning and flow of business.

vii. Gherao

The term ‘Gherao’ denotes a collective action initiated by a group of workers under which members of the management of an industrial establishment are prohibited from leaving the business or residential premises by the workers who block their exit through human barricade. A human barricade is created in the form of the ring or a circle at the center of which the persons concerned virtually remain prisoners of the persons who resort to gherao. All workmen guilty of  wrongfully restraining any person or wrongfully confining him during gherao are guilty under Section 339 or 340 or the Indian Penal Code, of having committed a cognizable offence for which they be liable for punishment like simple imprisonment or fine.

viii. Hunger Strike

A hunger strike is resorted to either by leaders of the union or by some workers all at a time or in small batches for a limited period or by all worker all together at some stage of dispute, the purpose being to create sympathy of the employer and to attract the attention of the public. The hunger strike for the redressal of any real or imaginary grievance is not a misconduct, provided that it is of a non-violent nature and is resorted peacefully

ix. Sympathetic Strike

It is a strike in which the striking workmen have no demands or grievances of their own against their employer but they may go on strike for the purpose of directly aiding or supporting others in their cause. In other words, the workers have no direct interest in the advancement of the cause of the strikers. Such a strike is an unjustifiable invasion of the rights of employers and is generally.

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