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INDIAN RAILWAYS INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS 1. PERMANENT NEGOTIATING MACHINARY: Founded in 1951 when Shri Lal Bahadur Shastri was the Railway Minister. With a view to maintain contact with organized labor & resolve disputes & differences arising between organized labor & the Administer, machinery was set up called “Permanent Negotiating Machinery”. The meetings between the organized labor & Railway Administration are arranged in 3 tiers: 1. The Railways level 2. The Railway Board level 3. The ad hoc Tribunal level •
All the matters which could not be settled at Railway level would be settled at Railway Board level. 1. Separate meetings with AIRF & NFIR & Railway Board once in a quarter. 2. Chairman would be a member staff. Matters of important nature on which no agreement is reached are put up to Ad hoc tribunal. Chairman would be retired Judge of Supreme or High Court having his own staff.
1. JOINT CONSULTATIVE MACHINARY With a view to have harmonious relations between employers & employees in the matter of common concern, GOI has established a machinery known as Joint Consultative Machinery &Compulsory Arbitration, which discusses matters relating to conditions of service, welfare of employees & improvement of efficiency & standard of work. Joint Consultative Machinery works in 3 tiers - National Council, Departmental Council & Regional Council. 2.
SETTING UP OF ANOMALY COMMITTIES TO SETTLE THE ANOMALIES ARISING OUT OF 6TH PAY COMMISSION’S RECOMMENDATIONS In terms of an agreement with the staff side of the National council it has been decided that appropriate Anomaly Committees should be set up consisting representatives of official side & staff side to settle anomalies arising out of implementation of 6th pay commission subjected to following conditions:
Definition of anomaly: where the official side & staff side are of the opinion that vertical/horizontal relativities have been disturbed as a result of 6th Central Pay commission report leading to dissatisfaction & adverse impact on efficiency OR any recommendation is in contravention of the principle of the policy enunciated by 6th pay commission without commission assigning any reason OR where the maximum of the revised scale is less than the existing rate. Composition: There are 2 levels of anomaly committees: National (Chaired by Additional Secretary/Joint Secretary) & Departmental. Committee shall receive anomalies through Secretary , Staff side of resp council upto 6 months of date of its constitution. The arbitrator appointed shall consider disputed cases at National as well as Departmental level.
1. A COMPARISON OF BASIC FEATURES OF PERMANENT NEGOTIATING MACHINERY & JOINT CONSULTATIVE MACHINARY (PNM & JNM) 1. PNM started functioning on Railway in 1951. Under the JCM, National Council started working in 1966 & Departmental Council in 1968. 2. Under PNM, a wide range of subjects can be discussed whereas under JCM, subjects relating to general conditions to service & work & welfare can be discussed. Matters of only 1 department are discussed at departmental council & that of more than 1 department are discussed at national council.
1. HOURS OF EMPLOYMENT REGULATIONS Based on Geneva & Washington Conventions sponsored by ILO & to fulfill the obligation undertaken by Indian govt, had arisen to amend Indian Railways Act, 1890 in 1930 to regulate hour of employment, period of rest & payment of overtime.
2. CORPORATE ENTERPRISE GROUP To have systematic participation of labor in management for improvement in working of railway system & efficiency, a corporate system was set up at central level in ministry of railways in 1972 to provide for free flow of exchange of ideas. These have been set up on Zonal railways. 3.
STAFF COUNCILS These are bodies organized of railways on territorial basis or staff basis or combination of both. Objective of this body is to maintain good relations & spirit of cooperation between railway administration &
groups of non-gazatted railway employees. These are of 3 tiers i.e. Central, Divisional & Area or Station committee council.
Functions: 1. Staff can bring questions concerning conditions of Service. 2. Matters of common interest can be discussed. 3. Staff councils functions on various welfare Committees & advise on all welfare activities.
4. PREM (PARTICIPATION OF RAILWAY EMPLOYEES IN MANAGEMENT) In 1972 the first step was taken by Railway Ministry and constituted CEG (Corporate Enterprise Group of Management) by giving opportunities to organized labor to highlight their views on the Railway working and also suggested measures needed to be taken for improving efficiency on the Railways. This machinery was introduced in 3 tier basis i.e. Railway Board level, Zonal level and Divisional level. Nominated members from the recognized Trade Unions are participating in this meeting and improvement in efficiency of Railway working and also suggesting means of improving Railway working. Thereafter workers were involved in important deliberations at various levels to provide efficient rail transport service to the traveling public. This machinery was again restructured in 1994 and was named as PREM (Participation of Railway employees in Management). This has given meaningful and effective participation of workers in Management process. Separate cell under the direct control of Secretary, Railway Board is created. Joint Secretary Railway Board assists in convening the meeting. Hon’ble Saffar Sharif the then Railway Minister taken a decision and written a letter to then Prime Minister of India Shri Narshima Rao and taken this decision. On 1st May, 1995 on the May Day in New Delhi for the first time in history of Indian Railways, top leaders of workers Federation of Railways participated in the meeting along with Minister of Railways, Railway Board and General Meetings
Level of Participation : •
DRM Level : Divisional Set up of Organised labour with DRM, Sr.DPO
Zonal Level : with GM/AGM, CPO along with all POHDs and Zonal set up nominated by Recognised Trade Unions.
Railway Board Level : with Chairman and MS along with all Additional Members of respective departments and representatives from Federation nominated by recognized Federation.
Main Purpose of Participative Management: This participative management has created importance to the workers by giving better social status, respect and their suggestion of improving attitude towards work was taken into account in production process. •
It has also helped for attaining industrial peace and harmony.
It gave the worker an acceptable status within the working community and a sense of purpose in activity.
It provides opportunity for workers self-management.
This has also provided the workers sharing of a part of managerial powers.
Evaluate the functioning of the railways & exchange data & ideas on way & means for improving the efficiency & viability of the enterprise. Appraise the investment programmes, particularly housing & other welfare services. Identify areas & devise action- oriented methods for maximizing organizational effectiveness, the use of technology. To facilitate effective & meaningful participation of the Railway employees in management process. To give them a sense of involvement & pride in organization’s work.
• • • •
The Management’s primary interest lies in the improving the productivity, reducing cost and thus improving profitability. Workers interest lies in improving their earnings. When earning improves through sharing gains in productivity, naturally harmony of interest is promoted. The main purpose of this machinery is to improve running of Railway system and delivery of better service of the traveling public.
This machinery is not discussing the grievances of Railway employees.
THEMES SUGGESTED PREM MEETINGS: • • • • • • • •
Care of customers Quality Measures to improve revenue earnings Expenditure control Commercialization of working Human resource development Redeployment of surplus labor Holistic initiatives
ACTS APPLICABLE: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7.
PAYMENT OF WAGES ACT 1957 MINIMUM WAGES ACT, 1948 WORKMEN’S COMPENSATION ACT, 1923 FACTORIES ACT, 1948 INDUSTRIAL DISPUTE ACT, 1947 TRADE UNIONS ACT, 1926 CONTRACT LABOUR ACT, 1970
SETTLEMENT MACHINERY : Applicability of Industrial Dispute Act comes into picture here covering all railway workmen other than those on supervisory level whose wages exceed 1600 Rs per month.
3. TRADE UNION ACT 1926: A trade Union is a continuous association of wage earners for the purpose of maintaining & improving workers’ conditions & their lives.
UNIONS ON RAILWAYS: 1. NATIONAL RAILWAYS MAZDOOR UNIONS 2. CENTRAL RAILWAY MAZDOOR SANGH 3. MADHYA RAILWAY KARMCHARI SANGH 4. NATIONAL FEDERATION OF INDIAN RAILWAYMEN 5. BHARTI RAILWAY MAZDOOR SANGH 6. East Central Railwaymen’s Congress (ECRMC), Patna 7. Uttar Paschim Railway Mazdoor Sangh (UPRMS), Jaipur 8. South Western Railway Employees’ Sangh (SWRES), Hubli
9. 10. 11. 12.
North Central Railway Employees’ Sangh (NCRES), Allahabad South East Central Railway Mazdoor Congress (SECRMC), Bilaspur East Coast Railway Shramik Congress (ECORSC), Bhubaneswar West Central Railway Mazdoor Sangh (WCRMS), Jabalpur
Facilities given to unions by railways: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6.
Through permanent negotiating machinery staff Through joint consultative machinery Staff benefit fund Participation through Labor Advisory Committee Staff Committee Issue of card passes to union workers and many more.
CRMS is representing over Central Railway through 78 Branches. 26 in Mumbai, 18 in Bhusawal, 13 in Nagpur, 12 in Solapur and 9 in Pune .CRMS is affiliated to NFIR and INTUC. Each Branch is representing DRM directly by correspondence under the signature of Branch Secretary. The issues which are not settled through the Correspondence are listed out as the Agenda to be discussed in Divisional PNM Meeting. The PNM Meeting at DRM level is conducted every alternate month and a total of 6 meetings in a year. At the HQr. Level, the items sent by the Divisions are represented to G.M. C.Rly and the issues which are not settled by correspondences are listed out for Agenda for HQr.PNM to be discussed with G.M.C.Rly. Agenda for PNM Meeting is sent one month in advance MORCHA & DHARNA •
Mass demonstration against denial of transport allowance to Railway Employees of Mumbai Area
Mass Demonstration by Railway employees in front of G.M’s office C.Rly CST Mumbai on 14.10.08 at 17.30 hrs.
History of the formation of INRWF (Indian National Railway Workers Federation) now NFIR
In the annals of the Railway Labor Movement, May, 16, 1948 should be written in golden letters for on that date during Second Session of the INTUC being held at Bombay, the INTUC Working Committee decided that a very sizable number of railway employees having joined the INTUC, it had become imperative to form a Central Body to coordinate their activities and direct the movement on the right lines. The Indian National Railway Workers Federation (INRWF), thus, came into being.
NFIR as Member of IRWO's Governing Body NFIR being the Governing Body Member of Indian Railway Welfare Organization (IRWO) has assisted the organization looking into the interests of Railway men. IRWO has been set up under the patronage of Ministry of Railways to look after the housing needs of the serving and retired Railway Employees as a Social Welfare Measure on ‘NO-PROFIT NO-LOSS’ basis. The Registrar of Societies has registered IRWO under the Societies Registration Act of 1860. The aim of IRWO is to provide housing to the serving Railway personnel, retired Railway personnel, spouses of deceased Railway personnel of Public Sector Undertakings under Ministry of Railways and personnel of IRWO.
IRWO is engaged in acquiring land from Government Organizations like Local Development Authorities, Housing Boards etc., and private parties in case the Government Organizations do not allot the land. IRWO undertakes construction of houses/flats at reasonable costs for its primary members. IRWO raises funds as subscription from the primary members and loans from financial institutions. NFIR as a Member of the Governing Body, advises IRWO from time to time and resolves the shortcomings and deficiencies in the process of acquiring land and construction of dwelling units at reasonable costs to its primary members, who are Railway employees. NFIR played an important role in securing refund of money to the allottees of Faridabad Project.
The ALL INDIA STATION MASTERS' ASSOCIATION, Delhi, (Regd. popularly known as AISMA has entered into 57 years of age (1953 - 2010) as an instrument to tackle the problem pertaining to the STATION MASTERS. This is a Railway Trade Union working for the welfare of Railway Employees, particularly 35,770 Assistant Station Masters (ASMs), Station Masters (SMs), Station Managers (SMRs) and Transportation Inspectors (TIs).
THE PAYMENT OF BONUS ACT, 1965 INTRODUCTION 1 BONUS Bonus implies something paid as a gesture of goodwill. The Encyclopedia Britannica has defined Bonus as“An award in cash or its equivalent by an employer to an employee for an accomplishment other than that of paid for regular wages, such accomplishment considered being desirable though not required by the contract of employment.
It is usually intended as stimulus but may also express the desire of the employer to share with the employee the fruits of their joint enterprise.” So, bonus is payment made to the employees out of profits earned by employers over & above the remuneration. It is not ex- gratia payment but the statutory right of employee.
2 HISTORY: The practice of paying bonus in India originated during First World War when certain textile mills granted 10% of wages as war bonus to their workers in 1917. In certain cases of industrial disputes demand for payment of bonus was also included. Bonus Act is the outcome of the recommendation made by the tripartite commission which was set up by the Govt. of India in 1961. Commission was asked to consider the payment of bonus based on profit to employees by employer. Accordingly, Payment of Bonus Ordinance, 1965 was promulgated on May 26, 1965. Subsequently, it was accepted by the parliament & accordingly in 1965, the Payment of Bonus Act was enacted.
3OBJECTIVES: 1. To impose a statutory obligation on employer of every
establishment to pay bonus to all eligible employees. 2. To outline the principles of payment of bonus according to prescribed formula. 3. To provide for payment for maximum or minimum bonus. 4. To provide machinery for enforcement of bonus.
4SCOPE & APPLICATION 1. It extends to the whole of India 2. Applies
Save as otherwise provided in this Act, it shall apply to – (a) every factory; and (b) every other establishment employing 20 or more persons on any day during an accounting year.
Subsequent reduction in the no. of employees won’t make it inapplicable.
1. Act doesn’t applies to public enterprises except those operating in competition with similar other private undertakings. 2. Not applicable to non- profit making undertakings like R.B.I, L.I.C of India etc. 3. All banks are covered in this Act. 4. In case of factories, if the no. of employees fall below 10, the Act can’t be enforced.
5NON-APPLICATION OF ACT: Nothing of this Act applies to • • •
Employees employed by any insurer carrying on general insurance business. Seamen defined in clause 42 of section 3 of Merchant Shipping Act,1958. Employees registered under any scheme under Dock Workers (Regulation of Employers Act,1948) Employees of Central or State Govt. Employees employed by: 1. Indian Red Cross Society or any institution of similar nature 2. Universities and other educational institutions 3. Hospitals, chambers of commerce & social welfare institutions & other non- profit organizations.
6DEFINITIONS: In this Act, unless the context otherwise requires,(1) “accounting year” means (i)
in relation to a corporation, the year ending on the day on which the books and accounts of the corporation are to be closed and balanced. (ii) in relation to a company, the period in respect of which any profit and loss account of the company laid before it in annual general meeting. (iii) in any other case (a) the year commencing on the 1st day of April; or
(b) if the accounts of an establishment maintained by
the employer thereof are closed and balanced on any day other than the 31st day of March, then, at the option of the employer, the year ending on the day on which its accounts are so closed and balanced.
(2) “allocable surplus” means(a) in relation to an employer, being a company other
than a banking company which has not made the arrangements prescribed under the Income-tax Act for the declaration and payment within India of the dividends payable out of its profits in accordance with the provisions of section 194 of that Act, sixty-seven per cent of the available surplus in an accounting; year; (b) in any other case, 60 % of such available surplus; (3) “appropriate Government” means(i)
in relation to an establishment in respect of which the appropriate Government under the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947, is the Central Government, the Central Government; in relation to any other establishment, the Government of the State in which that other establishment is situate;
(4) “available surplus” means the available surplus computed under section 5; (5) “award” means an interim or a final determination of any industrial dispute or of any question relating thereto by any Labour Court, Industrial Tribunal or National Tribunal constituted under the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 or by any other authority. (6) “employee” means any person (other than an apprentice) employed on a salary or wage not exceeding 1 [three thousand and five hundred rupees] per month in any industry to do any skilled or unskilled manual, supervisory, managerial, administrative, technical or clerical work for hire or reward, whether the terms of 1
employment be express or implied;
(7) “employer includes(i) in relation to an establishment which is a factory, the owner or occupier of the factory, including the agent of such owner or occupier, the legal representative of a deceased owner or occupier and where a person has been named as a manager of the factory under clause (f) of sub-section (1) of section 7 of the Factories Act, 1948 (63 of 1948), the person so named; and (ii) in relation to any other establishment, the person who, or the authority which, has the ultimate control over the affairs of the establishment and where the said affairs are entrusted to a manager, managing director or managing agent, such manager, managing director or managing agent;
(8) “salary or wage” means all remuneration (other than remuneration in respect of over-time work) capable of being expressed in terms of money, which would, if the terms of employment, express or implied, were fulfilled, be payable to an employee in respect of his employment or of work done in such employment and includes dearness allowance (that is to say, all cash payments, by whatever name called, paid to an employee on account of a rise in the cost of living), but does not include(i) any other allowance which the employee is for the time being entitled to; (ii) the value of any house accommodation or supply of light, water, medical attendance or other amenity or of any service or of any concessional supply of food grains or other articles; (iii) any traveling concession; (iv) any bonus (including attendance bonus);
(v) any contribution paid or payable by the employer to any pension fund or provident fund or for the benefit of the employee under any law for the time being in force; (vi) any retrenchment compensation or any gratuity or other retirement benefit payable to the employee or any ex gratia payment made to him; (vii) any commission payable to the employee.
7 Eligibility for bonus.—Every employee shall be entitled to be paid by his employer in an accounting year, bonus, in accordance with the provisions of this Act, provided he has worked in the establishment for not less than thirty working days in that year. 8 Disqualification for bonus.—Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, an employee shall be disqualified from receiving bonus under this Act, if he is dismissed from service for -(a) fraud; or (b) riotous or violent behavior while on the premises of the establishment; or (c) theft, misappropriation or sabotage of any property of the establishment.
9PAYMENT OF MINIMUM & MAXIMUM BONUS: Act requires that where an employer has any allocable surplus, he shall be bound to pay to every employee a minimum bonus which shall not be less than 8.33 % of wages & salary earned by employee during the accounting year or Rs 100, whichever be higher. All employees earning a wage or salary not exceeding Rs 3500 per month in any establishment as specified in schedule of Act are entitled to bonus under the Act. The amount of bonus payable has to be calculated on a maximum salary of Rs 3500.
10Computation of number of working days.— For the purposes of section 13, an employee shall be deemed to have worked in an establishment in any accounting year also on the days on which-(a) he has been laid off under an agreement or as
permitted by standing orders under the Industrial Employment (Standing Orders) Act, 1946 (20 of 1946), or under the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 (14 of 1947), or under any other law applicable to the establishment; (b) he has been on leave with salary or wage; (c) he has been absent due to temporary disablement caused by accident arising out of and in the course of his employment; and (d) the employee has been on maternity leave with salary or wage, during the accounting year.
11Set on and set off of allocable surplus.— (1) Where for any accounting year, the allocable surplus exceeds the amount of maximum bonus payable to the employees in the establishment under section 11, then, the excess shall, subject to a limit of twenty per cent. of the total salary or wage of the employees employed in the establishment in that accounting year, be carried forward for being set on in the succeeding accounting year and so on up to and inclusive of the fourth accounting year to be utilized for the purpose of payment of bonus in the manner illustrated in the Fourth Schedule. (2) Where for any accounting year, there is no available surplus or the allocable surplus falls short of the amount of minimum bonus payable and there is no sufficient amount carried forward which could be utilized for the purpose of payment of the minimum bonus, then, such minimum amount or the deficiency, as the case may be, shall be carried forward for being set off in the succeeding accounting year and so on up to and inclusive of the fourth accounting year in the manner illustrated in the Fourth Schedule. (3) The principle of set on and set off as illustrated in the Fourth Schedule shall apply to all other cases not covered by sub-section (1) or sub-section (2) for the purpose of payment of bonus under this Act. (4) Where in any accounting year any amount has been carried forward and set on or set off under this section, then, in calculating bonus for the succeeding accounting year, the amount of set on or set off carried forward from the earliest accounting year shall first be taken into account.]
12Time-limit for payment of bonus. –
[All amounts] payable to an employee by way of bonus under this Act shall be paid in cash by his employer -2
(a) where there is a dispute regarding payment of bonus pending before any authority under section 22, 2
within a month from the date on which the award becomes enforceable or the settlement comes into operation, in respect of such dispute; (b) in any other case, within a period of eight months from the close of the accounting year: Provided that the appropriate Government or such authority as the appropriate Government may specify in this behalf may, upon an application made to it by the employer and for sufficient reasons, by order, extended the said period of eight months to such further period or periods as it thinks fit; so, however, that the total period so extended shall not in any case exceed two years.
13Recovery of bonus due from an employer.- Where any money is due to an employee by way of bonus from his employer under a settlement or an award or agreement, the employee himself or any other person authorised by him in writing in this behalf, or in the case of the death of the employee, his assignee or heirs may, without prejudice to any other mode of recovery, make an application to the appropriate Government or such authority as the appropriate Government may specify in this behalf is satisfied that any money is so due, it shall issue a certificate for that amount to the Collector who shall proceed to recover the same in the same manner as an arrears of land revenue. Provided that every such application shall be made within one year from the date on which the money became due to the employee from the employer. Provided further that any such application may be entertained after the expiry of the said period of one year, if the appropriate Government is satisfied that the applicant had sufficient cause for not making the application within the said period. .
14Penalty.- if any person(a) contravenes any of the provision of this Act or any rule made thereunder, or (b) to whom a direction is given or a requisition is made under this Act fails to comply with the direction or requisition, he shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to six months, or with fine which may extend to one thousand rupees, or with both.
APPLICABILITY OF BONUS ACT IN INDIAN RAILWAYS:
Productivity Linked Bonus (PLB) Agreement signed between the Railway Board and the two Federations(All India Railwaymen’s Federation and National Federation of Indian Railwaymen) on 22 nd November, 1979, states that “The Indian Railways are a departmental undertaking of the Government of India and as such, are excluded from the purview of Payment of Bonus Act. The Railwaymen have, however, been representing for a long time that being industrial employees they should be covered by the Payment of Bonus Act and paid bonus accordingly. Discussions have been held since August 1979 with the representatives of the Railwaymen to see if any solution can be found to this problem since the railway employees are not covered by the Payment of Bonus Act, the Railways being a departmental undertaking. The chief consideration borne in the mind was the important role of the Railways as an infrastructural activity in the performance of the economy as a whole. Having regard to this, it was felt by the Government that any solution to the problem would have to stress higher productivity on the part of the railwaymen which in turn would result in better performance by the Railways. This line of thought suggested the desirability of , accepting the concept of productivity-linked bonus in lieu of bonus on the lines of Payment of Bonus Act. The representatives of All India Railwaymen’s Federation and National Federation of Indian Railwaymen responded in a spirit of coordination to the Government’s suggestion for accepting the concept of Productivity Linked Bonus. This PLB Scheme was accepted by the two Federations (NFIR & AIRF) when Government of India represented by Railway Board have accepted this scheme. During the year 1995, the Federation insisted that the rate of PLB should be enhanced upward from Rs.1600/-. The Government have considered and revised the rate from Rs.1600 to Rs.2500 on 20-9-995 through an Ordinance. The Minister for Railways is the final authority in this matter and no role is envisaged in the agreement either of the Finance Ministry or the Finance Minister. The unilateral intervention of the Finance Ministry causes anguish and resentment amongst the Railwaymen all over the country.
The Indian Railways Strike of 1974 Indian Railways strike of 1974 has been the most widespread revolt by the working class in independent India & was a unique event for several reasons. It occurred at a time when labour militancy was at its highest in independent India: the number of workdays lost owing to all industrial disputes in India touched 40 million in 1974. The strike provided a stunning launch pad to mass appeal for those like George Fernandes who, as the president of the All India Railwaymen's Federation (AIRF), was the main leader of the strike The strike commenced on 8 May 1974. The strike was brutally suppressed by government with thousands being sent to jail and losing their jobs. The strike was called off on 27 May 1974. The 1974 strike forced political parties across the spectrum to spell out their stand clearly. The strike also provided a stunning launch pad to mass appeal for those like George Fernandes who, as the president of the All India Railwaymen's Federation (AIRF), was the main leader of the strike. Although portrayed as a failure, the strike achieved later what it sought to achieve then. The role of the three main agents becomes clear after examining the strike closely - the Indian state, the Railways management and the workers' unions. Conventional labour studies perceived unions as intermediaries between workers, whom they were supposed to represent, and employers. In the case of the state-owned Indian Railways, the government played the role of the employer and that of the agency entrusted with the task of protecting the interests of the weaker party in the compact between labour and capital. Although the Railway Board is supposed to work under government supervision, in reality it enjoyed more autonomy in day-to-day matters than what the government has or is willing to concede The Railways bureaucracy and the government preferred to deal with "tamed" leaders of the Railways' working class. In doing this, it thwarted all attempts by workers to establish "their own" unions. The government stubbornly refused to recognize union on the basis of election of representatives by secret ballot & perceived the unions as devices with which it could "discipline" the workers. The 1974 strike was symbolic of the workers' refusal to accept the "patron-client" character of the two major unions which claimed to work for their behalf. In the Railways, government patronage of the two dominant unions led to two developments that provoked the upsurge of workers in 1974. 1. The distance between the officially recognized unions and the rank and
file widened because workers no longer saw the unions as representing their interests before the government. 2. The government's patronage of the officially recognized unions, at the exclusion of all other voices of the working class, led to a complete blockage of possibilities of the redress of the grievances of ordinary workers. The situation was thus fertile for an explosion of anger from below. Studies from union, government and Railways management sources exposes the shocking working conditions that provoked the workers to revolt
in 1974. The 1974 strike, contrary to popular belief, was not a sudden action. It was preceded by strikes by rail workers across the country in 1967, 1968, 1970 and 1973. These strikes indicated that the workforce was restive and on the brink of exploding into revolt. The 1974 strike was led by Workers, particularly the newly-emergent crafts unions among the rail workers. Workers, fed up with the bureaucratic ways of the two officially recognized unions - the pro-Congress National Federation of Indian Railwaymen (NFIR) and the Lohiite Socialistinspired AIRF - forced the leadership to address their long-pending demands. The long working hours of rail crew. Historically, many of the British-run rail networks had termed the work of the loco staff as "continuous", implying that workers would have to remain at work as long as the train ran on its trip, often for several days at a stretch especially on the goods trains. Independence did not change this. The spread of diesel engines and the consequent intensification of work in the Indian Railways since the 1960s created much resentment among the workers Besides this, there were other issues. Pay scales in the Indian Railways had remained stagnant, The first hints of workers' disillusionment with the recognised unions came in 1966 when firemen at Madurai, Tamil Nadu, organised themselves into the Southern Railways Firemen Council. Similar councils were soon formed in other parts of the State. The strikes of these councils, in 1967 and 1968, were so effective that goods and passenger traffic came to a halt. The strike was called off by the workers only after the Railway Minister agreed to settle their demands. The success of the "independent" union led to the formation of the Loco Running Staff Association (LRSA), which played an important role in the 1974 strike. In February 1974, the National Coordinating Committee for Railwaymen's Struggle (NCRRS) was formed to bring all the railway unions, the central trade unions and political parties in the Opposition together to prepare for the strike to start on May 8, 1974 Even as negotiations were proceeding, the government arrested Fernandes at the Lucknow railway station on May 2. Across the country thousands of railway workers were arrested. The provisions of the Defence of India Rules and the Maintenance of Internal Security Act (MISA) were used against the workers.. With the countrywide arrest of the top leadership of the unions, the success of the strike now depended greatly on zonal and local union leaders, and of course, the rank and file. Workers from other industries and services were quick to express solidarity with the striking rail workers. The action of the government provoked the workers to go on an immediate strike instead of waiting for May 8. In Bombay, electricity and transport workers as well as taxi drivers joined the protests. In Gaya, Bihar, striking workers and their families squatted on the tracks. More than 10,000 workers of the Integral Coach Factory in Perambur, Tamil Nadu, marched to the Southern Railway headquarters in Chennai to express their solidarity with the striking workers. Similar protests erupted across the country. Not a single important rail centre in India was immune.
The brutal methods adopted by the government against the striking workers and their families have been fairly well-documented. The railway colonies were practically under siege. For instance, in Mughalsarai in Uttar Pradesh, which has one of the biggest railway yards in the world, women were assaulted and even children were not spared. The Border Security Force (BSF), the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and the Provincial Armed Constabulary were deployed in the labour township. There were also instances of workers forced by terror to work. Instances of train drivers who were shackled in their cabins were reported at the height of the strike. Much has changed on the labour landscape since 1974. Although Sherlock's sympathies evidently lie with the revolt by the crafts unions against the established unions, events since 1974 have proved that these unions have themselves been successfully tamed by the Railways management and the government. The strike leadership, particularly Fernandes, were perceived as having betrayed those who had sacrificed their all for the larger cause. Fernandes, as Union Railway Minister soon after the Emergency, has been criticised for having failed to restore the rights that thousands of workers lost during the strike.