Decided on June 30,1977



- (1.) THE petitioner herein is a private limited company owning three groups of tea estates comprising of Highways, Venniar and Manalaar estates, and respondents 2 to 4 are the three unions functioning in that group of estates. According to the petitioner, on the afternoon of first January, 1971, the pluckers of the Highways Estate refused to fill up leaf bags which is part of their normal duties. When the management made separate arrangements to fill up leaf bags by employing casual labour there was an assault on them. On 2nd January, 1971, the workers throughout the group struck work in support of certain demands. On 4th January, 1971, there was a go-slow by the pluckers in two divisions, Cloudland and Highways. In the Highways division there was a disorderly behaviour by pluckers towards the staff members. This position is said to have continued on the 5th and 6th January, 1971. On 7th January, 1971, the management advised the union leaders that unless normalcy was restored immediately the management would be constrained to discontinue work in the concerned departments, On 3th January, 1971, normal work was done. On 9th January, 1971, all the pluckers refused to go to the fields indicated by the management for plucking but they plucked in the fields of their own choice with a view to create Highways Group of Estates vs. Industrial Tribunal and Ors. (30. 06. 1977 -MADHC) Page 2 of 6 ghways Group of Estates vs. Industrial Tribunal and Ors. (30. 06. 1977 -MADHC) Page 2 of 6 loss to the management. As a result of the conduct on the part of the pluckers in not carrying out the directions of the management, the management declared a lock-out in all the pluckers' sections of the plantation, 10th was a Sunday. On 11th January, 1971, the entire body of workers struck work and did not turn out for work and, therefore, the management declared a lock-out. The lock-out continued upto 21st January, 1971.
(2.) THERE were certain conciliation proceedings as regards the justification for the lock-out between the period 9th to 21st of January, 1971. After the failure of the conciliation proceedings the matter was reported to Government and the Government referred the following two issues for adjudication by its order dated 22nd March, 1971 : (1) Whether the workmen of Highways Group of Estates are entitled for wages for the period of lock-out from 9th January, 1971 to 21st January, 1971 ? (2) Whether the 24 pluckers of Manalaar Estate are entitled for wages for the period of their strike for three working days from 29th December, 1970 to 31st December, 1970 and whether 12 pluckers of Cloudland division are entitled for wages for the period of their strike for seven working days from 30th December, 1970 to 6th January, 1971 ? The Industrial Tribunal, Madras, disposed of the reference holding that while the lockout ordered on 9th January, 1971, as regards the pluckers' section was justified the lockout ordered by the management on 11th -January, 1971, in respect of other workers in the entire group of estates is not justified and, therefore, the management is bound to pay the workmen other than pluckers wages for the period of lock-out, that is from 9th January, 1971 to 21st January, 1971. It, however, held in favour of the management as regards the second issue, which does not relate to the lock-out ordered on 9th January, 1971 and 11th January, 1971. The validity of the award of the Tribunal so far as it relates to the first issue has been challenged in this writ petition by the petitioner-management.
(3.) THE learned Counsel for the petitioner contends that the Tribunal has erred in coming to the conclusion that the lock-out was not justified, that the indisciplined behaviour of the workmen from 1st January, 1971, till the morning of 11th January, 1971, caused considerable apprehension in its mind that it is absolutely necessary to order a lock-out to protect its properties, and that the Tribunal having rightly observed in paragraph 14 of the award that M30 to M53 prove that the workers had indulged in acts of indiscipline till January 11, 1971, had erred in coming to the conclusion that the lock-out was not justified. The petitioner's stand is that the conduct of the workmen from January 1, 1971 to January 11, 1971, should be taken into account for deciding whether the lock-out ordered is justified or not and that it is not open to the Tribunal to ignore the said conduct and decide the question as to the justification of the lock-out only from the incidents that took place on January 11, 1971. Mr. M. R. Narayanaswami, learned Counsel for the petitioner, submits that the Tribunal has overlooked very many circumstances such as the attitude of the workers for a few days before the lock-out, the attitude of the union leaders inciting the workmen to act violently in the event of the management not complying with their demands, the conduct of the workmen in going on an illegal strike on the morning of January 11, 1971, and disobeying the notice of the management asking them to report for duty, in holding that the lock-out was not justified and that the Tribunal also erred in its finding that as normalcy prevailed in the plantation on January 8, 1971, it was not open for the management to declare a lockout on January 11, 1971, merely because there was strike by the workers.;

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