(1.) THERE are 11 petitioners in this application who are all companies incorporated under the Indian Companies Act. The petitioner No. 1, Messrs. Bangur Brothers Ltd. , is the managing agent for five companies, namely, Hastings Mills Ltd. , Fort William Jute Co. Ltd. , Belsund Sugar Mills Ltd. , Shalimar Rope Works Ltd. and India paint Colour and Varnish Co. Ltd. The petitioner No. 1 manages the other companies, namely Messrs. Amalgamated Development Ltd. , Messrs Oceanic Navigation Co. Ltd. , Messrs. Bangur Land Development Ltd. , Messrs. Vijay Luxmi Ltd. and Messrs. West Bengal Properties (Private) Ltd The respondent No. 4 is stated to be a department of the petitioner No. 1. The factories and/or mills of the various companies are situated in different parts of the country. For example, the factories etc. of Messrs. Belsund Sugar Mills Ltd. are in Bihar. The Head Offices of all the companies are, however, situated at 14, Netaji Subhas Road, Calcutta. In January, 1957 a Trade Union called the "national Union of Commercial Employees", claiming to represent the workmen of the petitioner companies at their respective Head Offices situated at 14, Netaji Subhas Road, Calcutta submitted a charter of demands to the petitioner No. 1, claiming fixation of grades, dearness allowance and revision of casual leave. By an order dated 7th January, 1958 the Government of West Bengal referred an industrial dispute between "messrs. Bangur Brothers Ltd. , 14, Netaji Subhas Road, Calcutta-1 and their subordinate staff" for adjudication by the 5th Industrial Tribunal, Calcutta. The issues that were referred related to the fixation of grades and scales of pay of all categories of subordinate staff, dearness allowance and casual leave. In the written statement filed on behalf of the workmen by the Union, it was mentioned that the petitioner No. 1 was the managing agent of 11 companies, being petitioners Nos. 2 to 11 and the respondent No. 4. It was further stated that the petitioner No. 1 employed nearly 50 subordinate employees. It was contended that these companies were only departments of the managing agent, and the administration was common. It was stated that there was only one accountant and cashier common to all the companies, one common provident fund and the leave and holidays of the employees were the same. It was contended that under the same employer i. e. , Messrs. Bangur Brothers Ltd. , the employees were being discriminated in respect of the pay structure, and since 1946 no dearness allowance had been paid and the casual leave granted was insufficient. It was pointed out that until 1951, the petitioner No. 1 company had a system of consolidated pay for all classes of employees including the subordinate staff. Since 1952, the company split up the wages of subordinate staff into basic pay and dearness allowance. It was admitted, however, that the re-fixation was not the same with regard to all the companies. For example, the dearness allowance was fixed at Rs. 30/- per month in most cases, but in the case of Messrs. Shalimar Rope Works Ltd. it was fixed at Rs. 21/- per month. The petitioner No. 1 filed its written statement pointing out that it was not the managing agent In respect of 4 companies, as stated above. It was contended that the employees of all these companies were not the employees of the petitioner No. 1, but that it had only employees in the subordinate staff, and there was no existing dispute with them.
(2.) THEREUPON, on the 13th April, 1959 a corrigendum was issued by the Government of West Bengal, by which the order of reference was amended. A copy of the corrigendum is annexure "e" to the petition. As amended by the corrigendum, the order of reference was in respect of an industrial dispute existing between the petitioner No. 1 and "their 11 allied concerns" mentioning the petitioners Nos. 2 to 11 and the respondent No. 4, "and their subordinate staff". The issues referred were not disturbed and remained the same. After this amendment of the order of reference, the workmen filed a second written statement through the Union on the same lines as before Three of the petitioner companies, namely Hastings Mills Ltd. , Fort William Co. Ltd. , and Belsund Sugar Mills Ltd. , filed one joint written statement. It was stated therein that although these three companies had a common managing agent, and had their Head Offices at 14, Netaji Subhas Road, they had separate bodies of subordinate staff. It was admitted that there being a common managing agency, a common pattern was adopted in respect of wages, leave etc. so far as was practicable, but these companies were distinct entities and were not adjuncts of Messrs. Bangur Brothers Ltd. A separate written statement was filed jointly by the petitioner No. 1, the respondent No. 4 and the petitioners Nos. 4:, 5, 6, 7 and 8. In this written statement also, it was contended that the companies concerned were separate and distinct entities. A separate written statement was filed on behalf of the petitioner No. 10, Shalimar Rope Works Ltd. In this written statement, it was similarly contended that it was a public limited concern with its Head Office at 14, Netaji Subhas Road, Calcutta and its factory situate at Shibpur, Howrah. ]]t has its own subordinate staff whose wages had been fixed according to prevailing circumstances. The company had agreed to pay dearness allowance at a flat rate of Rs. 22. 50 np. Finally, a separate written statement was filed by the petitioner No. 11, the India Paint and Colour and Varnish Co. Ltd. It was similarly contended that it was a distinct and separate entity and had its own subordinate staff employed at the Head Office and its factory. It was denied that this company was an adjunct of the petitioner No. 1. Upon this pleading, the parties went to trial, and evidence was taken. The first witness called on behalf of the workmen was D. L. Chakravorty, Secretary of the Union. He said that he was an employee of the companies as a member of the clerical staff. He said that the factories of the 11 companies were situated at different places, but the Head Office of all of them was at 11, Netaji Subhas Road, Calcutta. Messrs. Bangur Brothers were the Managing agents of all the companies. The following evidence is important and must be set out:-
"i was appointed by the managing agents and placed in the India Paint, Colour and Varnish Co. Ltd. All the workmen concerned in this case were appointed by the said managing agents and were placed in different departments relating to the different companies. Usually, the managing agents transfer one employee attached to the head office of one company to that of another head office. Even though, an employee is transferred from one department to another, he enjoys the original privileges and conditions of his service. All the workmen are under the control of the managing agents M/s. Bangur Brothers,"
(3.) IN cross-examination he admitted that India Patent, Colour and Varnish Co. Ltd. had a separate attendance register. He did not know whether the other companies had separate attendance registers. The next witness was Debendra Nath Mukhopadhaya. According to him he was attached to the Despatch Department which dealt with all letters of the managing agents as well as the answering companies. With regard to the attendance registers he states as follows:-
"in the Despatch Department, attendance register was maintained for the staff of all the companies except Shalimar Rope Works and India Paint. I maintain one attendance register. The register was maintained in this fashion up to the end of 1950. After this the attendance register was split up in the different departments. My name was entered in the name of Fort William. ";