PARTHA SARATHI REJ Vs. STATE OF WEST BENGAL
HIGH COURT OF CALCUTTA
PARTHA SARATHI REJ
STATE OF WEST BENGAL
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(1.)The Court: The instant writ petition is directed against a tripartite settlement dated 18.2.94.
(2.)A union and its office bearer are the writ petitioners. The respondent No.3 company has a commercial establishment consisting of Accounts Dept. Personnel Dept., Engineering Purchase Dept., Drawing Office etc. attached to its manufacturing unit at Rishra. The petitioner union claims that it represents the majority of the employees of the respondent No.3 at Rishra. The commercial establishment of the respondent company at Rishra was registered under the Shops and Establishment Act, 1963. For the employees of the commercial establishment of the respondent company at Rishra, the total weekly working hours were 36 while the total number of working days in a week was 5. Besides the petitioner union, there are two other unions operating at the Rishra unit of the company viz. respondents No.5 and 6. On the expiry of the long term settlement dated 12.1.89, all the three unions including the petitioner union submitted their charters of demands for revision of grades, scales of pay and other conditions of service. In course of separate discussions with the other two unions, the company gave Indications that it Was going to increase the total weekly hours from 36 to 48 and sought their help in the matter. The said two unions are recognised by the company. The petitioner union coming to know about such a move for changing the working hours, raised an industrial dispute before the respondent No.2 by their letter dated 17.1.94 requesting him for initiating a conciliation proceeding. The respondent No.2 held discussions on charter of demands with other unions. But, it appeared that he was actively supporting the plea of the company with regard to the increase in the working hours. The petitioners twit a stand not to accept the proposed increase in the working hours because such increase would be against the provisions of section 24 of the West Bengal Shops and Establishment Act. In spite of such objection of the petitioner, the respondent company entered into the impugned tripartite settlement with the other two unions incorporating the change in the weekly working hours from 36 to 48. It has been alleged by the petitioners that this settlement was in gross violation of section 24 of the West Bengal Shops and Establishment Act, 1963 and Rule 57 of West Bengal Shops and Establishment Rules, 1964. The petitioners were not made parties by the respondent No.2 since they were opposing the said settlement. The part played by the Conciliation Officer i.e. the respondent No.2 for bringing about the settlement was a colourable exercise of power. He also acted in a highly motivated, illegal and partisan manner of bringing about the impugned settlement in violation of section 24 of the West Bengal Shops and Establishment Act, 1963 and the in violation of section 12 of the Industrial Disputes Act.
(3.)The respondent company opposed the writ application on filing an affidavit-in-opposition. It denied all the material allegations of the writ petitioners. Its case, in substance, may be stated as follows. The petitioner union is an unrecognised minority union and the respondent No.5 union is the majority union having more that 50 percent of the workmen of the company. In terms of the tripartite settlement dated 3.1.68, an employee enjoying 36 hours of duty in a week could have been asked to work for 48 hours a week by granting 3, advance increments in his pay scale and placing him in the plant grade. There were two separate sets of grades applicable to plant staff (48 hours a week) and office staff (36 hours a week). The plant staff grade was always higher than the corresponding office staff grade. The impugned settlement was reached with a view to bringing parity in the weekly working hours, the grades and holidays of the plant and office staff. The petitioner union came to know about the intention of the management to bring about the changes in the working hours of the office staff and raised industrial dispute with the Additional Labour Commissioner after having 78 joint meeting with the management along with the two other recognised unions. The impugned settlement is not at all violative of the provisions of section 24 of the West Bengal Shops and Establishment Act or Rule 57 of the West Bengal Shops and Establishment Rules. The settlement is advantageous to the employees inasmuch as it provides for four increments to the concerned employees against the existing practice of three increments in the past. As per settlement dated 3.1.68 an employee who was appointed in 48 hours-a-week duty and subsequently transferred to 36 hours aweek-duly did not qualify for any increment on his re-transfer to the 48 hours-a-week duty. But by virtue of the current settlement, such employees have been granted 4 increments in their respective grades. The plant grades were higher than the office grades having higher increments and the office grade has been equalised to the plant grade. The petitioner union does not enjoy the support of any substantial number of workmen. The settlement was signed by the respondent union. Overwhelming majority of the workmen have accepted the settlement and to be precise only 12 out of 981 employees who were covered by this settlement accepted the benefits under protest and the remaining employers accepted the benefits voluntarily without raising any dispute whatsoever.
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