Unfair Labour Practices

The article examines the nature of unfair labour practices and presents both national and state-level legislation. The paper discusses the major elements and practices prohibited with respect to both employers and workmen and their trade unions. It also explains the penalty for committing unfair labour practices and prohibition for the same.


Industrial Dispute Act 1947 (amended in 1982) specifies what are unfair labour practices on the part of employers and on the part of employees. The fifth schedule of the act consist of list of unfair labour practices on the part of employers and trade unions of employers and unfair labour practices on the part of workmen and trade unions of workmen. Every employer and workmen are entitled to join a trade union and participate in its lawful activities. Anyone who engages in any prohibited conduct is said to have committed an unfair labour practice. Section 2 (ran) of the Act defines Unfair Labour Practices as “any of the practices specified under Schedule V of the act.” It is mainly divided into two categories:

Part I: Unfair Labour Practices on part of employer and trade unions of employers.

      Part II: Unfair Labour Practices on part of workmen or trade unions of workmen.

Any unfair labour practice within its very notion must have some elements of arbitrariness and unreasonableness and if unfair labour practice is established, the same would be violating equality under Article 14 of the Constitution of India.

Unfair Labour Practices on Part of Employer and Trade Unions of Employers

The unfair labour practices prohibited with respect to employer and trade union of employer are as follows:

  1. Interfere with workmen, to restrain from, in the exercise of employer right to form, organise, join or assist a trade union to engage in concerted activities for the purposes of collective bargaining or other mutual protection or aid, in cases of:
  2. Threatening workmen with dismissal or discharge if they join trade union
  3. Threatening a lock-out if a trade union is organised
  4. Granting wage increase to workmen at crucial period, in order to undermine the attempts of trade union.
  5. Interfere with, dominate, or contribute support financially or otherwise to any trade union of employer, in cases of:
  6. An employer actively interested in organising a trade union of his workmen
  7. An employer doing partiality or favouritism to one of the several trade unions attempting to organise workmen to its employers, where such is not a recognised trade union.
  8. Establish sponsorship of employer to trade unions of workmen.
  9. Encourage or discourage membership in any trade union by discrimination against any workman, such as:
  10. Discharging or punishing a workman, if he urges another workman to join a trade union
  11. Discharging or dismissing a workman, if he takes part in any strike (not being an illegal strike)
  12. Changing seniority classification of workmen because of trade union activities
  13. Denial of promotion of workmen to higher posts because of their trade union activities
  14. Giving promotions without merit to certain workmen with a view to create dispute amongst other workmen, or to show the strength of their trade union
  15. Discharging active members or office bearers of the trade union on account of their union’s activities. 
  16. Discharge or dismiss workmen, that is to say:
  17. By method of victimisation
  18. Not in good faith, but in the credible exercise of the employer’s rights
  19. By falsely accusing a workman in a criminal case on false evidence
  20. For patently untrue reasons
  21. On false allegation of absence without leave
  22. In absolute disregard of the principles of natural justice in the conduct of domestic enquiry
  23. Disproportionate punishment, for minor misconduct or technical issue, without having information to the nature of the particular misconduct or past record of service of the workman.
  24. As a measure of breaking a strike, the work of a regular nature being done by workmen is abolished and give such work to contractors.
  25. Under the guise of following management policy, transfer of a workmen from one place to another.
  26. Insist individual workmen, who are on a legal strike to sign a good conduct bond as a pre-condition for allowing them to resume work.
  27. Regardless of merit, to show favouritism or partiality to one set of workers.
  28. To employ workmen casually or temporarily as ‘badlis’ and continue them as for years, with the motive of depriving them of the privileges of permanent workers.
  29. Discriminate against any workman for filing charges or testifying against an employer in an investigation.
  30. Recruit workmen during a strike which is not an illegal strike.
  31. Failure to settlement or agreement, implement an award.
  32. Indulge in violence and any act of force. 
  33. Refuse to bargain collectively, in good faith with the recognised trade union.
  34. Continuation of a lock-out deemed to be illegal under this Act.

Unfair Labour Practices on Part of Workmen or Trade Unions of Workmen

The unfair labour practices prohibited with respect to workmen and trade union of workmen are as follows:

  1. Advise or actively or instigate or support any strike deemed to be illegal under the Act.
  2. Restrain workmen in the exercise of their right to join a trade union or refrain from, or self-organisation, in cases of:
  3. Trade union to picketing in such a manner that non-striking workmen are physically debarred from entering the workplaces
  4. Indulge in acts of violence or hold out threats of intimidation in connection with a strike against non-striking workmen.
  5. Recognised union refuse to bargain collectively in good faith with the employer.
  6. Indulge in coercive activities against certification of a bargaining representatives.
  7. Encourage or instigate forms of coercive actions as willful, ‘go-slow’, squatting on the work premises after working hours or ‘gherao’ of any member of the managerial staff or other staff.
  8. Stage demonstrations at the residence of the employers.
  9. Indulge in any willful damage to employer’s property related with the industry.
  10. Indulge in any act of violence or force or hold out threats against any workman with a view to prevent him from attending work.

Prohibition of Unfair Labour Practices

As per Section 25T of Industrial Dispute Act, 1947, employer or trade union of employer or any workman or trade union of workmen, whether registered under the Trade Unions Act, 1926 or not, shall not commit any unfair labour practice.

Penalty for Committing Unfair Labour Practices

As per Section 25U of Industrial Dispute Act, 1947, any person who commits any unfair labour practice shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to 6 months or with fine which might extend to Rs.1000/- or with both.

State-level Legislation

The Madhya Pradesh Industrial Relations Act, 1960 provides that no employee shall be victimised by reason of that he is an office bearers of any union or if he has taken part in any trade union activity or gone on strike which is not deemed to be illegal or appears as a witness in any proceeding. Similar provisions are mentioned in Bombay Industrial Relations Act, 1946 (BIRA). The Maharashtra Recognition of Trade Unions and Prevention of Unfair Labour Practices Act, 1971 (MRTUPULPA) specifies for detailed protection against anti-union discrimination. It provides important legal safeguards for workmen against victimisation and persecution at the hands of their employers. The Act is applicable to every industry to which the BIRA and as worker under the Industrial Dispute Act. It provides for:

  • recognition of trade unions which will facilitate collective bargaining,
  • formalize obligation and rights of unions, declare powers on unrecognized unions,
  • regulation of lockouts and strike by defining the illegality involved,
  • list unfair labour practices and provides prevention for the same,
  • constitution of relevant labour judiciary institutions to deal with matters arising out of the provisions of the act.


Regional Manager, SBI v. Mahatma Mishra (1 November 2006)

On the premise that respondent was engaged as temporary messenger, the Labour Court said that it was not of a casual nature but of permanent one having regard to the fact that he was appointed on 03.05.1982 and were terminated on 03.09.1982, furthermore it was opined that unfair labour practice had been reported by the management. The Labour Court held that as no written notice was served to the respondent before terminating his services, the same would be illegal and bipartite settlement by and between the bank and the workmen was referred.
It was held by both the High Court and Labour Court that it was not a case where the respondent was being appointed consistently for a number of years with artificial breaks. Because, it needs to be emphasized that for the practice to amount to unfair labour practice, it must be found that the workman had been appointed on a temporary basis with the motive of depriving him the privileges of permanent workman, there was no such finding in this case.

General Labour Union (Red Flag) v. B. V. Chavan and Ors (16 November 1984)

The learned Judge framed an issue whether the employers head committed an unfair labour practices by continuing and imposing a lock out. The appellant union filed two special civil application questioning the correctness of the decision of the Industrial Court. Imposing and continuing a lock out deemed to be illegal under the IDA is an unfair labour practice.
The employer may close down industrial activity on eventualities such as suffering continuous loss, no possibility of revival of business, inability to continue the industrial activity. Therefore, the correct approach ought to be that it can be claimed that the employer is not guilty of imposing a lock out but has closed the industrial activity, the duration of the closure may also be a significant fact to determine the bona fides and intention of the employer  at the time of closure. After hearing the parties, the learned Judge answered the issue in negative that lock out was not deemed to be illegal and dismissed the complaints.

Sports Authority of India v. Labour Commissioner, Delhi Admn. (12 March 2014)

The employment of watch and ward staff, security guards or chowkidar is of perennial nature. There are regular workmen engaged by the Sports Authority of India including watchman or guards or chowkidars and the work of watch and security guards requires employment of sufficient number of full time workmen by the management of Sports Authority of India bearing the Principal Employer has been continuously resorting to unfair labour practice as defined in the Fifth Schedule of Industrial Disputes Act 1947 and also in violation of the provisions of Contract Labour (Regulations & Abolition) Act 1970 and the notice issued thereunder by engaging contract labour through contractors on the works or employment which is of a perennial nature.


The Industrial Disputes Act, 1942 is the main legislation for investigation and settlement of all industrial disputes, amended in 1982 and has provided provisions for unfair labour practices both by employers and workmen and their respective trade unions. Another important state law that provides important legal safeguards for workers against victimisation and persecution at the hand of their employer and protecting against various unfair labour practices is Maharashtra Recognition of Trade Unions and Prevention of Unfair Labour Practices Act, 1971.
In India, however the expression ‘unfair labour practices’ has not always been used to define only activities which hinder the smooth functioning of collective bargaining. The expression as used in the decisions of the court and in legislation is used in a wider sense to cover unjust dismissals, promotions without merit and every form of victimisation, provides framework of employer-employee relations in India and for encouraging collective bargaining by specifying certain activities as unfair labour practices. The need to increase the scope and access of the remedies under the central law appears to be an urgent necessity, as greater casualisation of the work force even in the organised and formal sector and lessen role of trade unions has set the stage for an increased incidence of unfair labour practices.


Q. Which Section of the Industrial Dispute Act, 1947 Specifies Unfair Labour Practices?

Ans. Section 2 (r)(a) of the Industrial Dispute Act defines Unfair Labour Practices as “any of the practices specified under Schedule V of the act.

Q. What is MRTUPULP Act, 1971?

Maharashtra Recognition of Trade Unions and Prevention of Unfair Labour Practices act 1971 sanctioned by the government of India for regulations of industries in the country to attain the goal of empathetic between employee and employer.

Q. What are the Major Classification of Unfair Labour Practices by Industrial Dispute Act?

Ans. It is mainly divided into two categories:

Part I: Unfair Labour Practices on part of employer and trade unions of employers.

      Part II: Unfair Labour Practices on part of workmen or trade unions of workmen.


Industrial Dispute Act, 1947



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