Ex Bankers May No Longer Able to Represent Unions


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Friday, 5 April 2019

Ex Bankers May No Longer Able to Represent Unions

The Madras High Court has suggested to the law commission and ministry of labour and welfare to amend the Trade Union Act to stop outsiders, including former employees, from being members or office bearers of employees’ trade unions. Currently, employees’ unions in Banks and other several establishments are headed by non-employees.

“Even after retirement, if a person is allowed to continue as leader (of employees’ union), it will abrogate the powers of the trade union, which is meant for collective bargaining. Serving employees alone are in a better position to understand the difficulties faced by other employees. Therefore, the membership of any union should be restricted only to the serving employees of the establishment,” Justice N Kirubakaran said in an order last week.

Further, Justice N Kirubakaran said though the retired employees could continue as members and office-bearers of the union, they could not negotiate with the bank on behalf of the employees. Citing the Industrial Disputes Act, the bench said an honorary member was “not entitled to represent employees.”

The matter pertains to a petition filed by S Valaiyapathy, an employee of Indian Overseas Bank, seeking to restrain two retired employees who continued as office bearers of the union from negotiating with the bank on issues concerning the employees. 

Valaiyapathy’s counsel submitted that their continuation in top positions of the union after retirement was in violation of the bank’s code of discipline. He pointed out a Supreme Court ruling, which said that “a representative who is not in the employment of the establishment cannot represent the employee.”

In their reply, the retired employees said they were made honorary members of the union after their retirement in 2012. Further, the code of discipline was not binding and affairs of the union could not be questioned by a non-member. In its affidavit, the bank said it neither supported the union members nor its employee but would abide by the orders of the court.

“There have been instances in the past, where pressure was put on unions to participate in strikes as their leaders belong to politically-oriented groups or are representatives of political parties. Therefore, it is better to amend Sections 3 and 22 of the Trade Unions Act and the Industrial Disputes Act so as to prevent outsiders from being representatives or office bearers of the union,” the court said.

Observing that the two office bearers were holding the post of president and secretary for the last 15 and 23 years respectively, it said: “Concentration of power is against the principles of democracy and socialism.” The court then restrained the two former employees. 

The court also asked the government enforce Section 3 of the Industrial Disputes Act to ensure that establishments with hundred or more employees constitute works committees comprising of representatives of employers.

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