Q: I am the secretary of one of the workers Unions of a public limited company having about 750 members and I am making this query on behalf of the members of the said Union. Certain disputes have arisen between the workmen and the management of the said company relating to the terms and conditions of service of the workmen. The management has suggested that instead of referring the disputes to the labour court, the Union and the management should jointly refer the disputes to a retired High Court judge. My queries are: (i) Does an arbitral award have the same binding force as the decision of a labour court or tribunal? (ii) What are the remedies available to the workmen if the management does not comply with the award?
Sukesh Jana, Calcutta
A: Under Section 10A of the Industrial Disputes Act, the employer and the workmen by written agreement can refer disputes to the arbitration of any agreed person. The arbitrator shall investigate the disputes and submit the arbitral award to the appropriate government. Section 17 of the Act requires publication of such award by the government within 30 days of receipt of the award. Under Section 17A, the award becomes enforceable 30 days after its publication. Under Section 18, the award shall be binding on the parties who refer the disputes to arbitration. Thus in your case, the award shall be binding on the management and will have the same force as that of a decision of the labour court or tribunal. Under Section 29 of the Act, any person who commits a breach of the award is punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to six months with a fine of upto Rs 200 for each day that he continues to breach the award.
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