Since independence, adjudication has been one of the main instruments for settlement of wage disputes, Improvement in wage scales and standardization of wages and allowances. Though courts and tribunals were primarily intended to deal with the settlement of industrial disputes, in practice, wage fixation has become an important element in their work and functioning. This is because of a large number of disputes concerning wages and allowances. The Industrial Disputes Act of 1947, which replaced the Trade Disputes Act of 1929,
enables the government to intervene in matters involving disputes between workers and employers. It also provides for compulsory adjudication in the case of failure of conciliation proceedings. Numerous wage disputes in many industries have been referred for adjudication to labour courts and tribunals during the past three decades. In this exercise they have been guided by the report of the Fair Wages Committee. The High Courts and the Supreme Court have also adjudicated upon such disputes. The awards given by these authorities not only helped in the formulation of a body of principles governing wage fixation but laid the foundation for the present wage structure in many of the major industries.
In fixing wages, one of the important principles to be borne in mind is the concept of equal pay for work of equal value. It is based on the common justice that no discrimination should be
made in this respect on the ground of nationality, race or sex. If this could be applied to all grades of workers, skilled, semiskilled and unskilled, and to men and women, relative wages would be fair. However, there are very often practical difficulties in applying this principle, particularly as between different industries. It is a fact that some industries are able to pay higher rates than others, and the employees in this more profitable sector rather naturally feel that they are entitled to a share in their industry’s prosperity. Though it is difficult to attain in practice the concept of equal pay for equal work, all concerned – trade unions, employers and governments – should extend their full support to it as it is a sound principle.
In sum, the well-settled legal, position on wage fixation is:
(i) that the wage structure has to be fixed on an industry-cum region basis having due regard to the financial capacity of the unit under consideration;
(ii) that it is ordinarily desirable to have as much uniformity as possible in the wage levels of different concerns of the same industry working in the same region though it may not always be possible to attain this object because of the different financial capacities of different concerns;
(iii) that the wages prevailing in an establishment must be comparable with those given to workmen of similar grade and scale by similar establishments in other industries in the region;
(iv)that employees getting the same wages should get the same dearness allowance, irrespective of whether they are working as clerks or members of subordinate staff or factory workmen;
(v)that the additional financial burden which a revision of wage-structure or dearness allowance would impose upon an employer, and his ability to bear such burden, are very material and relevant factors to be taken into account.