Lock-out

IntroductoryImage result for lockout in labour law

Strike is cessation of work by employees, the Lockout is a cessation of work by the Employer. Just as Employees have a right not to sale their Labour, the same way the Employer has a right not to buy it, as a measure of setting the industrial dispute. In the struggle between the capital and labour the weapon of strike is used by the Employees, the weapon of Lockout is used by the Employers. The Lock-out is the antithesis of the strike. The strike and lock-out are regarded as powerful levers to bring about agreements between the Employer and Employees.
Section 2(1) defines the term Lockout. However, the present definition is only a mutilated one. The term was originally and correctly defined in the Trade Dispute Act, 1929. From the definition given in the Trade Dispute Act, the present Act has taken the present definition but has omitted the words “when such closing, suspension or refusal occurs in consequences of a dispute and is intended for the purpose of compelling those persons or of aid in another Employer in compelling persons employed by him to accept terms or condition of, or affecting employment”.
With the omission of these words, the present definition fails to convey the very concept of Lockout. In Sri Ramchandra Spinning Mills v/s State of Madras, 1957 I LLJ 90, the Madras High Court read the deleted portion in the definition to interpret the term lockout. According to the Court, a flood may have swept away the factory, a fire may have gutted the premises; a convulsion of nature may have sucked the whole place underground; still if the place of employment is closed or the work is suspended or the Employer refuses to continue to employ his previous workers, there would be a lockout and the Employer would find himself exposed to the penalties laid down in the Act. Obviously, it shows that the present definition does not convey the concept of the term lockout. The apex court too, therefore, read the effect of the deleted words into the definition (Kaizbetta Estate v/s. Rajamanickam, 1960 II LLJ 275).
The definition of the lockout does not give any clue as to when and on what grounds lock-out can be declared. But Section 23 lays down as to when it cannot be declared. Section 22(2) lays down the same thing in cases of public utility services.

Closing a Place of Employment or Suspension of Work

When the Employer closes temporarily his place of Employment in order to force his employees to accept a compromise favourable to him on an industrial dispute raised by his employees, it is a ‘Lockout’. The Lock-out can thus be described as temporary – withholding of work by employer, undoubtedly to gain certain concessions from his unwilling – employees. It is usually a counter blast by Employer to a strike by employees and so the antithesis to strike. (Kairbetta Estate, 1960 II LLJ 275 (SO).
Refusal to employ or continue to Employ any number of persons employed by him : The phrase “Refusal by an Employer to continue to employ” – corresponds to the phrase “Cessation of work” or “Refusal to continue to work or employment” occurring in the definition of strike (Mohammed Sham-shuddin v/s Sasamusa Sugar Works Ltd., 1956 II 575).
Similarly, the words “refusal by an employer to continue to employ any number of persons employed by him” has to be read with the rest of the definition and also with the word “Lock-out”. (Feroz Din v/s State of W.B., 1960 I LLJ 244 (SO).
Also it is not a lock-out if the Employer pays to the workmen the wages, does not take work from them (Mohammed Shamsuddin 1956, I LLJ 575). Similarly, if there exists no relationship of Employer-Employee, there cannot be a lock-out (Shakti Electro Mechanical Industries (P) Ltd. vis F.N. Lola, 1974 IILLJ 1). Where the Employer pleads that he had not resorted to a Lock-out but had terminated the Services of Workman, the Adjudicator then cannot hold that there was a lockout, if he holds on facts that the termination was legal and binding. But if the Adjudicator holds that the termination was illegal then it is open to him to hold that the – termination being illegal, there existed a lock-out in as much as there was a failure on the part of the Employer to continue to employ the workman (Shakti Electro Mechanical Industries, 1974 II LLJ 1).