Definition and Evolution of Industrial Relations

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What are Industrial Relations?

Industrial relations define relationships between employers and employees toward each other in terms of supervision, direction, planning and coordination of organizational activities, with minimal human effort and functions; all this done with an enthusiastic spirit taking into consideration the safety of all employees. Industrial relations may also be defined as relations between employees and management.

Evolution of Industrial Relations:

The evolution of industrial relations in India began a long time ago. The caste system greatly influenced the ancient industries and their development. Due to successive foreign invasions in India, the living conditions of slave and artesian couldn't be differentiated. Furthermore, under the autocratic regime of Muslim rulers, the conditions of employees worsened. Wages were not guaranteed, the living conditions of workers were harsh, and there was no proper management. The coming of the British didn't improve the working conditions. After some time, however, most Indian industries were modeled after the British system of business, and this led to growth in various sectors.

Industrial Relations under British Rule:

During British rule, India was expected to be a colonial market for British goods up until a cotton mill was established in Mumbai in 1853 and a jute mill was established in Kolkatta in 1955. The working conditions of workers, however, were still very harsh with low pay, and this gave rise to various disputes involving the management and employees. On the other hand, Tata Iron and Steel industry was also established in Jamshedpur in 1911. While there was great demand of iron and steel before and during the First World War, the working conditions of workers hadn't improved. Hence, the Factories Act of 1881 was established, and it granted workers certain rights.

Industrial Relations in First World War:

The First World War was an opportunity in disguise for local factories in India. Prices of virtually all products went up and profits soared, however, wages of lower employees were still the same. There were various strikes and disputes between management and employees. During this time, the Workmen's Compensation Act (1923), the Trade Union Act (1926), and the Trade Disputes Act (1917) were established. While the wages of employees remained the same, they were given a certain share of profits made by their hiring industry. Strikes, however, were sometimes prohibited under the Emergency Rules. The years following World War II involved the most workers' upheaval, and saw the establishment of Industrial Employment Act (1946) and Industrial Disputes Act (1947).

Post-Independence Industrial Relations:

The post-independence era saw a developing relation between industry and labor. A conference called the Industrial Truce Resolution took place in 1947, and foresaw the establishment of the Minimum Wages Act, Factories Act, and Employees State Insurance Act in 1948. This ensured peace between labor and industry. While industrial relations in India have evolved a long way, some features of the early system still exist today. Modern industrial relations are dynamic, and may integrate industrial policies of American and British businesses.

Additional Readings:

1. Definition and Evolution of Industrial Relations
2. Concept, Scope and Objectives of Industrial Relations
3. Conceptual Model for understanding Industrial Relations
4. Labor National Commission and Industrial Relations Policy - 1969
5. Industrial Dispute
6. Indian Industrial Dispute Act of 1947
7. Parameters and Classification of Industrial Disputes
8. Types of Industrial Strikes
9. Tripartite and Bipartite Bodies, and Industrial Settlement
10. Definition of "Mediation" and "Conciliation"

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