The Mechanism To Redress Grievances
Divergence of interests between the employer and employees is at the root of industrial or labour disputes. In an industrial establishment, it is common for feelings of employee dissatisfaction or feeling of personal injustice to arise owing to various reasons concerning working conditions, management policies and practices, and, violation of rules and regulations. Such grievances may lead to conflicts within the organisation in the form of lockouts and strikes. Therefore, proper administration of employee grievances is necessary in an organisation, since unattended grievances tend to make way to frustration, low productivity, increasing rate of absenteeism, feeling of discontent, and thus, impact the willingness of the employees to co-operate with the employer.
It is not possible to settle the grievances of employees by upward communication with immediate supervisors of the employees at all times, for these supervisors may not be trained to handle such grievances, or, may lack the required authority, or, there may even be certain conflicts between the aggrieved employees and the supervisor, and, can hamper settlement of such disputes. The Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 (ID Act) primarily provides for settlement of disputes that affect the employees as a class, and, disputes relating to discharge, dismissal, retrenchment or termination of employees. However, disputes relating to other service conditions of an individual employee such as promotion, seniority, entitlement to wages, etc. are considered as individual disputes, and, are not covered under the ID Act, unless such disputes are backed by the trade union or majority of employees of the industrial establishment. To address this issue, the ID Act was amended in 2010 to mandate that every establishment employing 20 (twenty) or more employees shall constitute a Grievance Redressal Committee (GRC) for resolution of disputes arising out of individual employee grievances.
Salient features of GRC
The GRC must consist of a maximum of 6 (six) members, with equal number of members representing the employer as well as the employees, with adequate representation for women. The chairperson of the GRC must be selected from the employer and from among the employees alternatively on rotation basis every year. The GRC is required to complete its proceedings within 30 (thirty) days from the date of receipt of a written application by or on behalf of the aggrieved employee. In the event the aggrieved employee is not satisfied with the decision of the GRC, the employee is free to appeal to the employer against the decision of the GRC and the employer shall, within 1 (one) month from the date of receipt of such appeal, dispose off the same, and, send a copy of his decision to the concerned employee.
However, it is to be noted that setting up of the GRC does not affect the right of an employee to resolve industrial disputes on the same matter by way of conciliation, arbitration, or before a labour court, in accordance with the provisions of the ID Act. The GRC is intended to provide for a speedy disposal of grievances concerning an individual employee, and not disputes concerning a group or class of employees.
Key considerations to be kept in mind while constituting the GRC
The ID Act only prescribes the composition of the GRC and the time frame within which the GRC should aim to satisfactorily address the grievances of the individual employees. The grievance needs to be resolved according to a set procedure which may be determined by the employer to effectively address the grievance. The procedure in handling the grievance should be clearly defined and communicated to the employees. The procedure should:
1. Provide for a transparent manner of receiving and identifying the nature of the grievance;
2. Give the aggrieved employee or his representative an opportunity to present his grievance before the GRC;
3. Facilitate analysis of the facts with due consideration from an economic, social, and legal perspective; and
4. Ensure closure with an appropriate decision within a reasonable time period and communicate the same to the aggrieved employee.
The bulk of industrial disputes in India arise out of unaddressed minor grievances of the employees. The GRC is a settlement mechanism provided by the ID Act, allowing an employer to address grievances of individual employees at the establishment level itself. The onus is on the employer to ensure that all their employees and supervisors are well informed about the grievance redressal procedures and have access to the necessary redressal procedure forms. Regular meetings must be convened to address any grievances and ego clashes should not be allowed to impede the resolution of disputes.
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