A strike is commonly considered the last weapon in the armoury of organised labour for settling industrial disputes. When all other options for amicable settlement of an industrial dispute have exhausted and negotiations with the employer have failed, the workmen resort to strike action.

According to the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947, a strike is “a cessation of work by a body of persons employed in any industry acting in combination, or a concerted refusal, or a refusal under common understanding of any number of persons who are or have been so employed to continue to work or to accept employment”

Learn about:- 1. Introduction to Strike 2. Meaning and Definition of Strike 3. Types 4. Causes and Control 5. Prohibition.

Strike: Meaning, Definition, Types, Causes, Control and Prohibition

Strike – Introduction

Strike is today regarded as a legitimate weapon for the workmen for the purpose of projecting their demands. If an employer denies or refuses to give his workmen some benefits to which they are entitled, the law gives the concerned employees a weapon to force the employers to accede to their demands.


The weapon is stoppage of work, which popularly known as strike. Strikes are important not only from industrial point of view but also from social and economic points of view as well as they leave an impact on the society as they do on labour and employees.

The word strike is an artificial character and does not represent any legal definition or description. It is an agreement between persons who are working for a particular employer, not to continue working for him. It is simultaneous cessation of work by labour or workers temporarily in order to express grievance or to enforce a demand concerning changes in work condition.

The first recorded use of the phrase “to strike work” appeared in 1768 at the beginning of Industrial revolution in UK. Strike started basically as weapon of self-defence against the arbitrary and unjust policy of the management. Strike, therefore, is a social necessity for promoting or defending a just economic interest of working class.

Whether All Strikes are Illegal:


Every strike is not illegal e.g., Collective Bargaining for securing improvement in matters like, basic pay, bonus, PF, DA, Gratuity, leave and holidays is not considered unjust and if a strike is resorted to induce a company to agree to such demands or at least to open negotiations must prima facie be considered justified. The attitude of law towards the right to strike now calls for regularisation of absence period with full wages. The judiciary has also made an attempt in regard to designation of such strikes as justified.

The Supreme Court has ruled that the Court should examine whether the management had taken all legal steps available to resolve the dispute and induce the workmen to resume work. If the workers still refuse to work, the employer may recruit fresh labour and may justify his case if the Tribunal demands. Strikes are illegal under the Indian Law only when penalties have been imposed for them for contravention of the provisions of Section 22, 23 & 24 of the Industrial Dispute Act (1947).

The right to strike is not a fundamental right in our Constitution. Judges differ in their opinions on this issue. Patna High Court in a case “State of Bihar vs. Deodar Jha” observed that workers enjoy the fundamental right to resort to strike whenever they please in order to express their grievances or make certain demands. Likewise, Allahabad and Bombay courts have passed similar judgments in some similar cases. However, in other cases, Madras and Mumbai courts have specifically ruled that strike is not a fundamental right.

It is essential that we emphasize right to work and not right to strike. We can’t afford the luxury of strikes and lockouts. It should be emphasized that right to strike is not a fundamental right and is being used for issues, which are minor and flimsy. The provision of an alternative to a strike in shape of industrial adjudication may be reasonable if it is effectively executed.  

Strike – Meaning and Definition

A strike is commonly considered the last weapon in the armoury of organised labour for settling industrial disputes. When all other options for amicable settlement of an industrial dispute have exhausted and negotiations with the employer have failed, the workmen resort to strike action. From this point of view, a strike may be considered a method of settling industrial disputes. However, unions also give call of strike and participate in strike action for various other reasons as well such as anti-labour policies and measures of government, arrest of leaders, political rivalries and similar other broad issues.


According to the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947, a strike is “a cessation of work by a body of persons employed in any industry acting in combination, or a concerted refusal, or a refusal under common understanding of any number of persons who are or have been so employed to continue to work or to accept employment”

The ingredients of a strike as laid down in this section are – (a) cessation of work, (b) plurality of workmen who should cease to work or stop working, (c) refusal should be by a concerted action or under common understanding, (d) Refusal should be by person who are or have seen so employed in an industry.

P. H. Casselman says that a strike is “a voluntary stoppage of work on the part of a body of workers, by common agreement, or by order of their union usually for the purpose of obtaining or resisting a change in the conditions of employment. The strike is labour’s strongest weapon against the employer and is the counter weapon of the LOCK OUT.”


Strike may be of various types — namely general strike, stay in sit down, tools down strike, pen down strike, hunger strike, sympathetic strike. Go slow and work to rule tactics adopted by workmen are not covered by Section 2(9). Meaning of lockout -Lockout means temporary closing of a place of employment or the suspension of work, or the refusal by an employer to continue to employ any number of persons employed by him (Sec. 2).

The requirements of lockout according to this definition are:

(a) Temporary Closure of the Place of Employment.

(b) Suspension of Work.


(c) Refusal to Employ.

(d) By an Employer.

(e) To Continue to Employ any Number of Persons Employed by Him.

The essential elements of a strike are as follows:


(i) The strike involves a combined and concerted withdrawal of services by workers.

(ii) The cessation of work is for a temporary period. The strike does not imply termination of an employer-employees relationship. Strikers know that they will resume work after the strike ends.

(iii) The strike is resorted to for achieving certain objectives. The main objective is furthering and protecting the workers’ rights and interests, particularly for fulfilling specific demands for the benefits of workers.

It has rightly been said, “the interests and rights the workers may seek to promote and protect through strikes are multitudinous. They may relate to the terms and conditions of employment of the strikers or other workmen, or to political and social interests or to showing solidarity of the working class or, to any issue which the workers may consider worth striking for. Historically, strikes have been used for all these purposes and for many more, although the primary purpose behind strikes has been, and still continues to be, to bring pressure upon the employer to commit or desist from committing certain actions related to terms and conditions of employment.”

Strike Primary Strike, Secondary Strike and Other Common Types

Strikes are often classified on some distinct bases such as their purpose, coverage or technique used. In many cases, the forms specified on separate bases overlap, and it becomes difficult to identify the base on which the classification has been made. To avoid confusion and ensure easy understanding, it appears desirable to present a brief description of more common forms of strikes highlighting their basic features.


Cessation means stoppage for trade unions; strike is the most powerful weapon for forcing the management to accept their demands.

Strikes can be divided into two categories.

They are:

1. Primary strikes – Primary strike is done by workers when they have a dispute against their employer.

2. Secondary strike – In secondary strike employees remain in and occupy the employer’s premises as a protest and means of forcing compliance with demands.

1. Primary Strike:


The primary strikes are:

i. Economic Strike – Most of the strikes of workers are for more facilities and increase in wage levels. In economic strike, the labourers demand increase in wages, travelling allowance, house rent allowance, dearness allowance and other facilities such as increase in privilege leave and casual leave.

ii. General Strike – It means a strike by members of all or most of the unions in a region or an industry. It may be a strike of the workers in a particular region of industry to force demands common to all the workers. It may also be an extension of the strike to express generalised protest by the workers.

iii. Stay-in Strike – In this case, workers do not absent themselves from their place of work when they are on strike. They keep control over production facilities. But do not work. Such a strike is also known as ‘pen down’ or ‘tool down’ strike.

iv. Slow Down Strike – Employees remain on their jobs under this type of strike. They do not stop work, but restrict the rate of output in an organised manner. They adopt go-slow tactics to put pressure on the employers.

These are some of the primary strikes.

2. Secondary Strike:


The secondary strike is:

i. Sympathetic Strike:

When workers of one unit or industry go on strike in sympathy with workers of another unit or industry who are already on strike, it is called a sympathetic strike. The workers of sugar industry may go on strike in sympathy with their fellow workers of the textile industry who may already be on strike.

ii. Boycott:

The workers may decide to boycott the company in two ways. Firstly by not using its products and secondly by making an appeal to the public in general. In the former case, the boycott is known as primary and in the latter secondary. It is a coercive method whereby the management is forced to accept their demands.

iii. Picketing:


When workers are dissuaded from work by stationing certain men at the factory gates, such a step is known as picketing. If picketing does not involve any violence, it is perfectly legal.

iv. Gherao:

Gherao is a Hindi word, which means to encircle. The workers may gherao the members of the management by blocking their exits and forcing them to stay inside their cabins. The main object of gherao is to inflict-physical and mental torture to the person i.e., employers till the demands of workers are met. This weapon disturbs the industrial peace to a great extent.

The management uses its own methods to counter the workers, which are as follows:

i. Employers’ Association – The employers may form their unions to collectively oppose the working class and put pressure on the trade unions.

ii. Lock-out – An employer may close down the place of employment temporarily. Such a step is technically known as lockout. It is the reverse of a strike and is a very powerful weapon in the hands of an employer to pressurise the workers to return to the place of work.


According to the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947, “lock­out means the closing of a place of employment or the suspension of work, or the refusal by an employer to continue to employ any number of persons employed by him”.

iii. Termination of Service – The employers may terminate the services of those workers who are on strike by blacklisting them. Their lists may be circulated to other employers so as to restrict their chances of getting employment with those employers.

Other Common Types of Strikes:

1. Authorised Strike:

A strike called by proper authority in a union and in conformity with the requirements of law.

2. Unauthorised Strike (Wild Cat Strike):

A strike called by a section of workmen without authorisation from the union and often in defiance of the direction of the competent authority in a union. It also represents “a rebellion on the part of rank- and-file membership against the union leadership or rebellion by a part of the membership against the total membership.” Such strikes were very common in the U.K. during 1960s.


3. Particular Strike:

Particular strikes are limited in scope and are confined mainly to a particular establishment, a group of establishments in the same industry, a particular industry or employment, a company, a single trade or occupation and so on. Most of the strikes called in furtherance of industrial disputes fall into this category.

4. General Strike:

A general strike has a very wide coverage, but the degree of generality and coverage vary considerably from strike to strike. There may be a general strike covering a wide range of industries and employments and a vast region of a country. Examples of general strikes having a very wide coverage are the General Strike of 1926 in the UK and the French General Strike of 1938.

In India, many central federations of trade unions, industrial federations and unions in public services in combination organised quite a few general strikes at intervals in protest against government’s economic and industrial policy initiated in 1991 also specific measures adopted in pursuance of such a policy.

5. Sympathetic Strike:

A sympathetic strike is called in sympathy for the cause of workers in other establishments with which the strikers do not have any immediate grievance. A call for sympathetic strike is given to express solidarity with other workers and to induce their employer to resolve their dispute promptly.

6. Slow-Down Strike or Go-Slow:

In this type of strike, workers do not stop their work, but slow down the pace of operation. Such a strike is generally launched at a time when the employer is most vulnerable to the effects of slow-down. Slow­down or go-slow has been a common feature in the sugar industry during crushing season and in the docks during urgent pressures for unloading goods from ships.

7. Sit-Down Strike:

Such a strike is usually resorted to in offices. To put pressure on the management, the employees remain seated, pretend to be working, but at a very slow rate or ceasing work altogether.

8. Jurisdictional Strike:

Jurisdictional strikes are related mainly to jurisdiction of rival unions. They are conducted with a view to pressurising the employer to recognise one union instead of another claiming to be the real representative of the workers. Such strikes were common in the USA, especially in respect of rival claims of craft unions.

9. Token Strike:

Token strike is resorted to for a short period such as a day or two to give the employer a warning of the likely wider form of confrontation if their demands’ are not promptly conceded.

Strike – Cuses and Control

Anything that violently affects the mind of workers can induce them to go on strike.

Various reasons can be as follows:

i. Victimisation/discrimination

ii. Lay offs

iii. Casual appointment for long

iv. Instability of service

v. Payment less than minimum wages

vi. Non-compliance with requirements of hygiene and sanitation, health and safety

vii. Physical/moral exploitation.

Control of Strike:

Strikes usually result in various sorts of hardships not only to the employers and workers, but also to the consumers and community at large. Strikes in essential services such as railways, electricity undertakings and banking often cripple and jeopardise life of people at large. It is on account of the adverse impact of strikes on the life of the people that arguments for imposing legal restrictions on strikes are is advanced.

On the other hand, workers consider right to strike as an integral part of their freedom and liberty. They consider this right necessary when employers adopt a tough and adamant stand in negotiations by way of negating any effort of the union in getting a dispute resolved. As such, there arises the problem of reconciling the right of workers to go on strike with the right of the community to enjoy basic necessities of life and facilities uninterrupted by work-stoppages.

It is on account of these reasons that the government intervenes in the matter with a view to both protect the interests of the community from the adverse effects of strike, and also to ensure that the workers enjoy the right, but in an orderly and responsible manner. The actual policies and practices in this regard, however, vary from country to country. In some cases, restrictions on strikes are severe, whereas in others they are not very harsh.

Strike – General Prohibition of Strike among Trade Union

The world ‘prohibition’ used in Section 22 (1) does not mean that the right to strike or lockout is taken away, and the workmen and employers are barred from energizing their rights. Since these rights are recognised by the Act itself, this section has laid down certain conditions to be fulfilled before a strike or a lockout can be resorted to.

Section 22 (1), which is applicable to a public to a utility service declares that no person employed in a public utility service shall go on strike in breach of contract – (a) without giving to the employer notice of strike within six weeks before striking, (b) Within fourteen days of giving such notice, (c) Before the expiry of the date of strike specified in any such notice, (d) During the pendency of any conciliation proceedings before a conciliation officer and seven days after the conclusion of such proceedings.

Sub-section (2) of Section 22 has laid down the same condition with regard to declaring a lockout by employer in a public utility service. Sub­section (3) states that no notice of a strike or a lockout is necessary in case a strike or a lockout is already in existence in a public utility service, However, the employer is under the legal duty to send intimation of such strike or lockout on the day on which it is declared, to such authority as may be specified by the appropriated government.

Notice of a strike or a lockout, as required by Sub-sections (1) and (2) should be given in the prescribed manner. On receiving notice of strike by the employer, or on giving notice of lockout to persons employed by him, it is the duty of the employer to report to the appropriate government authority within five days thereof the fact of his having received notice of strike, of his giving notice of lockout.

General Prohibition of Strikes and Lockout:

Section 23 of the Act prohibits strikes and lockouts in industrial establishment including public utility service under the following circumstances:

(a) During the pendency of conciliation proceedings before a board, and seven days after the conclusion of such proceedings.

(b) During the pendency of proceeding before a Labour Court Industrial Tribunal or National Tribunal and two months after the conclusion of such proceedings.

(c) During the pendency of arbitration proceeding before an arbitrator and two months after the conclusion of such proceedings, where a notification has been issued under Sub-section 3(A) of Section 10A.

(d) During any period in which a settlement or award is in operation, in respect of any of the matters covered by the settlement or award The main point of difference between Sections 22(1) and (2) and Section 23 is that in the case of former, i.e., strike or lockout in case of a public utility service, notice of strike or lock­out is necessary, while in the case of latter no such notice is necessary.

However notice or no notice, strikes and lockouts are prohibited in all the industrial establishment including public utility service, during the pendency of proceeding before any authority under the Act, except a conciliation officer and a Court of Inquiry. Strike and lockout are also forbidden during the pendency of arbitration proceeding and during a period when a settlement or award is in operation.