A strike involves temporary but indefinite suspension of work on the part of employees or workers as a form of protest to have their demands met. India’s Industrial Disputes Act of 1947 defines a strike as “a cessation of work by a body of persons employed in an industry acting in combination; or a concerted refusal of any number of persons who are or have been so employed to continue to work or to accept employment; or a refusal under a common understanding of any number of such persons to continue to work or to accept employment.”
One or more groups of workers decide to quit work to exert pressure on their employer with the expectation that it will force the promoters, owners or managers to grant them benefits that they have not been able to hitherto obtain. These benefits may range from increases in payment to decreasing work hours per person, perceived by the workers as unfair or disadvantageous in their current form. However, the most common reason for strikes is non-payment of wages and irregularity rather than apprehensions about the amount of wages.
For instance, in 2012 in New Delhi, Air India pilots called for a strike which lasted for about two months and inflicted losses of around Rs. 600 crores to Air India. Irregularity and non-payment of salaries was the primary reason for the strike. All striking 101 pilots were dismissed from service on account of refusing to attend to duty and causing losses. Air India moved court to have the strike portrayed as illegal, with the Delhi High Court soon declaring it illegal. It gave pilots 48 hours to return to duty and also directed Air India to reinstate the dismissed pilots back into service. Although the reinstatement did not begin immediately, both sides decided to call it off and begin negotiations.
Strikes were common in the wake of the Industrial Revolution and were soon made illegal. In the 19th and the 20th centuries, however, they were partially legalized. After World War II, no-strike clauses came into prevalence giving way to collective bargaining as an alternative.
Variants include work-in, where employees occupy the workplace but refuse to work; in work-to-rule, employees report to work and work at the bare minimum required and no further; in picketing, workers gather outside the workplace to dissuade others; in a jurisdictional strike, members of trade unions assert their right to particular jobs or assignments in defiance of their assignment to other members; in a sickout, workers call in sick and do not report to work.
Companies may prepare for strikes by acquiring strike insurance to help offset potential losses. Another tactic employed by companies is to fire union members who are striking, although numerous legal provisions (e.g. National Labor Relations Act in the United States) guarantee rights to employees to strike.