Under employment laws in India, can members of the Union Committee claim privilege of drawing salary without working?

The establishments wherein unions are strong, the office bearers normally try to avoid work under the specious plea that they are required to attend to the union’s work or grievances of workers. Such a tendency is developed whenever initially such a freedom is granted for any reason by the management. The issue whether such a privilege can be claimed by the office bearers of the Union came for consideration before High Court of Judicature Bombay.

In the matter of Blue Star Limited V/s Blue Star Workers Union (Writ Petition No. 1411 of 1993, decided on 02.03.1996) the Hon’ble Bombay High Court has held that the prima facie , “The activities of the Union cannot be termed or treated as activities of the bank or as duties integrally or inseparably connected with banking operations. All the employees of the bank have been selected and appointed only to perform duties connected with the banking operations carried on by the bank. Their appointment to various categories of posts in the bank is for the performance of duties attached to the respective posts. The salaries are fixed with reference to the qualifications of the employees and the nature of duties to be performed by them. On the other hand, trade union activities performed by the office-bearers of the union are solely for the benefit and welfare of the workmen of the bank and are not connected with the banking institution itself or the members of the public, whose interest the banks are intended to serve. It will therefore be a fundamental mistake to allow confusion to prevail and deem the duties rendered by the office-bearers to the union as part of the duties rendered to the bank. ..”

Further, “…The Bank can function without the union; but the union cannot function without the bank. It therefore follows that the prima duty of the employees is to serve the bank and then only the union.”

Further, “…I am in respectful agreement with the observations of Mohan J., in WP No. 5699 of 1979, reported in 1985 I LLN 149 that the appointment of an employee in an industrial concern is not for his full-time participation in trade union activities on salary paid by the establishment, but for his performance of duties at his respective post in the industrial institution.”

The above matter, therefore makes it amply clear that as per principles laid down by employment laws in India, an employee is not to do union activities at the cost of the work for which he has been employed by the establishment