It wanted wage revision talks confined to the four elected unions

The Madras High Court has said that the State government cannot hold talks with all federations and unions of the Tamil Nadu State Transport Corporation without holding a secret ballot.

A Division Bench, comprising Justices Elipe Dharmarao and N. Paul Vasanthakumar, passed orders on a writ appeal by Tamil Nadu Government Transport Corporations Staff Federation, Madurai, while setting aside the orders of a single judge, who had rejected the Federation plea.

The Federation wanted a direction to the Chairman of the State Transport Corporation to initiate talks on wage revision and other issues only with the four elected unions. It cited an order of the Supreme Court in a case related to the Food Corporation of India (FCI) Staff Union.

The Single Judge had rejected the assertion of the Federation that it had the exclusive right to be called for talks unless and until a secret ballot was held saying the “source to which they trace their so called right is not to any statute nor a law laid down by the Supreme Court, but only to the judgment in the FCI case, which is a consensual judgment.”

Pointing out that “the order of the Single Judge suffers a legal debacle,” the Bench recalled its earlier judgment that “even if the decision has been rendered by the Supreme Court by consent, if it lays down general principles of law in the matter, the same will be binding on every person, including those who are not parties to that order.”

The Federation was one of the four elected to represent employees in talks with the management and a settlement was signed in September 1998. In 2002, the Madras High Court directed the government to hold talks with the four unions, including the Federation.

The government had rejected the request of the Federation, arguing that it had taken a policy decision to invite all the registered trade unions representing employees of transport undertakings to participate in the wage settlement so that every registered union could participate in the negotiation either on its own or through the Federation.