Nearly 300 workers of Salem Steel Plant will be benefited by a Madras High Court judgment that has set aside the lower court's order to deduct a day's wages for going on a one-day strike nearly 25 years ago.

“There cannot be one finding to the effect that the demands of the workmen were for justifiable ends and another diagonally opposite finding to the effect that they should be punished for going on strike for such a justifiable cause,” observed Chief Justice M.Y. Eqbal, while allowing the employees civil revision petition.

The petitioners, Panneerselvam, general secretary, Steel Plant Employees Union, Salem, and 310 others, stated that the management never came forward to address their demands, which included change in working hours on the lines of other steel plants, introduction of a grievance redress machinery and improvement in medical facilities.

Dharnas, fasting and procession did not yield the desired result and they went on a day's strike on September 12, 1985. The management deducted a day's wages from their salary.

The union decided to go on an indefinite strike and the management issued a show-cause notice in November 1985 asking why eight days' wages should not be deducted for the one-day strike.

The workers replied to the notice and filed a writ petition before the High Court. Annoyed, the management deducted eight days' wages from each of the petitioners.

They filed a petition before the Deputy Commissioner of Labour (DCL), Salem region. The management contended that the strike was to intimidate it, and violated the Industrial Disputes Act.

The DCL held that even though the strike was illegal, considering the workmen's legitimate demands, deduction of eight days' wages was harsh. He ordered refund of eight days' salary and deduction of a day's wages.

Aggrieved, the management and the workers filed appeals before the District Judge, Salem, seeking to set aside the DCL's order. The Judge dismissed both the appeals, confirming the DCL's order. Hence, the workers' present revision petition.

Mr. Justice Eqbal said that indisputably, there was a concurrent finding by both the DCL and the District Judge. Having held that the workers were justified in resorting to the strike to press their demands, the lower forums erred in law in holding that pay cut for a day was warranted.

There could not be diagonally opposite findings. Hence, the Chief Justice said that the portion of the lower court's order deducting a day's wages was uncalled for and set it aside.