Difference Between Strike And Lockout


In this article, the author has compared Strike and Lockout and discussed the legal aspects of both of them and Noted down key differences between them. With the advent of the Industrial revolution, new industries came up. The set up of industries happened rapidly. These industries required the “Labour” to function. Earlier, the labor and workforce was primarily engaged in agriculture and worked under the Landlords. As the ‘labor’ started working in the industries, they also started raising their demands, grievances and the strike action proved to be one the most effective instrument for bargaining and this purpose.

Still, soon they were made illegal in many countries with their tendency to disturb the production. The other term used in this dimension of halting the production and work is called Lockout, which is generally regarded as an antithesis to Strike. During a labor dispute, a lockout is a work halt or denial of employment initiated by a company’s management. Unlike a stroke launched by employees who refuse to work, a lockout is created by employers or industry owners.

In this article, I have compared Strike and Lockout, discussed the legal aspects of both of them, and Noted down crucial differences between them.


Meaning of Strike

According to the Cambridge Dictionary, “Strike is to refuse to continue working because of an argument with an employer about working conditions, pay levels, or job losses.” Its origins can be traced to the old English words Striken to go. In everyday language, it means to hit, impress, occur to, or to leave employment due to a labor dispute. The second meaning dates back to 1768. Later on, it changed to a work stoppage. The idea of quitting the profession or withdrawing from labor as a coercive act can be summed up by using the word as both a verb and an adjective. A strike is an effective instrument that trade unions, other groups, or employees use to communicate their demands or grievances to employers or industry management. Differently, it is a labor slowdown induced by widespread refusal in response to grievances.

Generally, the workers go on strike when they are not ready to work under conditions set by their Employer. Strokes occur due to various causes. The most typical are economic conditions (described as an economic strike aimed at raising pay and benefits) or labor practices (intended to improve work conditions).

Strikes are defined in Section 2 (q) of the Industrial Disputes Act as:

“A cessation of work by a body of persons employed in any industry acting in combination, or a concerted refusal, or a refusal, under a common understanding of any number of persons who are or have been so employed to continue to work or to accept employment.”

Strikes in public utility services are prohibited under Section 22 of the I.D. Act, while strikes in any industrial enterprise are not permitted under Section 23. As a result, most strikes are unlawful. A strike called in response to an illegal lockout, on the other hand, is not prohibited under Section 24(3). Furthermore, there are other circumstances in which a strike may be permitted. Section 20(1) states that conciliation proceedings begin when the conciliation officer receives the notice or when the matter is submitted to the Board by order.

Strikes can be regarded illegal in the following situations, as described in Section 22 of the Industrial Dispute Act, on these grounds:

  1. Without providing the Employer at least six weeks’ notice of the Strike; or
  2. Within fourteen days of giving such information; or
  3. Before the strike date mentioned in any such information as aforesaid expires;
  4. For seven days following the conclusion of any conciliation procedures before a conciliation officer.

However, it is important to consider that while these agreements do not prohibit laborers from protesting, they require them to meet the conditions before coming to the streets. Furthermore, these arrangements apply specifically to open utility assistance. The Industrial Dispute Act 1947 does not indicate who is allowed to take to the streets. Nonetheless, Strike’s definition implies that the strikers must be individuals engaged in any industry to perform work.

The essential requirements for the existence of a strike are given below:

  1. There must be a halt to work.
  2. Work must be stopped by a group of people employed in any industry.
  3. The strikers must be employed in any establishment that can be classified as “industry” under Section 2(j)
  4. A concerted refusal is required; otherwise,
  5. Refusal by a group of people who have been employed to continue working or accept work, based on a similar understanding.
  6. They are required to take time off work to meet some demands regarding employment, non-employment, or the terms of employment or the working conditions of the workers.

Types of Strike

1. General Strike

A legal strike is another name for a widespread strike. During a general strike, workers give the employer advance notice of their demands, which they intend to enforce. If the industry’s management fails to meet the workers’ demands within the time frame specified in the notice, the workers will go on Strike once the information has expired.

2. Sit down Strike

During a sit-down strike, all employees report to work on time, occupy their normal positions in the areas where they typically work, and sit around without doing any work. The goal of this Strike is to stifle the industry’s production.

3. Pen down Strike

Pen down and sit down strikes are nearly identical. People with white-collar jobs or working in offices participate in the pen-down Strike. Employees don’t touch the pen or instrument they use to complete their tasks. The court ruled that a cell down cessation of work constituted a strike under clause 2(q) of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947.

4. Go slow Strike

During this Strike, workers report to work every day and execute their jobs, but at a slow pace, they cannot produce anything worthwhile. Even if the workers continue to work, the industry’s output will be nearly zero.

5. Sick out Strike

It is not a strike; rather, it is intended to demonstrate what would happen if a worker went on Strike. In this case, everyone on the job takes sick leave on the same day. They haven’t breached any regulations because they are simply taking advantage of the time off granted to them.

6. Economic Strike

An economic strike occurs when workers strike over economic issues such as pay, bonuses, working hours, and conditions.

7. Wildcat Strike

Workers go on Strike without the union’s authorization that was formed for them, which is known as a Wildcat strike.

8. Sympathy Strike

Sympathy Strike occurs when many employees’ unions join a strike called by another union for support.

9. Hunger Strike

When workers go on Strike without taking food or water, it is a hunger strike. It’s a painful strike. There was a time when the staff of the Kingfisher airline went on a month-long hunger strike over unpaid wages.

Reasons for Strike

  1. Work duration and timings.
  2. Working Environment and conditions.
  3. Paycheck, incentives, rewards.
  4. Payment of salary on time.
  5. Wage fall.
  6. Minimum wages are an issue.
  7. Holidays.
  8. Disagreement with the company rules.
  9. PF., ESI, Profit Sharing, and so on.
  10. Retrenchment of employees and closure of the business

Right to Strike

In contrast to international law, where the right to strike is widely regarded as a fundamental human right, the right to strike in India is not expressly recognized by the law; it is not an absolute right, and exercising it is subject to reasonable restrictions imposed by the government.

According to the concurrent list, entry 23 is about social security and social insurance, as well as employment and unemployment; and entry 24 is about labor welfare, including working conditions, provident funds, Employer’s liability, and workers’ compensation, among other things. As a result, both the legislative and the parliament have the authority to legislate on this subject.

The Indian constitution protects certain freedoms as a Fundamental Right under Article 19(1). The Indian constitution lays down that all citizens have the right to freedom of speech and expression, peaceful assembly without arms, organization, or unions, and move freely throughout India’s territory. To live and work in any portion of India’s environment, practice any profession, or conduct any occupation, trade, or business. However, the right to strike is not directly defined or recognized in the Indian constitution. As Held in All India Bank Employees Association VS National industrial tribunal[1], The Court ruled that the right to strike does not fall inside the purview of freedom of speech and expression, which is guaranteed by Article 19 (1)(A) of the Indian Constitution.

In T.K. Rangarajan VS Government of Tamil Nadu[2] The Apex Court rules that government employees have no legal, fundamental, or equitable right to strike, even for a good reason.

Prohibition of Strikes

1. Before striking, without providing the Employer the required six weeks’ notice.

2. Within 14 days of receiving such information and before the Strike’s expiration date as specified in the notice.

3. During the pendency of any conciliation proceedings.

4. Within seven days of the conciliation officer’s conclusion.


To deal with the unpredictable scenario, the Employer temporarily closes down the factory or any other business unit where many workers are engaged until the concerns are rectified. It is used to compel employees to agree and restart work following the Employer’s terms and conditions. It could result in a significant loss for both parties, i.e., management and employees. In reality, frequent lockouts may result in the factory’s permanent closure, resulting in a large-scale loss of jobs.

According to the Industrial Disputes Act of 1947, a lockout is defined as the temporary closure of a workplace, the suspension of work, or an employer’s refusal to continue to employ any number of employees.

The three components of a lockout are included in this definition-

  1. Closure of a workplace for a certain period.
  2. Stoppage of work.
  3. Refusal to continue to employ any number of persons employed by the Employer.

When a lockout occurs, management asks workers to stay away from work and are thus not required to go to work. The lock created is not permanent and can be reopened and opened. The term ‘out’ refers to the temporary removal of management and employees from the factory until the circumstances that led to the Lockout are resolved.

When an unmanageable scenario emerges in the plant, factory lockout is the ultimate weapon in the hands of management. Whatever the case may be, a factory lockout will result in significant losses for both management and workers. If the Lockout occurs again, the factory’s viability could be jeopardized, resulting in workers’ jobs. These rights are not being taken away by the Industrial Dispute Act. On the other hand, Strikes and lockouts have been limited to achieving the goal of the law.

Legal Status of Lockout

An illegal lockout is declared in violation of Sections 10(3) and 10A (4A), i.e., when submitted an industrial dispute. A lockout in violation of Sections 22 23, i.e., sending a notice before the Lockout, is illegal (Section 24(1)). However, a lockout proclaimed in consequence of an unlawful strike is legal (Sec 24(3)). In urgent conditions, a legal lockout can be a powerful instrument in the hands of the Employer.

The phrase “lockout” is defined in Section 2(1) of the Industrial Dispute Act. However, the current definition is just a mangled version of the original. The Trade Dispute Act of 1929 had first to defined the phrase, and it did so accurately. The present Act has taken the current definition from the Trade Dispute Act but has omitted the words when such closing, suspension, or refusal occurs as a result of a dispute and is intended to compel those persons or to assist another Employer in recruiting those persons to accept the given terms or conditions of or affecting employment.

The Madras High Court read the deleted portion of the definition to define Lockout in Sri Ramchandra Spinning Mills v/s State of Madras[3]. According to the Court, even if a flood swept away the factory, a fire gutted the premises, or a natural disaster sucked the entire place underground, if the location of employment is closed, the work is suspended, or the Employer refuses to continue to employ his previous workers, there will be a lockout, and the Employer will be subject to the Act’s penalties. The current definition does not reflect the meaning of “lockout.”

The law known as the Industrial Disputes Act 1947 governs any plant or industry lockout. According to Section 22 of this Act, a factory or industry must be locked out only after prior notice has been served to the affected personnel. If not, the Lockout will be considered illegal, and the plant or industry involved would be fined under the Industrial Disputes Act 1947.

Prohibition of Lockout

1. Employees were not given a six-week notice before the Lockout.

2. Within 14 days of the notice being sent.

3. Before the lockout period specified in the notice concludes.

4. During the proceedings of any arbitration process.

The critical difference between Strike and Lockout

1. Strike refers to a halt of work by a group of workers who collectively refuse to work under a common understanding to express their dissatisfaction or compel management to meet their demands. On the other hand, Lockout is the polar opposite of a strike in that it is begun by the company’s management, putting psychological pressure on the workers to accept the management’s terms and conditions or incur the repercussions of the unit’s closure.

2. The Strike is an organized and coordinated withdrawal of labor supply, whereas the Lockout entails withholding labor demand.

3. Workers might use the Strike as a tactic to sway the Employer in their favor. On the other hand, Lock-out is a weapon used by management to stifle workers’ aggressive spirit.

4. Lock-out is a bargaining tactic that seeks to force workers to agree to and accept the terms and circumstances as enforced by management. On the other hand, Strikes are union power tactics since they are called for and backed by a labor or employee union.

5. The Strike’s primary goal is to seek redress for their grievances, promote and safeguard their rights and interests, and have their requests for employment met. On the other hand, Lock-Out aims to obtain an advantage by imposing property rights on workers.

6. Workers use strikes to either start or resist changes in their working conditions. On the other hand, management uses Lock-Out to compel employees to return to work.


Strike and lockout are essential techniques employees and employers use to resolve problems when they are unable to resolve them via peaceful dialogue. Management does not generally implement Lockouts; instead, they are publicized when workers continue to strike to avoid direct conflict. In India’s current environment of economic development plans, the unqualified right of employees to strike or employers to Lockout cannot be afforded. Compulsory arbitration has established itself as a viable alternative to collective bargaining. However, binding arbitration does not automatically imply restriction of the right to strike or suffocation of the labor movement.

[1] 1962 AIR 171, 1962 SCR (3) 269

[2] Appeal (civil)  5556 of 2003

[3] (1957) ILLJ 90 Mad

This Article has been written by Tushar Tyagi, 1st Year B.A.LL.B Student at National Law University, Sonipat.

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