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This article is written by Anshika Chaudhary of RMLNLU, an intern under Legal Vidhiya


The article will dive into the dynamic intersection of labor law, strikes, and the digital era amidst the post-COVID landscape, uncover the unprecedented impact of the pandemic on global labor dynamics as social media emerges as a game-changer, amplifying worker voices and fostering international solidarity and will explore legal intricacies surrounding strikes and lockouts, with a spotlight on the recent Indian trucker’s strike triggered by the Hit-and-Run Law under the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita. In an era dominated by technology and remote work, securing worker’s rights takes center stage. Navigating challenges in the digital landscape and discovering crucial measures for ensuring equitable protection. The post-COVID labor scene, shaped by global crises and technological shifts, demands adaptability and legal reforms to uphold justice in the ever-evolving world of work.


Labor Law, Strikes, Lockouts, Digital Era, COVID-19, Worker Rights, Social Media, Legal Intricacies, Post-Pandemic Labor Landscape.


Within the complex web of labor relations, strikes and lockouts hold crucial significance, embodying the struggle for workers’ rights and negotiating terms between employers and employees. This article explores the legal intricacies surrounding strikes and lockouts, examining their definitions, essential components, legal status, and potential illegality while exploring whether they fall under the ambit of fundamental rights.

The unprecedented and havoc nature of the COVID-19 pandemic has added a layer of complexity to labor dynamics globally. As economics grapple with the aftermath, it becomes crucial to understand and comprehend the ways in which the pandemic has shaped and reshaped the landscape of labor relations. This article seeks to untangle the intricacies of the pandemic’s effects on the world of work.

In an age defined by technology and digital connections, the role of social media in empowering the global labor movement cannot be overstated. As workers unite across borders to voice their demands, the digital age has become a powerful tool for organizing and mobilizing. This exploration delves into the transformative impact of social media on traditional paradigms of labor movements, providing a platform for amplifying voices and fostering international solidarity.

With the surge in remote and gig employment, protecting worker’s rights becomes a paramount concern in the digital era. This article will examine the challenges posed by the evolving nature of work in the digital landscape and explore the necessary measures required to ensure the protection of worker’s rights, the intersection of labor law, global events, and technological advancements as we navigate the complexities surrounding strikes, lockouts, the impact of COVID-19, and the role of social media in shaping the modern labor movement.



The strike is one of the oldest and most effective instruments of labor in its struggle with capital to secure economic justice. This strategic action represents a lawful means through which workers can collectively voice their grievances and press for fair and just economic conditions, underscoring its historical significance as a fundamental aspect of labor relations.

According to Section 2(q) of the Industrial Disputes Act of 1947:

A strike is – “a cessation of work by a body of persons employed in any industry acting in combination or a concerted refusal under a common understanding of a number of persons who are or have been so employed to continue to work or to accept employment.”[1] In simpler words, a strike is a form of work refusal organized by employees to address their demands. It is a collective action against employer policies or labor-related issues, often led by labor unions. Strikes result in organizational losses, significantly reducing production and growth rates.

Strikes can be of various types in Labour law such as work stoppages, reduced outputs, strict adherence to workplace rules, or even occupying the workplace. The success of a strike depends on factors like organization, public support, and the employer’s bargaining strength. While strikes can lead to better life conditions, they come with drawbacks for both the workers and employers like lost wages, disrupted production, and potential harm to a company’s reputation. Employers may respond by hiring replacement workers or taking legal action against striking employees.

If we take a very recent incident of the strike that happened in India in 2024 because of the newly proposed Hit-and-Run Law followed by the enactment of Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita (BNS) in December 2023 was as follows:

  • Indian Parliament recently introduced hit-and-run law aimed at deterring individuals from fleeing after accidents, which has triggered widespread protests across the nation among truck drivers and transport associations. This law was implemented under Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita, which has replaced the Indian Penal Code.
  • The disputed law, enshrined in the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita (BNS), replaces the Indian Penal Code and introduces significant changes to the penalties associated with hit-and-rule cases. Offenders could now be subject to a substantial fine of Rupees 7 lakh and a maximum imprisonment of 10 years, marking a substantial leap from the previous provisions outlined in the British-era IPC.
  • The nationwide trucker’s strike has had widespread consequences, leading to long queues forming at fuel stations and a worsening situation due to panic-buying. The effects go beyond fuel shortages, affecting wholesale vegetable markets and causing a reported 10-15% price increase in Delhi.
  • Despite the temporary halt on a national scale, truck drivers in Karnataka persist in their strike against the hit-and-run law. The overall impact on the state remains uncertain, with concerns lingering about potential logistics and fuel supply disruptions.
  • Following a three-day nationwide protest, trucks, taxis, and bus operators rallied against the same hit-and-run law. They urged the central government to reconsider and voiced concerns about potential harassment. Transport unions across Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Haryana, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Bihar participated, resulting in disruptions in some areas reporting a fuel shortage.


According to the above definition, the essential requirements for the strike to exist are:

  • There must be a voluntary and temporary cessation of work involving abandonment or refusal to perform required duties. It requires an actual stoppage of work or refusal to continue the work. Permanent cessation leads to termination of the employment contract. Mere threats or future resolutions do not qualify as a strike. In State of Bihar v. Deodar Jha[2], the court decided that the duration of a strike doesn’t affect its definition; even a short stoppage or refusal to work can be considered a strike.
  • The cessation of work must involve individuals employed in an industry, meaning the establishment must fall within the definition of ‘industry’ as per Section 2(q) of the Industrial Disputes Act of 1947.
  • For the strike to occur, the individuals must act in combination under a common understanding. The term ‘acting in combination’ was interpreted in Shamuggar Jute Factory v. Their Workmen[3], where the Industrial Tribunal stated that it implies a group of employees working together with a shared objective like terminating employment.
  • The strike must result from an industry dispute- An industrial dispute must precede the cessation of work. As per the Industrial Disputes Act of 1947, an industrial dispute arises from a conflict between:
  • Employers and employers
  • Employers and workmen
  • Workmen and workmen
  • Stoppage of work or the dispute or disagreement ought to be related to:
  • Employment
  • Non-employment
  • Terms of employment
  • Conditions of labour of the workmen.
  • A person must be employed in an industry to fall under the Industrial Disputes Act as held by the SC in Banglore Water Supply & Sewerage Board v. Rajappa[4], that the definition of industry includes both private and government industries.


As the country continues to grapple with worker rights issues, it is crucial to stay abreast of the legal framework governing strikes. A strike is deemed legal if it does not violate any statutory provisions. Article 19 of the Indian Constitution[5] safeguards multiple rights, including the freedom of expression and the right to form associations or unions. While the Constitution does not explicitly acknowledge the right to strike, it is implicitly derived from these fundamental rights. Although not classified as a fundamental right itself, the courts consistently recognize the right to strike as a legal tool. Section 24 of the Industrial Disputes Act of 1947[6] affirms the legality of strikes that adhere to the conditions outlined in Sections 22 [7]and 23 of the said act.[8]

The 1926 Trade Union Act marked a milestone by permitting, for the first time, a limited right to strike, sanctioning registered trade unions to engage in actions related to trade disputes that would otherwise breach economic laws. Sections 18 and 19 of the Act provide immunity to striking unions, recognizing their right to strike. Presently, the right to strike is acknowledged as a legitimate tool for trade unions.

In India, the legality of strikes has been shaped by pivotal cases like Bharat Forge Co. Ltd. v. Uttam Manohar Nakate[9]. The SC, in this case, affirmed the worker’s fundamental right to strike, emphasizing any restrictions on this right must be reasonable and serve public order. In BR Singh v. Union of India[10], the SC highlights the interconnection between Trade Unions and the Right to Strike and emphasizes the Right to Assemble as a fundamental constitutional right.

The right to organize is a legislative right and not a fundamental right and is equated with freedom of speech and expression under Article 19 of the Indian Constitution. Courts recognize strikes as a form of protest, considering peaceful demonstrations a legitimate means of expression. Article 19 protects such protests, including assemblies formed to convey sentiments to others. However, the courts are cautious, not categorizing the right to strike as fundamental to prevent it from conflicting with broader public interests and fundamental rights. The courts assert that strikes should not jeopardize public peace and can be restricted if they can encroach upon other’s fundamental rights. SC in Kameswar Prasad v. State of Bihar[11] clarifies that the right to strike is not a fundamental right. Instead, it is a means for workers to express their grievances[12].



A lockout is a cessation of work initiated by employers wherein they prohibit employees from working. Employers declare lockouts with the aim of pressuring their workers to reach a consensus on resolving issues that have led to the lockout. This is different from strikes, where employees themselves abstain from work. Therefore, a lockout is a strategic action employed by employers, while a strike is an action taken by employees. Section 2(1) of the Industrial Disputes Act of 1947 defines a lockout as the “temporary closure of a workplace, the suspension of work, or an employer’s refusal to continue employing any number of workers during their period of employment.”[13]

The term “temporary” in the lockout definition distinguishes it from closure, as highlighted in the case of Management of Express Newspapers Ltd[14] by Justice Gajendragadkar. A lockout, often used as an employer’s strategic tool, compels employees to accept proposals. The second part of the definition specifies the employer’s refusal to continue employing a certain number of persons. However, it’s important to note that this doesn’t make lockout and layoff equivalent.

While layoff and lockout involve temporary work stoppages and potential unemployment for some, the Supreme Court, in Kairbetta Estate v Rajamanicham[15], emphasizes the substantial difference between the two.


For an event to qualify as a lockout in labor law, the following conditions must be satisfied:

  • Temporary closure of the workplace by the employer or the suspension of work by the employer or the employer’s refusal to continue employing any amount of employees.
  • These actions should be driven by coercion.
  • It should be related to an industry as defined in the Industrial Disputes Act of 1947.
  • There should be a dispute in the industry.

Legal Status

A lockout that violates Section 10(3) and 10A(4A), which is the declaration of a lockout when an industrial dispute has been referred, is deemed illegal. Also, a lockout that contravenes Sections 22 and 23, i.e., issuance of a notice before a lockout, is also considered illegal under Section 24(1)[16]. However, a lockout declared in response to an illegal strike is recognized as legal under Section 24(3)[17]. In critical situations, a lawful lockout can become a strong tool in the hands of the employer.

Section 2(1) provides the definition of “Lock-out.” However, the current definition is incomplete. Originally and accurately defined in the Trade Dispute Act of 1929, the current Act has adopted the existing definition but has excluded the words ‘when such closing, suspension, or refusal occurs in consequences of a dispute and is intended for the purpose of compelling persons employed by him to accept terms of, or affecting employment.’

In the case of General Labour Union (Red Flag) v. B.V. Chavan and Ors[18], on 16th November, 1985 the SC expressed that imposing and continuing a lockout deemed to be illegal under the Act is an unfair labour practice.

Kingfisher Airlines

Kingfisher Airlines incurred losses of Rs. 8,000 crores, leading to a six-month salary non-payment for employees and subsequent strikes. Facing an additional burden of Rs. 7,000 crores, the airline declared a partial lockout on September 1, 2012. According to Section 22 of the Industrial Disputes Act of 1947[19], a lockout must be preceded by a notice to employees; failure to do so renders it illegal, subjecting the company to penalties under the Act.


Impact of COVID-19 on Strikes

The COVID-19 pandemic has had widespread effects on various aspects of society, including labor and employment. In many countries, including India, lockdowns and safety measures led to disruptions in economic activities and had implications for the workforce. The profound economic impact of the pandemic led to a surge in labor disputes, with workers increasingly expressing concerns about wages, job security, and working conditions. The spotlights on health and safety in workplaces became intensified, triggering strikes as employees demanded robust measures to safeguard their well-being.  The pandemic also prompted swift changes in labor laws as the government sought to navigate the crisis, creating a volatile environment with potential friction between employers and workers. The rapid adoption of remote work and flexible arrangements introduced new dimensions to labor relations, with disputes arising over issues such as digital connectivity, work-life balance, and the evolving nature of employment. In this unprecedented era, the traditional contours of labor strikes in India have been reshaped by the multifaceted challenges posed by the global health crisis.

In late November 2020, India witnessed the largest protest in history, with 200,000 farmers driving tractors to Delhi’s borders, opposing agricultural reforms. This was followed by a general strike involving 250 million people in solidarity with the farmers across urban and rural areas. Despite the severe impact of the global health crisis on India, farmers remain undeterred, prioritizing the immediate threat of the perceived “black laws” over COVID-19 concerns.

Over the past three years, 2019 marked the peak with the highest man-days lost, totaling 5.70 lakh in 41 strikes in the private sector and 9.46 lakh in 41 strikes in the public sector. However, the landscape shifted in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown measures aimed at curbing the virus’s spread. That year, there were only 15 strikes each in the private and public sectors, with a loss of 85,478 and 1.98 lakh man-days in the private and public sectors, respectively. Analyzing specific states, Karnataka led in public sector man-days lost in 2020 with 94,017, followed by Rajasthan with 67,800 in two strikes. Tamil Nadu recorded the highest loss in the private sector, with 80,130 man-days lost in eight strikes, while Karnataka reported a loss of 1,049 man-days. These statistics underscore the significant impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on labor dynamics and strike occurrences in both private and public sectors across various states over the past three years.[20]

Throughout the year, Indian doctors and care workers have protested issues related to safety and working conditions. Notably, a nationwide strike from August 9 to 10th involved approx. 600 thousand health workers from the ASHA scheme. In Mumbai, bus drivers protested inadequate protective measures in June and July, building on a 13-year struggle for pay equalization and against privatization. A January 2021 strike by Delhi’s sanitation workers led to authorities releasing previously withheld payments for salaries and pensions. Waste collectors, mainly from the Dalit community, have mobilized efforts for unionization and regularization, which were particularly emphasized during the pandemic. [21]

In summary, the Indian state has utilized the Covid-19 pandemic to heighten labor exploitation and inequality. However, the highlighted instances suggest opportunities for diverse struggles, connecting workplace-based mobilization with broader social reproduction, ecology, and community issues, shaping an alternative post-COVID “future of work.”

Impact of COVID-19 on Lockouts

The COVID-19 pandemic has markedly influenced labor relations, particularly in the prevalence and nature of lockouts. Essential workers, exposed to heightened health risks, engaged in labor disputes focused on safety measures, potentially resulting in lockouts during impasses. Economic strain led to contentious discussions between businesses and labor unions over cost-cutting measures, often prompting employers to use lockouts strategically to assert control amid financial uncertainties. The shift to remote work triggered disputes over policies, treatment, and negotiations related to evolving work arrangements, potentially leading to lockouts. Industries facing challenges like supply chain disruptions utilized lockouts as a response to navigate pandemic-exacerbated complexities. In the evolving post-COVID labor landscape, the legacy of the pandemic on lockouts intertwines with health concerns, economic challenges, and adaptations to new work paradigms.

2021 witnessed a seismic shift in workers’ resolve, as major work stoppages surged to 16, doubling from the previous year’s mere eight, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The number of participants in these strikes skyrocketed from 27,000 in 2020 to a staggering 80,700 in 2021. While still dwarfed by historical figures, this resurgence reveals a post-vaccine era where employees vocalize discontent. In the grander context, the 2021 strikes reflect a broader trend of workers asserting themselves, with over 4 million resignations in six consecutive months. The upswing in strikes could persist as wages rise and employees seek positions with better compensation and benefits. Despite labor law hindrances, the calls for reform, such as the PRO Act, echo the sentiment that workers should wield more leverage in securing their share of economic growth.

The report sheds light on the demands fueling these strikes, with pay taking the forefront, closely followed by healthcare and safety concerns—issues magnified by the pandemic’s frontline workers. The Cornell University ILR Labor Action Tracker reveals a broader picture, noting 265 work stoppages involving 140,000 workers in 2021, showcasing the multifaceted demands driving this unprecedented surge in labor action.


Social media has emerged as a dynamic force, significantly influencing economic and social landscapes, particularly in the realm of labor movements and unionization efforts. Platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram have fundamentally transformed how people organize and advocate their rights. With billions of users worldwide, these platforms offer a unique opportunity for instant connectivity and mobilization, democratizing activism and providing unprecedented reach. The ability to organize collective action through a single post has breathed new life into labor movements, empowering workers to unite, amplify their voices, and effect tangible change.

The rise of social media activism has seen a shift in the dynamics of collective action over the past couple of decades. These platforms, including newer entrants like Threads, have created virtual spaces where individuals can freely express their thoughts and concerns. Online communities and hashtags dedicated to labor issues have emerged, fostering a sense of solidarity among workers. This newfound ability to quickly disseminate information and engage a broad audience has transcended geographical barriers, enabling workers from different sectors to connect, collaborate, and forge powerful alliances. Social media has become a catalyst for diverse forms of struggles, linking conventional workplace-based mobilization with broader issues related to social reproduction, ecology, and community.

One of the most notable impacts of social media is its role in amplifying worker voices. By bypassing traditional media gatekeepers, workers can now share their experiences and narratives directly with a global audience. Social media’s viral nature ensures that messages can reach a broad audience, catching the attention of policymakers and the public alike. The platforms have become crucial for documenting and exposing workplace abuses, providing a space for workers to shed light on exploitative wages, dangerous working conditions, and discriminatory practices. This exposure not only brings attention to individual cases but also sparks discussions about systemic issues and worker’s rights, contributing to a broader dialogue on economic and social changes.

The expansion of social media has granted worker’s organizations transformative potential. In the United States, there is a noticeable shift in labor organizations’ focus, with an increasing emphasis on reaching workers in communities and online rather than solely at the workplace. This trend is particularly evident in society-based labor organizations and immigrant community-centered labor organizations, especially in endeavors to organise low-wage workers. Consequently, unions are adapting by embracing flexibility in membership structures and collaborating with various groups and associations. Simultaneously, innovative use of social media becomes crucial in connecting with an increasingly precarious and individualized workforce. These adaptations align with a resurgence of interest in ‘social movement unionism,’ portraying unions as integral components of a broader political activism ecosystem.


In conclusion, the intricate dynamics of labor law, encompassing strikes, lockouts, and the digital age, underscore the evolving landscape where workers navigate their rights and negotiate terms with employers. The global upheaval induced by the COVID-19 pandemic has intensified these dynamics, reshaping traditional paradigms and emphasizing the need for a nuanced understanding of labor relations in the post-pandemic era. As social media emerges as a potent force in empowering the global labor movement, it amplifies worker voices, fosters international solidarity, and serves as a catalyst for diverse struggles. The surge in strikes, exemplified by the 2021 spike in major work stoppages, reflects a post-vaccine era where employees assert their discontent amidst over 4 million resignations in six consecutive months. The demands fueling these actions, from better pay to heightened concerns for healthcare and safety, mirror the profound impact of the pandemic on the workforce.

Navigating the legal intricacies of strikes and lockouts, it becomes evident that their legitimacy hinges on adherence to statutory provisions. While the right to strike is implicitly derived from fundamental rights safeguarded by the Indian Constitution, it remains subject to reasonable restrictions to prevent conflicts with broader public interests. Similarly, lockouts, strategic tools for employers, must align with legal parameters to avoid illegality. In this era defined by technological advancements and evolving work arrangements, protecting workers’ rights in the digital landscape becomes paramount. As the labor landscape continues to transform, striking a delicate balance between individual privacy rights, technological innovations, and the demands of the modern workforce is imperative.

In essence, the post-COVID labor landscape is marked by a confluence of factors, from technological shifts to global health crises, converging to redefine labor relations’ contours. As we navigate this complex terrain, ensuring equitable rights for workers remains a pivotal challenge, requiring adaptability, legal reforms, and a commitment to the principles of justice and fairness in the ever-evolving world of work.


  1. Yadav, A. (2023) Right to strike as fundamental right and industrial relations, TaxGuru (Mar. 05, 2024, 5:32 PM), https://taxguru.in/corporate-law/strike-fundamental-industrial-relations.html.
  2. Shemin Roy, India lost 36.94 lakh man-days in 210 strikes in three years, Deccan Herald (Mar. 06, 2024, 9:29 PM), https://www.deccanherald.com/india/india-lost-3694-lakh-man-days-in-210-strikes-in-three-years-960960.html.
  3. TNN, Strikes won’t be withdrawn: Asha Workers, Times of India (Mar. 07, 2024, 10:26 PM), https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&url=https%3A%2F%2Ftimesofindia.indiatimes.com%2Fcity%2Fnagpur%2Fasha-workers-strike-continues-demands-for-compensation-and-job-benefits%2Farticleshow%2F107836860.cms&psig=AOvVaw0vWXTEl1s1W0mredV0oXhI&ust=1710008132995000&source=images&cd=vfe&opi=89978449&ved=0CAgQrpoMahcKEwj4m5rsouWEAxUAAAAAHQAAAAAQBA
  4. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/role-technology-organizing-workers-labor-movement-j-angel-pic%C3%B3n

[1] Industrial Disputes Act, 1947, § 2(q), No. 14, Acts of Parliament, 1949 (India).

[2] State of Bihar v. Deodar Jha, AIR 1958 PATNA 51.

[3] Shamuggar Jute Factory v. Their Workmen, 1964 (8) FLR 270.

[4] Banglore Water Supply & Sewerage Board v. Rajappa, 1978 AIR 548.

[5] India Const. art. 19.

[6] Industrial Disputes Act, 1947, § 24(q), No. 14, Acts of Parliament, 1949 (India).

[7] Industrial Disputes Act, 1947, § 22(q), No. 14, Acts of Parliament, 1949 (India).

[8] Industrial Disputes Act, 1947, § 23(q), No. 14, Acts of Parliament, 1949 (India).

[9] Bharat Forge Co. Ltd. v. Uttam Manhar Nakate, 2005 AIR SCW 554.

[10] B.R. Singh v. Union of India, 1989 (4) SCC 710.

[11] Kameshwar Prasad v. State of Bihar, 1962 AIR 1166.

[12] Yadav, A. (2023) Right to strike as fundamental right and industrial relations, TaxGuru (Mar. 05, 2024, 5:32 PM), https://taxguru.in/corporate-law/strike-fundamental-industrial-relations.html.

[13] Industrial Disputes Act, 1947, § 2(1), No. 14, Acts of Parliament, 1949 (India).

[14] Management of Express Newspapers Ltd. v. Workers & Staff Employed Under It and Others, 1963 AIR 569.

[15] Kairbetta Estate v. Rajamanicham, 1960 AIR 893.

[16] Industrial Disputes Act, 1947, § 24(1), No. 14, Acts of Parliament, 1949 (India).

[17] Industrial Disputes Act, 1947, § 24(3), No. 14, Acts of Parliament, 1949 (India).

[18] General Labour Union (Red Flag) v. B.V. Chavan and Ors., 1985 AIR 297.

[19] Industrial Disputes Act, 1947, § 22, No. 14, Acts of Parliament, 1949 (India).

[20] Shemin Roy, India lost 36.94 lakh man-days in 210 strikes in three years, Deccan Herald (Mar. 06, 2024, 9:29 PM), https://www.deccanherald.com/india/india-lost-3694-lakh-man-days-in-210-strikes-in-three-years-960960.html.

[21] TNN, Strikes won’t be withdrawn: Asha Workers, Times of India (Mar. 07, 2024, 10:26 PM), https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&url=https%3A%2F%2Ftimesofindia.indiatimes.com%2Fcity%2Fnagpur%2Fasha-workers-strike-continues-demands-for-compensation-and-job-benefits%2Farticleshow%2F107836860.cms&psig=AOvVaw0vWXTEl1s1W0mredV0oXhI&ust=1710008132995000&source=images&cd=vfe&opi=89978449&ved=0CAgQrpoMahcKEwj4m5rsouWEAxUAAAAAHQAAAAAQBA.

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