3(h) Industrial Relations

The conflict between labour and capital is the go of the capitalistic world. The growth of workers’ and employers’ organisation during the last few decades has been accompanied by a distinct increase in the number and extent of strikes and lockouts. A lockout which is the employer’s answer to a strike is an act of closing a business enterprise by an employer for the purpose of enforcing a decision on the employees.
Islam does not recognise the exploitation of labour by capital, nor does it approve of the elimination of the business class and establishment of the classless society. Islam recognises the diversity of capacities and talents resulting in the diversity in earnings and material reward. It does not approve of a dead-level equality in the distribution of wealth as that would defeat the very purpose of diversity. Naturally, Islam recognises the existence of labour and capital in society. The two basic principles laid down in this connection, both in the Qur’an and the Hadith, are that the employee shall do his work faithfully and to the best of his ability and that the employer shall pay him fully for the service rendered. In fact, Islam brings about a happy marriage between labour and capital by giving the whole problem a moral bent.
It is clear that Islam has recognised the worker’s right to a fair wage. When the employer tries to exploit the labour, they may opt for collective bargaining to secure Islamically justified fair wage. For, labour, being perishable has a very weak bargaining power. Thus a trade union can correct the bargaining weakness of labourers, eliminate capitalistic exploitation and so enable labourers to raise their wages to the level of the full value of their marginal net product. In fact the state can intervene to protect the legitimate interests of both employee and employers while an Islamic state can declare an anti-social strike as unlawful, it can very well fix the minimum wage to protect the interest of the working class. It follows that in a properly run Islamic society, there is no need to have collective bargaining power to the labour, because institutional arrangements will generate forces, where an equitable and fair conditions of work tend to be established.
But how far should the right to strike and discharge be allowed to go? What degree of limitation would the state law exercise? It is an unanswerable question, as no satisfactory answer can be given in an absolute term. The whole problem depends on a number of variables such as existing level of concentration of industrial power, level and stage of labour movement, level of social inequality and income, level of Islamic awareness towards work ethics and so on.
It may however be repeated that if both workers and employers are imbued with the values of Islam, the whole question of strikes and lockouts would be relatively unimportant. But the fundamental problem is not how to prohibit or restrict strikes and lockouts but how to inject Islamic values into the existing framework of industrial development in Muslim countries.
The crucial policy implication is that Islamic business ethics should form an integral part of either general or specific training designed for workers. There is also a need for an Islamic orientation training programme for management.