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Trade Union

Trade Union

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Published by Durga Prasad Dash

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Published by: Durga Prasad Dash on May 18, 2010
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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A trade union is an organization of employees formed on a continuous basis for the purpose of securing diverse range of benefits. It is a continuous association of wage earners for the purpose of maintaining and improving the conditions of their working lives.The Trade Union Act 1926 defines a trade union as a combination, whether temporary orpermanent, formed primarily for the purpose of regulating the relations between workmen andemployers or between workmen and workmen, or between employers and employers, or forimposing restrictive condition on the conduct of any trade or business, and includes any federationof two or more trade unions.This definition is very exhaustive as it includes associations of both the workers and employers andthe federations of their associations. Here, the relationships that have been talked about are bothtemporary and permanent. This means it applies to temporary workers (or contractual employees)as well. Then this definition, primarily, talks about three relationships. They are the relationshipsbetween the:
workmen and workmen,
workmen and employers, and
Employers and employers.Thus, a trade union can be seen as a group of employees in a particular sector, whose aim is tonegotiate with employers over pay, job security working hours, etc, using the collective power of itsmembers. In general, a union is there to represent the interests of its members, and may evenengage in political activity where legislation affects their members. Trade unions are voluntaryassociations formed for the pursuit of protecting the common interests of its members and alsopromote welfare. They protect the economic, political and social interests of their members.Features of trade unions:1.It is an association either of employers or employees or of independent workers. They mayconsist of :-
Employers’ association (e.g., Employer’s Federation of India, Indian paper millassociation, etc.)
General labor unions
Friendly societies
Unions of intellectual labor (e.g., All India Teachers Association)2.It is formed on a continuous basis. It is a permanent body and not a casual or temporaryone. They persist throughout the year.3.It is formed to protect and promote all kinds of interests –economic, political and social-of its members. The dominant interest with which a union is concerned is, however, economic.4.It achieves its objectives through collective action and group effort. Negotiations andcollective bargaining are the tools for accomplishing objectives.Trade unions have shown remarkable progress since their inception; moreover, the character of trade unions has also been changing. In spite of only focusing on the economic benefits of workers,the trade unions are also working towards raising the status of labors as a part of industry.
Trade unions are formed to protect and promote the interests of their members. Their primaryfunction is to protect the interests of workers against discrimination and unfair labor practices.Trade unions are formed to achieve the following objectives:
Trade unions represent individual workers when they have a problem at work. If an employee feelshe is being unfairly treated, he can ask the union representative to help sort out the difficulty withthe manager or employer. Unions also offer their members legal representation. Normally this is tohelp people get financial compensation for work-related injuries or to assist people who have totake their employer to court.
Negotiation is where union representatives, discuss with management, the issues which affectpeople working in an organization. There may be a difference of opinion between managementand union members. Trade unions negotiate with the employers to find out a solution to thesedifferences. Pay, working hours, holidays and changes to working practices are the sorts of issues that are negotiated. In many workplaces there is a formal agreement between the unionand the company which states that the union has the right to negotiate with the employer. Inthese organizations, unions are said to be recognized for collective bargaining purposes.
Voice in decisions affecting workers
The economic security of employees is determined not only by the level of wages and durationof their employment, but also by the management’s personal policies which include selection of employees for lay offs, retrenchment, promotion and transfer. These policies directly affectworkers. The evaluation criteria for such decisions may not be fair. So, the intervention of unions in such decision making is a way through which workers can have their say in thedecision making to safe guard their interests.
Member services
During the last few years, trade unions have increased the range of services they offer theirmembers. These include:
Education and training -
Most unions run training courses for their members onemployment rights, health and safety and other issues. Some unions also helpmembers who have left school with little education by offering courses on basicskills and courses leading to professional qualifications.
Legal assistance -
As well as offering legal advice on employment issues, someunions give help with personal matters, like housing, wills and debt.
Financial discounts -
People can get discounts on mortages, insurance and loansfrom unions.
Welfare benefits -
One of the earliest functions of trade unions was to look after members who hithard times. Some of the older unions offer financial help to their members when they are sick orunemployed.
The important forces that make the employees join a union are as follows:
1. Greater Bargaining Power
The individual employee possesses very little bargaining power as compared to that of his employer.If he is not satisfied with the wage and other conditions of employment, he can leave the job. It isnot practicable to continually resign from one job after another when he is dissatisfied. This imposesa great financial and emotional burden upon the worker. The better course for him is to join a unionthat can take concerted action against the employer. The threat or actuality of a strike by a union isa powerful tool that often causes the employer to accept the demands of the workers for betterconditions of employment
2. Minimize Discrimination
the decisions regarding pay, work, transfer, promotion, etc. are highly subjective in nature. Thepersonal relationships existing between the supervisor and each of his subordinates may influencethe management. Thus, there are chances of favoritisms and discriminations. A trade union cancompel the management to formulate personnel policies that press for equality of treatment to theworkers. All the labor decisions of the management are under close scrutiny of the labor union. Thishas the effect of minimizing favoritism and discrimination.
3. Sense of Security
The employees may join the unions because of their belief that it is an effective way to secureadequate protection from various types of hazards and income insecurity such as accident, injury,illness, unemployment, etc. The trade union secure retirement benefits of the workers and compelthe management to invest in welfare services for the benefit of the workers.
4. Sense of Participation
the employees can participate in management of matters affecting their interests only if they jointrade unions. They can influence the decisions that are taken as a result of collective bargainingbetween the union and the management.
5. Sense of Belongingness
Many employees join a union because their co-workers are the members of the union. At times, anemployee joins a union under group pressure; if he does not, he often has a very difficult time atwork. On the other hand, those who are members of a union feel that they gain respect in the eyesof their fellow workers. They can also discuss their problem with’ the trade union leaders.
6. Platform for self expression
the desire for self-expression is a fundamental human drive for most people. All of us wish to shareour feelings, ideas and opinions with others. Similarly the workers also want the management tolisten to them. A trade union provides such a forum where the feelings, ideas and opinions of theworkers could be discussed. It can also transmit the feelings, ideas, opinions and complaints of theworkers to the management. The collective voice of the workers is heard by the management andgive due consideration while taking policy decisions by the management.
7. Betterment of relationships
another reason for employees joining unions is that employees feel that unions can fulfill theimportant need for adequate machinery for proper maintenance of employer-employee relations.Unions help in betterment of relations among management and workers by solving the problemspeacefully.

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