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Trade Unions

Theories and trade unionism in India


Types of Unions: Classification based on trade

Craft unions Unions that represent skilled craft workers e.g. journalists, weavers, teachers, engineers etc.

Industrial unions Unions that represent all workersskilled, semiskilled, unskilledemployed along industry lines
Employee associations Labor organizations that represent various groups of professional and white-collar employees in labormanagement relations.
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White collar workers association

White collared workers are registered under the Trade unions act or the Societies Registration Act So known as employees union or employee or staff associations Suffer much less from multiplicity, politicalisation and outside leadership.

Employers organisations/ association

Formation of ILO had provided an expliit rationale for the formation of employers asssociation. According to the ILO constitution, the government had to send employers and workers delegates and advisors, in agreement with the industrial organisations which are most representative. While the trade unions acted speedily and formed the AITUC in 1920.efforts to set up employers association took some time. Later on led to the formation of All india Organisation of employers and Employers federstion of India. Later in 1956, a superstructure called council of Indian Employers was formed bringing both AIOE ana EFI under one umbrella.

New roles of EOs

Lobbying/ awareness creation Training consultancy services Information dissemination/ publication/ experience sharing Legal advice/ assistance Other services, if any as per requirement Eos can be registered under The Trade Union Act, the Indian Companies Act or the Societies Act.

Types of Unions: Classification based on representation

Qualified union Unions having at least 5% of membership of total employees

Primary Unions Having membership of at least 15% of the employees in an undertaking

Representative Union Having a membership of not less than 25% of the total employees as members in an undertaking

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Theories of trade unions

Revolutionary theory

Propounded by Marx and Hegels According to it instruments of production must belong to workers. TU are preparations for a revolution in which capitalists must be destroyed. Workers must take over industry and government. But events in USSR could not lend support to the theory

Industrial Democracy theory

Put forth by Sidney and Beatrice Webb. It suggests democracy in industry as in government. It suggests that through Unions, the workers protect themselves from the power and influence of owners. All rules and regulations are developed in order to protect the rights of the Labour.

Business theory

Put forth by Samuel Gompers Emphasised that the primary objective of the unions was to protect the economic interest of the workers. Gompers viewed unions as the labor's collective voice in the industrial world. He wanted to partner with business to promote higher wages (and higher profits). Gompers viewed unions as the labor component of a business operation, neither superior nor inferior to the management component, but just as essential. This theory opposes the revolutionary theory.

Socio-Psychological theory

According to this theory, workers join union to meet their socio-psychological needs like physiological, security, companionship etc.


Change theory

As per Selig Perlman, the objectives of labour movement changes from time to time. Though he did emphasize upon union being based upon scarcity consciousness. Hence no simple theory can explain union and labour relations. Perlman explains the state of labor movement according to three factors:
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The resistance power of capitalism, The role and influence of the intellectual and The maturity of the home grown trade union movement.


Evolution: Phase I 1850-1900

The first phase falls between 1850 and 1900 during which the inception of trade unions took place. During this period of the growth of Indian Capitalist enterprises, the working and living conditions of the labour were poor and their working hours were long. Their wages were low and general economic conditions were poor in industries. Guided by educated philanthropists and social workers like Mr.N.K. Lokhande, the growth of trade union movement was slow in this phase. Many strikes took place in the two decades following 1880 in all industrial cities. These strikes taught workers to understand the power of united action even though there was no union in real terms. Small associations like Bombay Mill-Hands Association came up which is known as the first TU in India.


Phase-II 1900-1947 (Growth Phase)

1900-1910: following TU were formed Printers union in Calcutta in 1905 Postal union in Madras and Calcutta in 1907 Kamgaar Hitwardhak Sabha in 1910 These were basically welfare organisations with a touch of unionism


Phase IIcontd


1914-1918- 1st world war: The World War I and the intensification of Indian Independence struggle assisted the growth of Indian trade union movement. 1917-Russian revolution The Russian revolution and the communist government formation in Russia consolidated the workers movement all over the world. 1919- formation of ILO- this consolidated the workers rights and gave international recognition and respectability to trade unionism

Phase II-contd..

1920- AITUC- was formed with the fusion of 107 unions in 1920 In 1920, first Trade Disputes Act was passed indirectly stifling or making unions illegal Subsequent industrial unrest and the international pressures exerted through ILO led to Factories Act in 1922, Indian Mines Act 1923, Workmens Compensation 1923 were enacted.

Lastly Indian Trade Union Act was passed in 1926

Split in trade union movement


Phase III- 1947--- and on


The third phase began with the emergence of independent India (in 1947), and the Government sought the cooperation of the unions for planned economic development. The working class movement was also politicized along the lines of political parties. For instance Indian national trade Union Congress (INTUC) is the trade union arm of the Congress Party. The AITUC is the trade union arm of the Communist Party of India. Besides workers, white-collar employees, supervisors and managers are also organized by the trade unions, as for example in the Banking, Insurance and Petroleum industries. A large number of Labour legislations were passed. Formation of the TU in the lines of politicl parties also started.

The post-independence period has been important for the trade union movement in India. The most important factors being:

The constant inflow of outside and international influences; The pressure of trade union rivalries, often based on political or ideological differences; Governments Industrial Relations Policy with its provision for compulsory adjudication machinery; The enactment of labour laws conferring special privileges on registered trade unions; Desire of workers to unite for safeguarding their interest especially to face harder conditions for labour such as retrenchment, lay-off, etc.;

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Present Scenario of the Trade Union Movement

The Indian trade unions have come to stay now not as ad hoc bodies or strike committees but as permanent features of the industrial society. The unions succeeded in organizing Central Union Federations which help in the determination of principles, philosophy, ideology and purposes of the unions and give some sense of direction to the otherwise scattered and isolated large number of unions. The unions have achieved a remarkable status where their voices are heard by the government and the employers; they are consulted on matters pertaining to improvement in conditions of work health and safety, job security, wages, productivity, all matters concerning the interests of labour. The trade union rivalries have become sharper in free India. The splitting up of unions and formation of new unions having sympathies with political parties have permitted unions operating at different levels.