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Indian trade union movement can be divided into three phases


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. Capitalists were only interested in their productivity and profitability. In addition to long working hours, their wages were low and general economic conditions were poor in industries. In order to regulate the working hours and other service conditions of the Indian textile labourers,The Indian Factories Act was enacted in 1881.

As a result, employment of child labour was prohibited. Mr. N M Lokhande organized people like Rickshawalas etc., prepared a study report on their working conditions and submitted it to the Factory Labour Commission. The Indian Factory Act of 1881 was amended in 1891 due to his efforts. Guided by educated philanthropists and social workers like Mr. 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.

The second phase of The Indian trade union movement falls
between 1900 and 1947. This phase was characterized by the development of organized trade unions and political movements of the working class. It also witnessed the emergence of militant trade unionism. The First World War (1914-1918) and the Russian revolution of 1917 gave a new turn to the Indian trade union movement and organized efforts on part of the workers to form trade unions. In 1918, B P Wadia organized trade union movements with Textile mills in Madras. He served strike notice to them and workers appealed to Madras High Court because under ‘Common Law’, strike is a breach of law. In 1919, Mahatma Gandhi suggested to let individual struggle be a Mass movement. In 1920, the First National Trade union organization (The All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC)) was established. Many of the leaders of this organization were leaders of the national Movement. In 1926, Trade union law came up with the efforts of Mr. N N Joshi that became operative from 1927.

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.

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World War 1st Influence of Political Leaders The International Labour Organisation The Russian Revolution The Trade Union Act

Limited Representation Small – Size And Increasing Number Multiplicity Of Unions Inter-union And Intra-union Rivalries

Political Infiltration

     

Outside Leadership Meagre Funds Low Income Illiteracy Lack Of Integrity Unhealthy Attitude Of Employers

Trade union in India are regulated by the Indian Trade Unions Act, 1926 amended from time to time. The trade union act lays down the procedure for the registration of trade unions and their rights and liabilities.
Any 7 or more members of a trade union may, by subscribing their names to the rules of the trade un ion and otherwise complying with the provisions of this act with respect to registration, apply for the registration of the trade union under this act. Every application for the registration of a trade union shall be made to the registrar, and shall be accompanied by a copy of the rules of the trade union, and provide all other particulars required by the act.

The act lays down the rights and liabilities of registered trade unions. Some of the important rights and liabilities of registered unions are:

The general funds and political funds of a registered union shall not be spent on any other objects than those specified in the act. No office-bearer or member of a registered trade union shall be liable to punishment under sub-section (2) of section 120-B. No suit or other legal proceeding shall be liable maintainable in any civil court against any registered trade union or any officebearer or member thereof in respect of any act done in contemplation.

The accounts books of a registered trade union and the list of members thereof shall open to any inspection by an office bearer.

A person shall be disqualified for being chosen as, and for being a member of, the executive or any other office-bearer of a registered trade union if:

He has not attained the age of 18 years He has been convicted by a court in India of any offence involving moral turpitude and sentenced to imprisonment, unless a period of 5 yrs has elapsed since his release.


Any registered trade union may, with the consent of not less than two-thirds of the total number of its members and subject to the provision of sec-25,change its name.

Any two or more registered union may become amalgamated together as one trade union with or without the dissolution or division of the funds of such trade unions or either or any of them, provided that the votes of at least one-half of the numbers of each or every such trade union entitled to vote are recorded, and that at least 60% of the votes recorded are in favour of the proposal. A registered trade union shall send to the Registrar a properly audited annual statement of all receipts and expenditure in the prescribed form within the prescribed time. A copy of every alteration made in rules of a registered trade union shall be sent to the Registrar within 15 days of making of the alteration.

Section 2(h) of the Trade Unions Act, 1926 has defined a trade union as “Any combination, whether temporary or permanent, formed primarily for the purpose of regulating the relations between workmen and employers, or between workmen and workmen, or between employers and employers, or for imposing restrictive conditions on the conduct of any trade or business, and includes any federation of two or more trade unions.”
Then this definition talks about three relationships. They are relationship between the:  Workmen and workmen  Workmen and employers  Employers and employers.

 

It is an organisation formed by employees or workers. It is formed on a continuous basis. It is a permanent body and not a casual or temporary one. 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. It includes federations of trade unions also. It achieves its objectives through collective action and group effort

 

To improve the economic lot of employees by securing for them better wages.

 

To secure better working conditions for the workers.
To secure bonus for the employees from the profit of the concern, To resist schemes of the management which reduce employment, e.g., rationalisation and automation. To secure welfare of employees through group schemes which give benefit to every employee. To protect the interests of employees by taking active participation in the management. To secure social welfare of the employees. To secure organisational stability, growth, and leadership.

 

Broadly speaking, trade unions perform two types of functions, viz.,

Militant Functions. One set of activities performed by trade unions leads to the betterment of the position of their members in relation to their employment. The aim of such activities is to ensure adequate wages, secure better conditions of work and employment,

get better treatment from employers, etc. When the unions fail to
accomplish these aims by the method of collective bargaining and negotiations, they adopt an approach and put up a fight with the

management in the form of so-slow, strike, boycott, gherao, etc.
Hence, these functions of the trade unions are known as militant or fighting functions.

Fraternal Functions. Another set of activities performed by trade

unions aims at rendering help to its members in times of need, and
improving their efficiency. Trade unions try to foster a spirit of cooperation and promote friendly relations and diffuse education and culture among their members. They also arrange for legal assistance to its members, if necessary. Besides, these, they undertake many welfare measures for their members, e.g., school for the education of children, library, reading-rooms, in-door and out-door games, and other recreational facilities. Some trade unions even undertake publication of some magazine or journal. These activities, which may be called fraternal functions, depend on the availability of funds, which the unions raise by subscription from members and donations from outsiders, and also on their competent and enlightened leadership.

Another broad classification of the functions of unions may be as follows

Intra-mural activities. These consist of those functions of the unions that lead to the betterment of employment conditions such as ensuring adequate wages and salaries, etc. for which the methods adopted may be collective bargaining, negotiations, strikes, etc.

Extra-mural activities. These activities help the employees to maintain and improve their efficiency or productivity, e.g.,

measures intended to foster a spirit of cooperation, promote friendly
relations, and diffuse education among members and various other types of welfare measures.

Political activities. Modern trade unions also take up
political activities to achieve their objectives. Such activities may be related to the formation of a political party or those reflecting an attempt to seek influence on public policy relating to matters connected with the interests of working class.

Lack of education makes the workers narrow-minded, and prevents them from taking long-term views. Thus, anything, which

does not result in an immediate reward, becomes unattractive to
them. This attitude is responsible for many strikes and lock-outs in industrial concerns.

Trade unions may not welcome rationalization and improved methods of production for the fear that some of the workers will be put out of work. Therefore, they resort to go slow policy that retards industrial progress.

When labor unions strike because of illogical grounds, incalculable losses occur to producers, community and the nation. These are harmful to the workers also. They suffer because of the loss of wages.

They create artificial scarcity of labor by demanding that only union personnel should be employed.

By undue insistence on the payment of standard rates of wages, they have only leveled down the earnings of the efficient workers.

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.

Make their Voices Heard. The desire for self-expression is a fundamental human drive for most people. Don’t you agree with that? All of us wish to share our feelings, ideas and opinions with others. Similarly the workers also want the management to listen to them.

Minimise Discrimination. The decisions regarding pay, work,

transfer, promotion, etc. are highly subjective in nature. I may rate
you very differently as compared to your marketing teacher! Similarly the personal relationships existing between the supervisor and each of his subordinates may influence the management. Thus, there are chances of favoritisms and discriminations.

Sense of Security. The employees may join the unions because of their belief that it is an effective way to secure adequate 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 compel the management to invest in welfare services for the benefit of the workers.

Sense of Participation. The employees can participate in
management of matters affecting their interests only if they join trade unions. They can influence the decisions that are taken as a result of collective bargaining between the union and the management.

Sense of Belongingness. Many employees join a union because

their co-workers are the members of the union. At times, an
employee joins a union under group pressure; if he does not, he often has a very difficult time at work. On the other hand, those who are members of a union feel that they gain respect in the eyes

of their fellow workers. They can also discuss their problem with’
the trade union leaders.

Plant level Unions: The first level in the structure from below is the plant level union. This comprises the unions in one organisation or

factory. Please note that only seven members are required to form a
union. This has lead to multiple unions in one factory. (We will discuss the details of this aspect in the problems faced by unions in India).

Local Level federations. This is the second level in the structure from below. The local trade union federation holds together the plant level unions at the local level in a particular craft and industry. These local

level federations might be affiliated to either some regional level or
national level federation or these may be independent.

Regional level federations. These are the organisations of all
the constituent unions in a particular state or region.

National federations. These are national level bodies to which
plant level unions, local unions or regional level unions may get affiliated. These are the apex bodies at the top of the structure.

They act as coordinating bodies. These national federations may
have their own regional or state level coordinating bodies to which the plant level unions may get affiliated.

Uneven Growth. The trade unionism in India is characterised by uneven growth, both industry-wise and area-wise. Trade unions are popular in big industries and the degree of unionisation varies widely from industry to industry. Besides, trade union activities are concentrated in a few states and in bigger industrial centers mainly due to concentration of industries in those places.

Limited Membership. The number of trade unions in India has increased considerably. But this has been followed by the declining membership per union.

Multiplicity of Unions. There exist several trade unions in the same establishment. The multiplicity of unions is the result of outside leadership and labour laws. The law permits and gives sanctity to small unions. Any seven persons can form a union under the Trade Unions Act, 1926. This Act confers rights on such a union. It is allowed under the Act to raise disputes, file suits, go to conciliation and even bargain with employers. Therefore, small sections of workers are encouraged to form separate Unions. There is no restriction on the number of unions to be registered in one


Outside Leadership. Trade unions in India are led largely by people who themselves are not workers. These outsiders are politicians, intellectuals and professionals having no experience of work in industry. Outsiders continue to dominate the trade unions to advance their personal interests.

Financial Problems. The financial position of the trade unions is

weak because their average yearly income is very low and
inadequate. The subscription rates are very low. Under conditions of multiplicity of unions, a union interested in increasing its membership figures keeps the subscription rate unduly low. As a result, the funds with the unions are inadequate and they cannot undertake welfare programmes for their members. Another reason for the weak financial position of union is that large

amounts of subscription dues remain unpaid by the workers.
Besides this, unions do not have proper staff and organisation to collect subscriptions.

Indifferent Attitude of Workers. In India, a large number of
workers have not joined any union. Moreover, all the members of the trade unions do not show interest in their affairs. The attendance at the general meetings of the unions is very low. Under such circumstance, trade unionism cannot be expected to make much progress.

One Union in One Industry: Multiplicity of unions in the same
plant leads to inter-union rivalry that ultimately cuts at the root of the trade union movement. It weakens the power for collective bargaining and reduces the effectiveness of workers in securing their legitimate rights. Therefore, there should be only one union in one industry.

Paid Union Officials: Generally, the trade unions avail the services of the honorary workers due to lack of funds. The practice should be stopped because honorary office bearers cannot do full justice to the task entrusted to them because of

lack of time at their disposal. Suppose that you are asked to do
something in the office, which requires a lot of responsibility. You are not offered any thing in return. Of course the

motivational levels will come down unless and until you are a
very passionate or a committed person. The same applies to the officials of the unions. Therefore, paid union officials should be employed who are persons of proven integrity and who are able to evaluate the demands of workers so that they may negotiate with employers on equal footing.

Development of Leadership from Within: It is of crucial
importance that trade unions are managed by the workers, and not by outsiders. Leadership should be developed from within the rank and file of the workers.

Recognition of Trade Unions. Till recently, the employers refused recognition to the trade unions either on the basis that unions consisted of only a minority of employees or two or more unions existed.

 The

main service a union provides for its members is negotiation and representation. There are other benefits people get from being members of trade unions.  Negotiation  Representation  Information and advice  Member services

Negotiation Negotiation is where union representatives discuss with management issues which affect people working in an organisation. The union finds out the members' views and relays these views to management. There may be a difference of opinion between management and union members. 'Negotiation' is about finding a solution to these differences. This process is also known as 'collective bargaining'. In many workplaces there is a formal agreement between the union and the company which states that the union has the right to negotiate with the employer. In these organisations, unions are said to be 'recognised' for 'collective bargaining' purposes. Pay, working hours, holidays and changes to working practices are the sorts of issues that are negotiated. People who work in organisations where unions are recognised are better paid and are less likely to be made redundant than people who work in organisations where unions are not recognised.

Representation Trade unions also represent individual members when they have a problem at work. If an employee feels they are being unfairly treated, he or she can ask the union representative to help sort out the difficulty with the manager or employer. If the problem cannot be resolved amicably, the matter may go to an industrial tribunal. Industrial tribunals make sure that employment laws are properly adhered to by employees and employers. They are made up of people outside the workplace who listen to the employer's and the employee's point of view and then make a judgement about the case. People can ask their union to represent them at industrial tribunals. Most cases that go to industrial tribunals are about pay, unfair dismissal, redundancy or discrimination at work. Unions also offer their members legal representation. Normally this is to help people get financial compensation for workrelated injuries or to assist people who have to take their employer to court

Information and advice

Unions have a wealth of information which is useful to people at work. They can advise on a range of issues like how much holiday you are entitled to each year, how much pay you will get if you go on maternity leave, and how you can obtain training at work.

Member services During the last ten years, trade unions have increased the range of services they offer their members. These include: Education and training - Most unions run training courses for their members on employment rights, health and safety and other issues. Some unions also help members who have left school with little education by offering courses on basic skills and courses leading to professional qualifications. Legal assistance - As well as offering legal advice on employment issues, some unions give help with personal matters, like housing, wills and debt. Financial discounts - People can get discounts on mortgages, insurance and loans from unions. Welfare benefits - One of the earliest functions of trade unions was to look after members who hit hard times. Some of the older unions offer financial help to their members when they are sick or unemployed

 Better

Wages  Better Working conditions  Bonus  Resist unsuitable schemes  Secure welfare  Project Interest of workers  Social welfare  Organisational gowth and stablilty

 Greater

Bargaining Power  Makes their voice heard  Minimise discrimination  Sense of security  Sense of Participation  Sense of Belongingness

Protection  Social pressure  Compulsion  Political beliefs  Solidarity  Tradition  Pay and conditions  Communication  Health and safety

 Lack

of education  May not welcome change  Strick on Illogical basis  Creation of Artificical scanity of labour  Undue demands relating to wages

Type of Union Description / Example

Craft of skills To represent skilled workers e.g. Musicians union Union (MU) Industrial unions To represent the members of one particular industry e.g. Fire Brigades Union (FBU) Unions which recruit workers from all types of industries and with any level or range of skills e.g. Amicus – the Manufacturing Science and Finance Union (MSF)

General unions

White-collar unions

Represent office workers e.g. National Union of Teachers (NUT)

Another way of clasification: 1. Reformist Unions
• Business Unions • Friendly Unions
2. Revolutionary unions

• Political unions • Anarchist unions
•Goverenment and establishment of voluantry society. )

(belief in the abolition of all

 Union

Members  Shop Stewards (Union Representatives)  Branches District and Regional Offices  National Office

Trade unions are democratic organisations which are accountable to their members for their policies and actions. Unions are normally modelled on the following structure:  Members - people who pay a subscription to belong to a union  Shop stewards - sometimes called union representatives - who are elected by members of the union to represent them to management  Branches - which support union members in different organisations locally. There is usually a branch secretary who is elected by local members  District and/or regional offices - these are usually staffed by full time union officials. These are people who are paid to offer advice and support to union members locally  A national office - the union's headquarters which offers support to union members and negotiates or campaigns for improvements to their working conditions. At the top of the organisation there is usually a General Secretary and a National Executive Committee, elected by the union's members.