* The Role of Trade Union
Trade unions are unique organisations whose role is variously interpreted and understood by different interest groups in the society. Traditionally trade unions role has been to protect jobs and real earnings, secure better conditions of work and life and fight against exploitation and arbitrariness to ensure fairness and equity in employment contexts. In the wake of a long history of union movement and accumulated benefits under collective agreements, a plethora of legislations and industrial jurisprudence, growing literacy and awareness among the employees and the spread of a variety of social institutions including consumer and public interest groups the protective role must have undergone, a qualitative change.It can be said that the protective role of trade unions remains in form, but varies in substance. There is a considerable debate on the purposes and role of trade unions. The predominant view, however, is that the concerns of trade unions extend beyond 'bread and butter' issues. Trade unions through industrial action (such as protests and strikes) and political action (influencing Government policy) establish minimum economic and legal conditions and restrain abuse of labour wherever the labour is organised. Trade unions are also seen as moral institutions, which will uplift the weak and downtrodden and render them the place, the dignity and justice they deserve. * The State of Trade Unions in the World.
Public opinion is hostile to trade unions in most countries. The public is not against unionism in principle. It is against the way unions and union leaders function. The public image of union leaders is that they are autocratic, corrupt and indifferent to the public interest 'Too much power, too little morality' sums up the publics' assessment of unions There have been many opinion surveys specially in the United States, which bring out the poor public image of trade unions. In surveys which rank the confidence of the American public in fourteen institutions (as for example the army, church, supreme court, stock market, legal profession, industrialists, newspapers etc.) trade unions have been consistently placed at the bottom of the list. There is a serious decline in union membership in most industrialized nations. There are two possible ways of looking at union membership figures. The first method is to simply add up all union members in a factory, office or country. This gives overall membership position. In the second method, the density of membership is calculated. Density is the percentage of union members in relation to total employment, for example, if unions have 50 members in a factory employing 100, the density is 50 percent. When the reference is to entire country, density is measured by comparing union members against total employment in all sectors. Density is generally accepted as a better indicator because it shows not only how many are members but also how many are not. Membership has dropped sharply in many European countries. In France, which is the worst hit, the density of union membership is now estimated to be a miserable 10 percent. In Holland, which is also badly affected, density is estimated at around 25 percent. In England the density of union membership is 44 percent. The picture is not very different outside Europe. In the United States, density has dropped to 16 percent. In Japan, it has dropped to 25 percent. In India, union density has been of a very low order i.e., 10 percent. There are, however, some exceptions to this depressing trend. Trade union density in Sweden, the highest in the world, stands at an extremely impressive 91 percent the working population. Trade unions in Sweden are most respected. They seek social, political and economic democracy. They participate at all levels of decision-making, national and local, and share in the administration of laws. The density in Denmark is 82 percent, and in Norway 63 percent, both very high...
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