Trade Union Movement in India

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Trade Union Development
After going through this unit, you should be able to understand: l the growth and development of trade unions in India, and
l the functions and problems of trade unions.
4.1 Introduction
4.2 Origin and Growth of Trade Unions
4.3 Development of Trade Unions in India
4.4 Indian Unions Today
4.5 The Trade Unions Act: Legal Framework for Trade Unions
4.6 Functions of Trade Unions
4.7 Strengthening of Trade Unions
4.8 Summary
4.9 Self-Assessment Questions
4.10 Further Readings
Trade Unions have become an integral and powerful factor in the contemporary system of production and distribution of goods and services. Modern industrialisation has paved the way for trade unions. They are now exercising a strong influence on the methods of production of goods and services, their distribution, the allocation of economic resources, the volume of employment and unemployment, the character of rights and privileges, policies of governments, the attitude and status of large masses of population, and the very nature of economic and social organisations. Under such conditions their role has evoked deep and wide controversies. For a developing economy such as ours, trade unions and their policies are of special significance. As such, in order to assess their functions, role and prospects, it is essential to go into the origin and development of trade union movement and to outline the factors that helped them reach such a strong and forceful position from a small and humble beginning. Meaning of Trade Union

The term trade union has been defined variously by different authors. Some view that these are only associations of employees or persons working in industry and wage earners engaged in one or more professions, undertakings or business, while others view that these also include employers organisations and friendly societies. According to G.D.H. Cole, a trade union means “an association of workers in one or more professions—an association carried on mainly for the purpose of protecting and advancing the members’ economic interests in connection with their daily work.” Dale Yoder defined a trade union as “a continuing long term association of employees, 6

Trade Unionism formed and maintained for the specific purpose of advancing and protecting the interest of the members in their working relationship.”
Sidney and Beatrice Webb define a trade union as “a continuous association of wage earners for the purpose of maintaining and improving the conditions of their working life.” This classical definition still holds good so far as actual practices of unions are concerned.

Under the Trade Union Act, 1926, this term is defined as any combination whether temporary or permanent, formed primarily for the purpose of regulating the relations between workmen and employers, or imposing restrictive conditions on the conduct of any trade or business, and includes any federation of two or more trade unions. In other words, the term union applies not only to combination and associations of employees only, but also to that of the employers.

Trade unions have grown in response to the peculiar needs and problems which the wage-earners have had to face in the course of industrialisation under the capitalist economic system. The main features of the process of industrialisation that necessitated the origin of trade unions are: (i) separation between capital and labour; (ii) philosophy of lassez-faire i.e., least/non-interference of the state in the affairs of labour and management; (iii) lack of bargaining power on the part of workers (which forced the workers (as individuals) to either accept the jobs with wage rates, hours of work etc. unilaterally determined by the employers, or to remain unemployed); and (iv) the realisation by the working class that while the individual...
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