Trade Union Movementin India

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Labour Movement or Trade Union Movement "

The labour movement and trade unions are used synonymously. But that is not so, as labour movement is conceived as "All of the organised activity of wage-earners to better their own conditions either immediately or in the more, or less distant future.”. According to, Prof. Cole, Labour movement implies in some degree, a community of outlook, it is an organisation, or rather many forms of organisations based upon the sense of a common status and a common need for mutual help. It emerges from a common need to serve a common interest, "It seeks to develop among workers a spirit of combination, class-consciousness and solidarity of interest and arouses a consciousness, for self-respect, rights and duties. It creates organization or organizations for their self-protection, safeguarding of their common interest and betterment of their social and economic position. A trade union is an essential basis of a labour movement for without it the labour movement cannot exist, because trade unions are the principal schools in which the workers learn the lesson of self-reliance and solidarity."

Often there is to be found a lot of confusion on the use of the word labour movement and 'trade union movement'. However, there is a slight distinction between the two. The labour movement is "for the worker", whereas the trade union movement is "by the worker". This distinction needs to 'be noted all the more because till the workers organised themselves into trade unions, efforts were made, mainly by the social reformers, to improve the working and living conditions of labour. These efforts should be taken as forming a part of the 'labour movement' and not that of the trade union movement. In India, the labour movement started from 1875, when a number of measures through legislation, administration and welfare work, were taken by the government, the social workers and the enlightened employers. The trade union movement on the other hand, started after 1918, when the workers formed their associations to improve their conditions. It is, thus, a part of the 'labour movement'. which is a much wider term.

Why the Trade Union Movement?

The main elements in the development of trade unions of workers in every country have been more or less the same. The setting up of large-scale industrial units, create conditions of widespread use of machinery, new lines of production and brought about changes in working and living environment of workers, and concentration of industries in large towns. All of these developments introduced a new class of workers (that is, wage-earners) who were dependent on wages for their livelihood. They were at a disadvantage in an 'age when the doctrine of laisse faire held the field.In the absence of collective action, they were ruthlessly exploited, and had to work hard for unbelievably long hours, from sunrise to sunset, in dark and dingy factories and under very tiring conditions and the protest by indiv1dualworkers could have no effect on the employers because of the plentiful supply of labour. The workers had, therefore, to join together, at least to maintain, if not to improve, their bargaining power against the employers. Where joint action was inadequate, the practice which workers evolved was joint withdrawal from work. It was this labour protest on an organised scale, through the support of some philanthropic personalities. That organised labour unions came to be formed.

Growth and Development of the Trade Union Movement

The growth and development of. the labour - movement , and for that part of the trade unions, in India, can be divided into following periods, each of them revealing different tendencies that mark it from others.

1. Social Welfare period( From 1875 to 1918)-
2. Early Trade Union period ( From 1918 to 1924) -
3. Left- Wing Trade Unionism period ( From 1924 to 1934)-
4. Trade Union Unity Period ( From 1935 to...
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