Trade Union Registration and Recognition in India

The Trade unions act of 1926 provides for registration of trade unions by the designated registrar of trade unions. Registered trade unions have certain obligations to meet like maintenance of accounts and filing of returns. Non-compliance may invite cancellation of registration. However the act is silent about the recognition of the trade union by the firm for the purpose of collective bargaining. Various state governments like Maharashtra have enacted legislations like the Maharasthra Recognition of Trade Union (MRTU) and the Prevention of unfair labor practices (PULP) Act of 1971 to recognize unions based on their real strength. With support from courts, many organizations have used the secret ballot method to identify and recognize unions as representatives of workers. Other methods followed are membership verification conducted by government machinery or a check off system where employee declares union allegiance to company and allow deduction of membership fee from the salary.

The Supervisor’s Role:

Supervisors are an employer’s first line of defense when it comes to the unionizing effort. They are often in the best position to sense evolving employees’ attitude problems, for instance, and to discover the first signs of union activity. Unfortunately there’s another side to that coin: they can also inadvertently take actions that hurt their employer’s union related efforts.

Supervisors therefore need special training. Specifically they must be knowledgeable about what they can and can’t do to legally hamper organizing activities. Unfair labor practices could (1) cause the NLRB to hold a new election after your company has won a previous election, or (2) cause your company to forfeit the second election and go directly to contract negotiation.

In one case a plant superintendent reacted to a union’s initial organizing attempt by prohibiting distribution of union literature in the plant’s lunchroom. Since solicitation of off duty workers in non work areas is generally legal, the company subsequently allowed the union to post union literature on the company’s bulletin board and to distribute union literature in nonworking areas inside the plant. However, the NLRB still ruled that the initial act of prohibiting distribution of the literature was an unfair labor practice one not made right by the company’s subsequent efforts. The NLRB used the superintendent’s action as one reason for invaliding an election that the company had won.

The election:

The election is held within 30 to 60 days after the NLRB issues its decision and direction of Election. The election is by secret ballot; the NLRB provides the ballots; voting booth, and ballot box and counts the votes and certifies the results.

The union becomes the employee’s representative if it wins the lection, and winning means getting a majority of the votes cast, not a majority of the total workers in the bargaining unit. Also keep in mind that if an employer commits an unfair labor practice the NLRB may reverse a no union election. As representative of their employer, supervisors must therefore be careful not to commit unfair practices. Several things influence whether the union wins the certification election. Unions have a higher probability of success in geographic areas with a higher percentage of union workers, in part because union employees enjoy higher wages and benefits. High unemployment seems to lead to poorer results for the union, perhaps because employees fear that unionization efforts might result in reduced job security or employer retaliation. Unions usually carefully pick the size of their bargaining unit (all clerical employees in the company, only those at one facility and so on because it’s clear that the larger the bargaining unit, the smaller the probability of union victory The more workers vote, the less likely a union victory probably because more workers who are not strong supporters vote. The union is important too. The Teamsters union is less likely to win a representation election than other unions, for instance.

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