Trade Unions in India

The employer can no longer hire and dismiss employees. He cannot promote or reverse the promotion of someone based on personal preferences. He cannot afford to reprimand subordinates openly and has to act within the clauses of agreements, unions, past practices and court decisions. Thus, managerial fancies, erroneous actions and one sided acts have no place in the industrial relations.

Today, the relationship between employer and employee is contractual and reciprocal. The rights and obligations of employers make rules for work, discipline employees who are disobedient which are well documented as per labour legislation. The same cannot be said of the rights and obligations of employees. Strict action against problems such as late coming, sleeping, loitering, absenting during working hours, poor workmanship, non-performance of tasks, not listening to superior’s instructions result in the form of resistance from employees. The strength together forces employees to throw away organizational interest, turn the issue on hand into a prestigious issue spoiling labour management relations.

Unions have found their base slipping badly on several counts i.e. lack of interest of workers in union related work, depleting ranks, cash shortage owing to insufficient funds, not able to sustain organized protest for a long time and more dangerously the threat of employers drawing shutters down.

A trade union is a formal association of workers that promotes and protects the interests of its members through collective action. The term is defined as to whether temporarily or permanently its formed for the purposes of regulating the relations between workers and employers, or for imposing restrictive conditions on the conduct of any trade or business and includes any federation of two or more unions. We can consider the following:

  • Trade union is an association either of employees or employers or of independent workers.
  • It is a permanent formation of workers. It is not a temporary or casual combination of workers.
  • It is formed for securing certain economic benefits like better wages, better working and living conditions and social such as educational, recreational, medical, respect for individual benefits to members. Combined strength offers a sort of insurance cover to members to fight against irrational and illegal actions of employers.
  • It includes a group of trade unions also. The group can enforce joint coordinated action and negotiation.

The failure of an individual worker to seek solutions to problems, while discharging his duties, personal as well as organizational, led workers to form a formal group which is identified at present as trade union. Thus, the main objective of any trade union is to protect the interest of workers / employees in the organization.

Various interests of workers such as working conditions, working hours, transfers, promotions, recruitment, and classification, training, discipline, leave and holidays, dearness allowance, bonus, incentives,  quarters, sanitation employee relations, mechanization, facilities to unions, welfare, employee relations and the like are included in Trade Union activities. Thus, a trade union is meant to conduct negotiations on behalf of the individual workers in respect of several items. Trade Unions focus their attention to,

Wages and salaries: The subject which drew the major attention of the trade unions is wages and salaries. Of course, this item may be related to policy matters. However, differences may arise in the process of their implementation. In the case of unorganized sector the trade union plays a major role in bargaining the pay scales.

Trade unions with a view to safeguard the health of workers demand the management to provide all the basic facilities such as, lighting and ventilation, sanitation, rest rooms, safety equipment while discharging hazardous duties, drinking water, refreshment, minimum working hours, leave and rest, holidays with pay, social security benefits etc.

Trade unions not only conduct negotiations in respect of the items with which their working conditions may be improved but also protect the workers’ from being victimised by management’s unilateral acts and disciplinary actions. This victimization may take the form of penal transfers, suspensions, dismissals, etc. In such a situation the separated worker who is left in a helpless condition may approach the trade union. Ultimately the problem may be brought to the notice of management by the trade union and it explains about the injustice meted out to an individual worker and fights the management for justice. Thus, the victimized worker may be protected by the trade union. Trade unions may fight against not properly implementing personnel policies in respect to recruitment, selection, promotions, transfers, training etc.

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