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Trade Union definition, Role, Utility and development in India

The birthplace of the trade union was Great Britain. From Great Britain, the trade Unisom crept on India along with the industrialization. The primary effects of trade unionism in India were political awareness and the struggle for the improvement of wages of the workers.

Definition and meaning
Section 2(h) of the trade union act 1926 defines the trade union according to it trade union means:
"Any combination whether temporary or permanent which shall be formed for the purpose of regulating the relation between workmen and employers or workmen and workmen or employers and employers or imposing restrictive condition on conduct of any trade or business".

Thus above definition shows that:
  • Any combination whether temporary or permanent
  • The combination should have been formed for the purpose of:
    1. Regulating the relation between-
      • a. Workmen and employers or
      • b. Workmen and workmen or
      • c. Employers and employers
    2. Imposing restrictive conditions on the conduct of any trade or business.
Case law:  performing right society v/s London theaters of varieties 1924
The society of writers, publisher and principles for the purpose of protecting copy right was not held to be trade union, because it was not a act related to trade or business.

Case law: National Organization of Bank Federation of trade Union v/s Union of India and others 1993 Bombay HC

It was held that where a federation of trade union is not register it is not a trade union under the act. It is not a jurist person and is not competent to raise a demand on behalf of employees.

Development of trade union in India

The history of trade unionism in India can be studied by dividing it into three parts:
  1. Period prior to the first world war (1875-1918)
    The early Indian trade unionists were purely nationalists, socialists and humanist. They were distressed with miserable condition of workers. They were trying to bring to their miseries by way of publishing bulletins and sending letters, petitions to the crown and to the other trade union leaders of the world.

    Shree NM Lokhande was one of them. He published "deen Bandhu" a worker news magazine, writing about the article about the most miserable situations of the workers. Lokhande established the "Bombay Mill hands Association" which was the first trade union was not succeed during the period. There are several reasons for the failure of the movement:
    1. Industries were fully in the hands of British.
    2. British government did not encourage the development of trade unionism.
    3. Illiteracy, poverty and fear of workers were also the main reasons.
    4. Trade unionism was started by the social workers and nationalists. They gave preference to swadeshi.
  2. Period prior to the world war second (1918-1947)
    In the year 1919 -1947 several trade unions were formed in Bombay, Madras, Punjab, Bengal and Calcutta etc. the industries were growing throughout the country. In the first period there was only social factor mixing with swadeshi. But in the second nationalists also felt that it was necessary to take the cooperation from the workers to fight with britishers. The First World War also created some awareness among the workers, communities, trade union and nationalists.

    Gandhji also took initiate for the welfare of the workers. He also took important role in resolving the conflict among the workers.

    Buckingham Case 1920
    In this case, Buckingham and carnetic mills were own by the Englishmen. His factories situated in Madras in other sites. The management of these factories treats the Indian workers very badly and also used to beat them. Shri B.P. Wadia and other trade union leader resisted Englishman's atrocities towards the labour as a result management dismissed 50 workers including those union leaders. The worker started strike the management sued those union leaders claiming damage for the period of non-working. They also sued the trade union leaders for criminal conspiracy.

    The Madras high court admitted the contention of the company and gave decision in favour of company.

    It consequences:
    1. The judgment created sensation and jolt. In India and rest of the world. The Indian legislature assembly adopted a resolution in 1921 as a result the Indian trade union act 1926 was enacted for the protection of interest of workers.
    2. Nationalists encouraged the trade union with an aspiration that workers would help them in getting independent.
    3. The workers and trade union become very aware about their right.
    4. The first trade union federation All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC) was formed.
    5. Some other important acts has been enacted�
      • The workmen's compensation act 1923
      • The payment of wages act 1936
      • The employment of children act 1938
  3. Pos- independent period
    After the independence the trade unionist took vital changes till May 1947. There was only one trade union federation- AITUC. After the independence several other trade unions came into the existence. Collaboration between the political parties and trade union is seen after independence.
    Other trade unions are:
    • Hindu Mazdoor Sabha
    • United Trade Union Congress
    • Indian Federation for Trade Union
    Some acts have been enacted:
    • Employees State Insurance Act 1948
    • The Minimum Wage Act 1948
    • The Factories Act 1948
    • The Payment of Bonus Act 1965
    • The Maternity Benefit Act 1961
    • The Payment of Gratuity Act 1972

Role and Need of the trade union

The following are the role and need of the trade union:
  1. For better working condition
    The major objective is to ensure the safety of the worker while working. Every worker must be provided with the basic facilities like � drinking water, minimum working hours, paid holidays, social security, safety equipment, lights, and other facilities.
  2. For the better wage and salaries
    Wages and salaries are the most important subject of the trade union. In the organized industry, the wages and salaries are determined through processes such as collective bargaining, wage boards, and conciliation.
  3. Personal policies
    Any public policy of the employer with respect to promotion, demotion, transfer, and training may be challenged by the trade union if arbitrary.
  4. Discipline
    Trade union also protects the worker from arbitrary disciplinary actions taken by the management against the worker. No worker should be victimized by the management in the form of arbitrary transfer or suspension.
  5. Welfare
    Main object of the trade union is to work for the welfare of the worker. This includes the welfare of the family members or children of the workers.
  6. For Better employee and employer relation
    For individual peace, there must be harmony between employer and employees. But due to the superior power of the management, sometimes conflict arises in this situation. Trade union represents the whole group of workers and continues negotiation with the workers.
  7. Safeguarding organization and health of industry
    Trade union also helps in achieving employee's satisfaction. They also help in better individual relations by creating procedures to resolve individual disputes.

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