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Registration of Trade Unions under Industrial Relations Code 2020

Since labour keeps the nation moving forward on its development route, it acts as the spinal cord of the nation. Since labour is listed as a concurrent list item in our constitution, laws governing labour may be passed by both the national government and state legislatures. India made an effort in 2019 to combine 44 separate central labour laws into 4 comprehensive labour codes:

Industrial Relations Code, 2020 Code on Wages, 2019 Code on Occupational Safety, Health, and Working Conditions, 2020 Code on Social Security, 2020

The Standing Committee on Labour was tasked with reviewing bills pertaining to the remaining three categories, while Parliament passed the 2019 Code on Wages. On all three Bills, the Standing Committee has turned in its report. Therefore, on September 19, 2020, fresh bills have been placed in their stead. Subsequently, on September 22, 2020, the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha passed the bill, and on September 28, 2020, the President signed it.

What Is A Trade Union

The Industrial Relations Code, 2020 is one of the four codes; it covers regulations concerning trade unions, employment conditions in industrial establishments or undertakings, and the examination and resolution of labour disputes.
  • In order to protect workers against unfair terminations, downsizing, and layoffs that violate the text of the law, the Industrial Dispute Act of 1947 was created. By restricting the potential for unlawful strikes and lockouts and punishing unfair labour practises, it also aimed to promote positive labour relations.
  • The primary objective of a trade union is the workmen and employer, workmen and workmen and employers and employers. Secondary, imposing limitation on operation of any trade or business it also includes federation of 2 or more trade union.
  • "Trade union" defined in IR code 2020 in section 2 (z)(zl) "Trade Union" means any combination, whether temporary or permanent, formed primarily for the purpose of regulating the relations between workers and employers or between workers and workers, or between employers and employers, or for imposing restrictive conditions on the conduct of any trade or business, and includes any federation of two or more Trade Unions.
  1. any agreement between partners as to their own business; or
  2. any agreement between an employer and those employed by him as to such employment; or
  3. any agreement in consideration of the sale of the goodwill of a business or of instruction in any profession, trade or handicraft;

Why It Is Necessary To Register A Tarde Union

  • The interconnection between the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947, and the Trade Unions Act, 1926, is of paramount significance, wherein the former explicitly defines a trade union as an entity duly registered under the latter.
  • Consequently, any amalgamation or association of workers that remains unregistered pursuant to the Trade Unions Act does not attain the status of a legally recognized trade union as envisaged by the Industrial Disputes Act.
  • This non-registration entails legal consequences, resulting in the curtailment of specific entitlements exclusively reserved for registered trade unions under the aegis of the Industrial Disputes Act.
  • In the Indian context, the prevailing practice among workers involves the formation of associations or unions without adherence to the registration requisites delineated in the Trade Unions Act. Despite the absence of formal registration, these unions actively engage in negotiations with employers, brokering deals related to bonuses and other employment terms.
  • While an unregistered trade union may superficially emulate the functions of its registered counterpart as demarcated in the Trade Unions Act, it grapples with inherent limitations under the purview of the Industrial Disputes Act.
  • Notably, such a union is precluded from initiating a petition for an industrial dispute, acting as a representative for an employee, or participating in any adjudicatory proceedings governed by the Industrial Disputes Act. Furthermore, its efficacy in advocating for its members during contract negotiations with an employer is dubious, and any such attempts may lack enforceability.
  • The Industrial Disputes (Central) Rules, 1957, exacerbate this dichotomy by conferring specific rights exclusively upon registered trade unions.

A registered trade union enjoys the prerogative to designate "protected workmen" to an employer, compelling the latter to uphold the terms of employment for these protected workers during the pendency of an ongoing industrial dispute. Conversely, an unregistered trade union is bereft of this prerogative, rendering any such designation devoid of legal significance. Consequently, workers designated as "protected workmen" by an unregistered trade union find themselves excluded from the protective ambit delineated in Section 33 of the Industrial Disputes Act.

Additionally, Section 36 of the Industrial Disputes Act extends the right to representation by an executive or office holder of a registered trade union exclusively to workers embroiled in a dispute who belong to such a union. This statutory privilege remains elusive for those affiliated with unregistered trade unions, reinforcing the legal distinctions that demarcate these two categories.

In summation, the failure to adhere to the registration mandates enshrined in the Trade Unions Act not only denies unions formal recognition but also precludes them from enjoying the statutory rights and protections meticulously delineated by the Industrial Disputes Act. This underscores the cardinal importance of meticulous compliance with legal formalities for trade unions aspiring to navigate the comprehensive legal framework governing industrial relations in India.

Registration Of Trade Union

The Trade Union Act, 2020, outlines in chapters 3 section 5 to 10 the procedural requirements for trade union registration. Within the legal framework, persons who are members of a properly registered trade union are entitled to certain statutory benefits, such as protection, immunity, and exemption from certain legal responsibilities. These rights cover both civil and criminal liability, thereby enhancing the legal status and benefits of members of registered trade unions.

Transformation of Disputes and Collective Representation: The conversion of personal conflicts into workplace disagreements is a crucial feature of trade union dynamics. This transformation takes place when a trade union or group of workers represents a single conflict, independent of the union's registered status. This legal change emphasises the strength of collective representation and strengthens the idea that the industrial legal framework's acknowledgment of conflicts requires a single, cohesive voice.

Prohibition on Trade Union Registration for Civil Servants: There is a notable legal prohibition under the Trade Union Act on the registration of unions serving civil officials. This clear ban highlights the unique rights and responsibilities accorded to members of trade unions that are registered. Given the special nature of their job relationship and inherent conflicts of interest, civil servants are not covered by trade union registration.

Examples of Case Law:
In the case of Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board vs. A Rajappa & Ors. (AIR 1978 SC 548), the Supreme Court ruled that if an organization operates through cooperation between employers and employees, with the aim of producing, supplying, or both, goods or services, it qualifies as an 'industry.'

Procedure Of Registration

CHAPTER 3 of the industrial relation, 2020 deals with the provision of the registration unions.
  1. SECTION -5 Registrar of Trade Unions.
    Registrar's Appointment Procedure: Section 5 of the Act elucidates the procedural intricacies governing the appointment of the trade union registrar.
    • Governmental Authorization: The previously mentioned clause grants the relevant government the prerogative to designate additional and deputy registrars for every state.
    • Selection Criteria: The government reserves the right to choose extra and deputy registrars, especially in cases where the trade union registrar faces difficulties carrying out the assigned responsibilities.
    • Delegated Functionality: When the registrar encounters obstacles, the additional and deputy registrars who have been duly nominated are authorized to perform certain responsibilities and powers that are assigned to the registrar.
    • Geographical Constraints: The execution of these designated powers and functions by additional and deputy registrars is circumscribed by a predefined local limit, specifically outlined for this purpose.
  2. SECTION-6 Criteria for registration:
    • Initiation of Registration Process: A Trade Union can be registered with an application submitted by seven or more of its members. This application requires compliance with the Trade Unions Act and subscription to the union's rules.
    • Amendments Introduced in 2001: Two provisos were incorporated in this clause after the 2001 amendment.
      • The first proviso stipulates that either a minimum of 100 members or 10% of the union's members, whichever is less, must be employed.
      • The second proviso addresses situations where having 10% of employees is numerically less than seven. In such cases, all seven applying members must be employed in the relevant industrial establishment.
    • Ensuring Representation: The second proviso prevents a scenario where, due to a numeric disparity, meeting the 10% employment condition might not include all seven members in establishments with a limited workforce. For instance, if an establishment has only 30 employees, having three employed members in the trade union won't fulfill the condition.
    • Section 6(2) Safeguards: Section 6(2) clarifies that an application for Trade Union registration does not become invalid if, after the application but before registration, some applicants (up to half of the total applicants) cease to be members or disassociate from the application in writing. This provision ensures flexibility in cases of changing union membership dynamics during the registration process.
  3. SECTION 7 Provisions to be contained in constitution or rules of Trade Union
    • Executive committee must be established in accordance with the Act's provisions in order for a trade union to be registered. A union's name, specific founding goals, and the proper distribution of finances within the bounds of the law must all be included in its bylaws.
    • A member list that is available for examination by both office-bearers and members should also be required under the rules. Eligibility requirements for honorary/temporary members needed for the executive formation as well as regular members working in the relevant industry should be made explicit.
    • The regulations must specify the annual subscription rates, which should be one rupee for workers in rural areas, three rupees for those employed in unorganised industries, and twelve rupees for all other workers. It is necessary to provide clear guidelines for penalties and forfeitures as well as requirements for members to be eligible for benefits.
    • Establishing procedures for rule modification, revocation, or revision will give the appointment and removal of office bearers and executives a defined structure. The term of office for executive members and office-bearers ought to be clearly defined, with a maximum of three years.
    • Important financial safeguards include clauses requiring a yearly audit, procedures for the safekeeping of union funds, and easily accessible account book inspection by office bearers and members. It is required that the yearly audit of the union's accounts follow the guidelines.
    • The executive membership term is limited to three years, guaranteeing elected members and office-bearers a transparent and controllable term.
  4. SECTION 8 Application for registration, alteration of name and procedure thereof.
    According to Section 8 of the Act, any application seeking the registration of a Trade Union is required to be submitted to the Registrar. This application should be accompanied by essential documents, including a copy of the Trade Union's rules and a statement detailing specific particulars:
    • Details of Applicants-The application must furnish the names, occupations, and addresses of the members initiating the registration process.
    • Trade Union Information-Essential information about the Trade Union itself needs to be included, such as its name and the location of its head office.
    • Office-Bearers Details- The application must provide detailed information about the office-bearers of the Trade Union, including their titles, names, ages, addresses, and occupations.
    According to the provision, the Registrar the power to ask for further information in order to verify that any application complies with section 85's requirements or that the Trade Union is qualified for section 6 registration.

    The Trade Union's registration may be withheld by the Registrar in the event that insufficient information is submitted.

    The Registrar has the authority to request a change to the Trade Union's name as stated in the application if the proposed name is the same as one that is already registered or is so similar to it that it could cause confusion among members or the public. Until such a change is carried out, registration will be refused. This step is put in place to protect against potential confusion among the public and members of either trade union, as well as to avoid any misleading similarities between the names of various trade unions. 
  5. SECTION 9 Registration of Trade Union and cancellation thereof.
    • Registering Procedure: Section 9(1) mandates that the Registrar register a Trade Union upon being satisfied that the Trade Union has complied with all registration requirements outlined in Chapter III. This entails entering the pertinent information into a register that is kept up to date according to the guidelines.
    • Issuance of Certificate- Then, in accordance with Section 9(2), the Trade Union receives a certificate following the Registrar's registration order. This certificate, which is supplied in the required format, is proof certain that the Trade Union has officially registered under the Industrial Relations Code.
    • Record Maintenance- Additionally, as stated in Section 9(3), the Registrar enters the Trade Union's name and other details in a register kept for this purpose, following the format specified, if a certificate of registration has been issued.
    • Transitional Provision- A transitional framework for trade unions that were previously registered under the Trade Unions Act of 1926 is established in Section 9(4). According to the Industrial Relations Code, these unions are presumed to be registered. They must, however, submit a declaration to the Registrar attesting to their compliance with the executive constitution and regulations of the new Code.
    • Certificate Withdrawal or Cancellation- The conditions under which the Registrar may withdraw or cancel the certificate of registration are outlined in Section 9(5). This covers circumstances in which a trade union requests to withdraw, as well as code violations.
    • Notice Obligation: Interestingly, Section 9(5)(iii) of the provision includes a notification requirement. Unless the Trade Union initiates the action, the Registrar must give the Trade Union at least sixty days' notice outlining the reasons for any planned certificate cancellation before moving forward.
    • Record of Reasons and Tribunal Cancellation: Furthermore, if a Tribunal gives an order for the revocation of a certificate, the Registrar may do so, according to Section 9(6). As it happens
  6. SECTION 10 Appeal against non-registration or cancellation of registration.
    • Right to appeal: According to Section 10(1), anyone who is unhappy with the Registrar's decision to deny registration or to invalidate a certificate of registration under Section 9 may file an appeal with the Tribunal.
    • Tribunal's Discretion for Delay: In order to ensure timely submission, appellants must follow the deadlines provided in the regulations when submitting an appeal.
    • Right to Appeal: Individuals dissatisfied with the Registrar's refusal to grant registration or the cancellation of a certificate of registration under Section 9 have the right to appeal to the Tribunal, as outlined in Section 10(1).
    • Prescribed Appeal Period: Appellants must adhere to the timeframe specified in the regulations when filing an appeal, ensuring timely submission.
    • Tribunal's Discretion for Delay: In cases of delayed appeals, the Tribunal has the discretion to consider them beyond the prescribed period. This may occur if the appellant demonstrates sufficient reasons or unavoidable circumstances causing the delay, according to Section 10(1)'s proviso.
    • Appeal Proceedings: Should an appeal be filed after the deadline, the Tribunal may decide to review it later. The caveat of Section 10(1) states that this may happen if the appellant can show that there were adequate justifications or unavoidable circumstances that led to the delay.
    • In order to handle appeal procedures, the Tribunal gives all parties involved a chance to voice their concerns. The Tribunal then has two options: it either rejects the appeal or gives the Registrar instructions. In accordance with Section 10(2), this order may entail registering the Trade Union, granting a certificate of registration, or reversing the certificate's revocation.
    • Transmission of the Tribunal's Decision: As required by Section 10(2), the Tribunal ensures that the decision is properly implemented by sending a copy of the ruling to the Registrar.
    • If the Registrar is satisfied that a Trade Union doesn't meet the minimum required number of workers, leading to the possibility of registration cancellation.
The Trade Union Act, 2020, registration process is essential for granting associated members legal status, protections, and immunities. The legal system acknowledges the power of registered trade unions to protect workers' rights and interests by converting personal conflicts into industrial disputes.

A balance between collective representation and particular employment situations is ensured by the legal framework governing trade union dynamics, which is further highlighted by the ban on civil officials registering trade unions.

Critical Analysis:
  • Absence of Transparent Timelines: There is uncertainty and cause for concern regarding the efficiency and openness of the registration process when there is no set period of time for the registrar to make decisions regarding applications. For timely and equitable decision-making to be ensured, a well-defined timeline is necessary.
  • Arbitrary Employee Requirement: Since it ignores differences in workforce sizes throughout industries, the requirement requiring 10% or a minimum of 100 employees for registration may be viewed as arbitrary. International standards, like the US's three-person requirement, emphasise the necessity for a more accommodating and sector-specific strategy.
  • Contradiction with UDHR: It is possible to argue that the requirements of the Trade Unions Act and the IRC run counter to the ideas contained in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The UDHR highlights people's freedom to organise and join trade unions without unjustified limitations, pointing to the need for a more rights-based and inclusive strategy.
  • Interference with Freedom of Association: It may be argued that the government's determination of trade union subscription amounts constitutes an infringement on the right to freedom of association. The ILO convention emphasises the right of workers' organisations to manage their internal affairs independently, hence it is imperative that certain portions be re-examined in order to conform to international standards.
  • Committee's Request for revisions: The Committee has acknowledged the necessity to bring the legislation into compliance with international norms and has made a request for revisions to the provisions pertaining to trade union subscription and interference with internal administration. To maintain conformity and credibility in the international arena, the government is strongly advised to take these suggestions into account.
  • Neglecting to Re-register Provisions: The dynamic character of labour unions is overlooked by the lack of re-registration provisions. In order to make sure that the regulatory system is current and responsive to shifting industrial relations dynamics, a more flexible legal framework should take into consideration situations that can call for re-registration.
  • Worldwide Conformance and Image: Upholding international norms benefits both India's international standing and the advancement of labour and human rights. Respecting accepted norms helps build goodwill and can be beneficial for cross-border labour and trade agreements.
  • Requirement for Consultation Process: In order to fully address these challenges, it could be helpful to conduct a consultation process with international organisations, legal experts, and stakeholders. This strategy guarantees a comprehensive and inclusive viewpoint, promoting a legal structure that satisfies domestic requirements while withstanding scrutiny from around the globe.
  • Flexibility is important because it allows the legal framework to adapt to changing circumstances and fosters a responsive and healthy workplace environment. This is because it recognises the diverse nature of industries and the dynamically changing labour market.
  • Ensuring Compliance with ILO Principles: It is imperative that domestic laws conform to ILO principles as a member of the ILO. The request for revisions demonstrates that India must adhere to international labour standards and reaffirms its commitment to protecting workers' rights and ethical labour practices.


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