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The Role of Trade Union in India

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  • Last Updated : 13 Oct, 2022
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Here we are going to discuss an important topic “Trade union of India”. It is a part of a general awareness section of many competitive exams such as SSC, Banking, Railways, etc. Kindly bookmark this article for your future references.

History of Trade Union in India :

The first organized trade union in India was formed in the year 1918 and named as the “Madras Labour Union”. Trade unions were mainly formed to maintain peace in the workplace and to support labourers socially and economically. Many trade unions were formed after the Trade Union Act of 1926 was passed in India. Researchers say trade unions got stronger after the trade union movement, which is over 50 years old. The First World War was the main reason for the trade union movement in India. This mainly focuses on job security, good working conditions, regular wages, and many other benefits.

Trade unions show the unionism between labourers in an organization. You can form a trade union under Article 19 (1) (c) of the Constitution of India. The Ministry of Labour, Government of India Labour Bureau collects data of trade unions every year. International labour organizations (ILO) became responsible for the formation of trade unions after 1919. ILO was formed in 1919 and India is a founding member of ILO. Presently, ILO has 187 members. This article delves into the types of Trade Unions in India, Major Trade Unions in India, and the Roles of Trade Unions. 

Types of Trade Unions in India :

Trade Unions in India are structured in three categories which are Craft Union, Industrial Unions, and General Unions.

Craft-based union: This is basically formed to safeguard the interest of labourers, especially daily wage workers. They form a union to demand for regular wages, interest in wages, profit, hike in wages, etc. This union gives bargaining power to workers and the power of unionism. It is a weak union being not very effective at all times but one can form it to fulfill their interests.

Industrial union: It is formed by workers who are semi-skilled, highly skilled, and manual labourers in a single Industry. This means it includes workers from every level which is plant level, industry level, and regional level. This union provides aid for adapting innovative technology, better-negotiating salaries, better rules and regulations, etc.

General union: These unions are formed by other unions such as craft unions and industrial unions. If there is any sort of discontentment with any policies of the government, the general union has more power to advocate and negotiate for the problems. Its aim is to demand good working conditions, timely wages, and interest in wages, and sometimes calls a nationwide strike if there is any injustice.

Major Trade Unions in India :

1. AITUC (All India Trade Union Congress): AITUC, the oldest trade union federation of India was established on 31 October 1920. The main idea of AITUC was to choose the members or delegates of ILO. The first President of AITUC was Lala Lajpat Rai associated with The Communist Party of India.

One of the founding members of the World Federation of Trade Unions is AITUC. During the First World War two sects of people existed, one supporting the war and the other being against the war. This led to the split of AITUC and a new organization was formed by the name of INTUC.

2. INTUC (Indian National Trade Union Congress): INTUC was formed on 3 May 1947. INTUC is the largest trade union in India. In 2013, it had 33.95 million members in the organization. The first president of INTUC was Dr. Suresh Chandra Banerjee. The main purpose of INTUC was to form a society where individuals can grow and fulfill their economic as well as social needs without any hindrance.

3. HMS (Hind Mazdoor Sabha): There were people who neither supported  AITUC nor INTUC. They didn’t want to be a part of both organizations. They formed another organization which was named as HMS(Hind Mazdoor Sabha). It was started in the year 1951 in Calcutta. The main aim of this organization was the socialist principle.

4. UTUC (United Trade Union Congress): It was formed on 1 May 1949 in Calcutta. K. T. Shah was the founding president of UTUC. In 2002, the total number of members was 383,946. It is considered as a Central trade union organization in India. It was organized for different left-wing factions as it is an independent trade union organization in India.

Role of Trade Unions in India :

  1. Trade unions ensure that the environment is harmonious. Workers aren’t getting any kind of problems related to hygiene, drinking water, healthcare facilities, safety, electricity, etc. 
  2. Trade unions protect the rights of workers so that no worker is a victim of tyrannical behaviour by the management like random transfer or suspension of workers.
  3. Collective bargaining, adjudication and wage boards, and conciliation are some determinants to decide the salaries and wages of workers in the organization. These are followed in a systematic way so that no chaos arises in the organization.
  4. If any industrial dispute occurs in the organization, the trade union takes responsibility to solve it. It always protects the interest of both workers as well as employers. Trade union negotiates with organization to resolve the conflicts between worker and employer and bring peace to the organization.
  5. Trade union looks up to the welfare of workers, especially women and children. If someone is arbitrarily suspended or transferred, the trade union speaks up for them and fights for them.
  6. There are times when workers feel alone, so the labour is given a chance to go to a platform where he/she can attain their social goals.
  7. Collective bargaining means resolving the clashes between employees and employers by managing negotiations between them. It is an agreement between workers and employers when something goes wrong between them. If the agreement is breached, it will be considered an illegal trade practice.
  8. They provide medical help to the workmen and secure their job or protect the hike in wages non-violently.
  9. There are many unorganized sectors in rural areas which are not effectively run by authorities. To reform them into organized ones, trade unions do a lot to let people work on their capabilities and come above the poverty line. They also plan programs for their betterment.
  10. Trade unions believe in a balanced growth approach. In which peoples’ welfare is also considered other than the organisation’s profit. This social responsibility also comes under trade unions.

Education has been a problem ever since the labour movement started. They are not literate which creates problems for them. Trade unions try to enroll them in several programs and schemes to enhance their skills and knowledge.

  1. During a lockout or strike or in medical need, Trade unions also help in providing financial and non-financial aid to workers.
  2. Trade unions play an imperative role in increasing the wages of workers. Bargaining, Utilization of Power, and Stopping the supply of labour are some of the methods used by Trade unions in increasing the wages of the workers.
  3. Trade unions provide job security to workers through peaceful measures. They also protect workers from hikes in wages.


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