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  • Writer's pictureBrain Booster Articles


Author: Rupali Baghel, IV year of B.Com.LL.B. (Hons) from Jagran Lakecity University, School of Law, Bhopal (M.P)


A trade union is nothing but a well-organized group of working-class employees for protecting, sustaining, and enhancing the group members’ interests and benefits based on the unity of strength. Its main objective is to protect & protest its members from exploitation, enhance and advance the interests and benefits them. The trade union is an important social institution and performs significant social and economic and political functions. It achieved recognition from employers, the state and society after many bloody battles. It has constructed a body of rights for the working class using different methods of action such as direct action, political and legal methods. They are the most proper organizations for balancing and improving the relations between the employer and the employees. More broadly trade union is an organization of workers who have come together to achieve common goals such as protecting the integrity of their trade, achieving higher pay, increasing the number of employees an employer hires and healthier working environments. The most common purpose of these associations or unions is maintaining or improving the conditions of their employment.

Generally, union statement and shared negotiating have been the solutions to the progress of a stable working populace in advanced countries, it is probably intended for workers to increase a fairer share of the prosperity that they generate. They are additionally ready to enhance working conditions and help specialists pick up employer stability. Changes in the political, social and educational concerning the consciousness of rights. For example, the right to organize, the right to bargain, and the right to clear terms and conditions of employment. Accordingly, with the setting up of minimum wages norms for compulsory work hours, arrangements for well-being and security, and general upgrades in working conditions, unionization has turned out to be instrumental in enhancing the personal satisfaction of labourers. Each trade unions have their specific philosophies, ethics, principles, aims & concepts and objectives to achieve (with the support and active backing of their members), which are included in their constitution, and each has its philosophy, tactic, plan & policies, strategy & tactic to reach and achieve the above-cited objectives and goals. Trade unions are as long as a bridge for both employers and employees, because an individual employee cannot bargain with management for wages, terms & conditions of employment, and cannot look after his interests in a positive, active, and well-organized manner. On other hand, employers also found it suitable, helpful, and useful to deal with a group of spokespersons or delegates and settled all issues relates to employees excellently, with a minor time interval. Hence, as an entire trade union is an efficient instrument of defence compared to misuse and runs a forum for collecting the forces of the working class. They are designed to eliminate the exploitation of the working class through WPM (Workers Participation in Management).

Trade unions have gained recognition as legitimate social and political organizations all over the world. They have become an integral part of contemporary business and industry. However, the beginning was not rosy when both employers and the government viewed any combination of labourers with scorn. The desire for self-expression is an elementary human being initiative for most people. Hence workers need to share their emotions, thoughts and sentiments with the administration. An exchange union gives such a gathering where the sentiments, thoughts, and conclusions of the labourers could be talked about. It can likewise transmit the sentiments, thoughts, suppositions and protests of the labourers to the management. The aggregate voice of the workers is heard by the management and given due thought while taking approach choices by the management.


i. Wages and salaries-Wages and salaries and the most important subjects of Trade Unions. In the organized industry, wages and benefits are determined through processes such as collective bargaining, wage boards, conciliation, and adjudication. Working on all these processes deserves systematic inquiry. Union power and objective facts hopefully influence the wage scene through these forums.

ii. Working conditions-Another major objective of the Trade Unions is to ensure the safety of workers. While working every worker must be provided with basic facilities like. Drinking water, minimum working hours, paid holidays, social security, safety pieces of equipment, lights and others.

iii. Personnel policies-Any personal policy of the employer concerning promotion, transfer and training may be challenged by Trade Unions if arbitrary.

iv. Discipline-Trade Unions also protect the workers from arbitrary discipline action taken by management against any worker. No worker should be victimized by management in the form of arbitrary transfer or suspension.

v. Welfare-The main objective of the Trade Union is to work for the welfare of the workers. This includes the welfare of the family members or children of the worker.

vi. Employee and Employer Relations-For an industrial peace there must be harmony between employer and employee. But due to the superior power of the management sometimes conflict arises in this situation. The Trade Union represents the whole group of workers and continues negotiations with management.

vii. Negotiating Machinery-Trade Unions may also put proposals before management, as this policy is based on the principle of “Give and Take” Trade Unions protect the interest of workers through collective bargaining.

viii. Safeguarding Organisational Health and the Interest of the Industry-Trade Unions also help in achieving employee satisfaction. Trade unions also help in better industrial relations by creating a procedure to resolve the industrial dispute.

ix. Alone workers feel weak- The Trade Union provides them with a platform to join others to achieve social objectives.


The main functions of Trade Unions are as follows:-

i. Collective Bargaining- Hon'ble Supreme Court of India has defined Collective bargaining as “the technique by which dispute as to conditions of employment is resolved amicably by agreement rather than coercion”[1] in this process negotiations and discussions take place between employer and employee in respect to working conditions. Refusing to bargain collectively is an illegal trade practice. Collective bargaining helps to resolve the issues of workers. Collective Bargaining is the foundation of the movement and it is in the interest of labour that statutory recognition has been accorded to Trade Union and their capacity to represent workmen.[2]

ii. Trade Unions protect the worker from wage hike, provides job security through peaceful measures.

iii. Trade Unions also help in providing financial and non-financial aid to the workers during the lockout or strike or in medical need.

iv. It has also to be borne in mind while making an agreement that the interest of the workers who are not the members of the Trade Union is also protected and the workers who are not members of the Trade Union are also protected and the workers are not discriminated.[3]


Trade unions fill the void which was obstructing the attainment of industrial peace and social justice any decision arrived under deliberation with the employer through trade union should be followed strictly by the labours who form the part of that trade union as it improves the working condition, wages they get and other matters related to employment as the trade unions help the labours in their bad days like the personal accidents or at the time of retrenchment or lockouts. Many welfare measures are taken for supporting the workmen example of which is legal assistance, housing schemes and education to children of workers so these functions of trade union make its existence significant for social justice.

Trade unions perform substantial roles in increasing the wages of the workers. This role may not be observed by direct method but indirectly wages can be increased by the actions of Trade unions like assurance can be there from the trade union regarding the payment of marginal productivity level which can be done by increasing bargaining capacity and power. A trade union can stop the supply of labours in the specific trade which may have the consequence of increased wage.


The first factories Act was passed in the year 1881 under the recommendation of Bombay factory recommendation in the year 1985. The workers of the Bombay textile industry demanded that the working hours should be reduced, weekly holidays and compensation in case of injuries suffered by the workmen. Bombay mills hand association is the first union established for workers by N. Lokhande in the year 1890.

Several Labour movements started after the outbreak of world war I. The miserable social and economic condition of the people at that time triggered the labour movement. The formation of ILO (international labour organization) leads to the formation of trade unions. Ahmedabad labour textile association was formed under the guidance of Mahatma Gandhi principle of non-violence.


All India trade union congress is formed in the year 1920 to select the delegates for ILO, first meeting of AITUC was held in Bombay under the presidentship of Lala Lajpat Rai in the year 1920 AIRF (All India Railways man Federation) was formed in 1922, all the union consisting and compromising of railway workmen were made part of it and affiliated to it. AITUC witnessed the split because some members were in support of the war and others were not supporting war, later the group was separated as an organization under the leadership of congress leaders resulted in the formation of the Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC). Socialists also got themselves separated from the AITUC which resulted in the formation of Hind Mazdoor Sabha in 1948. Therefore the splits and detachment can be observed resulting in the creation of separate trade unions.


The condition of trade unions in India is not very sound and this is mainly because trade unions suffer from many problems. A brief account of them is given below:

a. Uneven Growth: Trade union activities are concentrated in large scale industries and that too in regard of manual labour only and mainly in a bigger industrial centre, there are hardly any trade union activities in small scale enterprises, domestic and agricultural labour. The degree of unionism varies a lot from industry to industry, thus touching only a portion of the working class in India.

b. Low Membership: Even though the number of trade unions has increased considerably in India this has been followed by the declining membership per union. The average number of members per union was about 3,500 in 1927-28. It reduced to about 1,400 in 1946-47 and again to as low as a figure of 675 in 1985-86 and 659 in 2000-01. This indicates the emergence of small scale trade unions.

c. Multiplicity of Unions: Another problem faced by the growth of trade unions is that of the multiplicity of unions. There may exist many trade unions in the same establishment. The existence of a large number of trade unions can be attributed to the fact that The Trade Unions Act, 1926 permits any association of seven workers to be registered as a union and confers upon it certain rights. Many a time, it is contended that the multiplicity of unions is because of outside leaders, but a more pertinent point is that they can work because the law permits and gives sanctity to the small unions.

d. Inter-Union Rivalry: Unions try to play down each other in a bid to gain greater influence among workers. In the process, they do more harm than good to the cause of unionism as a whole. Employers are allowed to play unions against each other. They can refuse to bargain on the contention that there is not a true representative union. Besides this, the workers' solidarity is lost. Employers can take advantage of fighting between workers groups.

e. Weak Financial Position: The financial position is very low as their average yearly income is very low and inadequate. The subscription rates are very low due to the multiplicity of unions, unions interested in increasing their membership keep the subscription rates very low resulting in the inadequacy of funds with the unions. Another important reason for the weak financial position of unions is that large amounts of subscription dues remain unpaid by the workers. The name of constant defaulters continuously appears on the registers on most of the unions. They are neither expelled nor cease to be members ipso facto according to the union rules.

f. Lack of Public Support: The trade unions frequently resort to strike and protest to make their demands met. As a result, inconvenience is caused to the public. This is the public support or sympathy is almost negligible.


Unfair labour practice and practice of not involving employees in any kind of decision making resulted in the formation of trade union in India and its recognition by the court of law, The notion of social justice and industrial peace can only be achieved by the cooperation of employers and employee and that is why trade unions play their major roles in achieving the industrial peace and serving overall justice to the employee. There are various contexts in which employee should be exempted from the arbitrary decisions of employers like wages, bonus, working hour, holidays, this exemption can only be achieved by virtue of negotiation named as collective bargaining where interest of both parties are given priorities in any kind of dispute, origin of trade union clarifies the struggle behind the formation of trade unions in India, further the continuous division in the trade union at national level led to the less implementation of objective they frame before formation, one of the cause can also be traced in the form of legislation in this regard , now a days there are only two essentials which have be satisfied in order to establish a trade union that is substantial number of workers and matter of dispute have substantial nexus with workers but the representation is not the only task which is to be done , for the purpose of negotiation and complete management the skill of bargaining is required which commonly lacks in the common workers of the industry as they lacks in education and awareness.

There are other sufferings which prevail with the working of trade union like lack of financial resources and leadership which prohibits the proper allocation of resources and involvement in policy making despite such limitations the need of more efficient labour union is required to protect the interest of sweat labours, In case of any arbitrary action from the employers which hires them.


  1. Dr. S.N. Mishra, (2014) Labour and Industrial Laws, 27th Edition, Central Law Publications, Allahabad.

  2. Vipin Sharma, (2014), Role of Trade Unions in India, viewed 22nd Nov. 2020,

  3. Dr. Md. MoazzamSulaiman, (2017), Trade Union, viewed 22nd Nov. 2020,

[1] Karol Leather Karamchari Sangathan V. Liberty Footwear Company (1989) 4 SSC 448.

[2] Poona Mazdoor Sabha V. G.K. Dhutiya AIR 1956 Bom. 70

[3] Mst. Deoli Bakaram V. The State Industrial Court, Nagpur, AIR 1959 Bom. 70


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