Lesson: 42Title: Let us unionise! : Trade UnionsTopics to be covered:• Introduction• Definitions• Features• Objectives• Functions• Employers’ point of view: Criticism of trade unions• Motivation to join unions• Structure• Problems and weaknesses• Suggestions for healthy growth of unionism• Article: “Indian Trade Unions: Today and Beyond” By: Ernesto NoronhaHello Students!Today we will be discussing Trade unions and their role. We will also be discussing theproblems and weaknesses and of course, how to overcome those weaknesses.Let us begin discussing the nature and functions of trade unions.What is your idea of a Union?We have discussed this term before, in the introductory lessons of Industrial Relations!It is indeed the collection of workers that is formed for demanding its rights and overallwelfare.We will be discussing the definition. Let us begin by discussing the nature of Tradeunions.Nature and functions of Trade UnionsTrade union movement is an offshoot of industrialisation. The growth of modernindustrial organisations involving use of modern technology and employment of workershas been followed by growth of trade unions throughout the world.The workers feel threatened and I am sure you will agree that whenever there is somefear or threat, one comes closer. That applies to the Unions as well. The workers have thefear of being obsolete because of the increased use of technology. They form themselvesinto groups and feel that they can then not only overcome that fear but also fight betterfor their welfare.
This phenomenon has not only been observed in advanced countries of the world, butalso in the developing economies like India.The emergence of trade unionism is spontaneous and inherent in the growth ofcapitalism. The origin of trade unionism lies in the industrial revolution, which disruptedthe older way of life and created a new society forged by the shop, the factory, the mineand the industry. Please note that wherever a union exists, top management cannot take unilateraldecisions. Management has to consult the union representatives while taking variousdecisions affecting labour such as wages, lay-off, transfer, discharge, etc. A trade unionputs restriction on the discretion of employers for taking decisions involving welfare ofemployees. In certain organisations, unions have become so strong that they affect everyaspect of management.Now let us discuss the definition.Definition of Trade UnionSection 2(h) of the Trade Unions Act, 1926 has defined a trade union as “Any combination, whether temporary or permanent, formed primarily for the purposeof regulating the relations between workmen and employers, or between workmen andworkmen, or between employers and employers, or for imposing restrictive conditions onthe conduct of any trade or business, and includes any federation of two or more tradeunions.” This definition is very exhaustive as it includes associations of both the workers andemployers and the federations of their associations. I hope you are not confused!Let me make this definition simpler for you.In this definition the relationships that have been talked about are both temporary andpermanent. Please note that it applies to temporary workers as well.Then this definition talks about three relationships. They are relationship between the:Workmen and workmenWorkmen and employersEmployers and employers.Yes please don’t be surprised; it includes the relationship between the employers and theemployers as well!Let us look at another definition by Dale Yoder.
Dale Yoder has defined trade union as a continuing long – term association of employeesformed and maintained for the specific purpose of advancing and protecting the interestsof members in their working relationships. He quotes: “A trade union is a continuous association of workers which is formed withthe purpose of protecting the interests of workers.”Now that is simple and sweet, sweet in the sense it is easy to understand.Let us see another one!According to Flippo “A labour union or trade union is an organisation of workers formedto promote, protect, and improve, through collective action, the social, economic, andpolitical interests of its members”.I hope you have understood that……..If you haven’t, analysing this definition we can draw the features of trade Unions:Features of trade unions: I. It is an organisation formed by employees or workers. II. It is formed on a continuous basis. It is a permanent body and not a casual or temporary one. III. It is formed to protect and promote all kinds of interests –economic, political and social-of its members. The dominant interest with which a union is concerned is, however, economic. IV. It includes federations of trade unions also. V. It achieves its objectives through collective action and group effort.Having understood the features let us come on to the next topic for today and that isobjectives of Trade Unions that is why do workers organise themselves into unions?Objectives of Trade UnionWorkers organise themselves in the form of a union to achieve the following goals: a) To improve the economic lot of employees by securing for them better wages. b) To secure better working conditions for the workers. c) To secure bonus for the employees from the profit of the concern,
d) To resist schemes of the management which reduce employment, e.g., rationalisation and automation. e) To secure welfare of employees through group schemes which give benefit to every employee. f) To protect the interests of employees by taking active participation in the management. g) To secure social welfare of the employees. h) To secure organisational stability, growth, and leadership.Now let me ask you that what do you unionise for. What is it that you form group or ateam to ask for things from your parents? I am sure you must be conniving with yourbrothers and sisters to blackmail your parents!!Come on, you can share it with me, I will not tell them anyway!!Please understand that things could get nasty at times with the unions.Now what do I mean by that!Let us study the functions of the Trade unions and you will understand that better.Functions of Trade UnionsBroadly speaking, trade unions perform two types of functions, viz.,(i) Militant functions(ii) Fraternal functions,Militant Functions. One set of activities performed by trade unions leads to thebetterment of the position of their members in relation to their employment. The aim ofsuch activities is to ensure adequate wages, secure better conditions of work andemployment, get better treatment from employers, etc.When the unions fail to accomplish these aims by the method of collective bargainingand negotiations, they adopt an approach and put up a fight with the management in theform of so-slow, strike, boycott, gherao, etc. Hence, these functions of the trade unionsare known as militant or fighting functions.The second one is the fraternal function. Can you guess what could it mean? Or ratherwhere has it been derived from?You guessed it right!Maternal and………fraternal that is fatherly role.Fraternal Functions. Another set of activities performed by trade unions aims atrendering help to its members in times of need, and improving their efficiency. Trade
unions try to foster a spirit of cooperation and promote friendly relations and diffuseeducation and culture among their members. They also arrange for legal assistance to its members, if necessary. Besides, these, theyundertake many welfare measures for their members, e.g., school for the education ofchildren, library, reading-rooms, in-door and out-door games, and other recreationalfacilities.Some trade unions even undertake publication of some magazine or journal. Theseactivities, which may be called fraternal functions, depend on the availability of funds,which the unions raise by subscription from members and donations from outsiders, andalso on their competent and enlightened leadership.Now that is like good fathers!Another broad classification of the functions of unions may be as follows: (a) Intra-mural activities (b) Extra-mural activities (c) Political activities.Intra-mural activities. These consist of those functions of the unions that lead to thebetterment of employment conditions such as ensuring adequate wages and salaries,etc. for which the methods adopted may be collective bargaining, negotiations, strikes,etc.Extra-mural activities. These activities help the employees to maintain and improvetheir efficiency or productivity, e.g., measures intended to foster a spirit of cooperation,promote friendly relations, and diffuse education among members and various other typesof welfare measures.Political activities. Modern trade unions also take up political activities to achieve theirobjectives. Such activities may be related to the formation of a political party or thosereflecting an attempt to seek influence on public policy relating to matters connected withthe interests of working class.Let us now see things from another perspective that is the perspective of the employer.The management may disregard the Union because of various reasons. These reasonscould be as follows:Criticism of Trade Unions by the EmployersThe employers have subjected trade unions to severe criticism. Some of the charges areas under:
I. Lack of education makes the workers narrow-minded, and prevents them from taking long-term views. Thus, anything, which does not result in an immediate reward, becomes unattractive to them. This attitude is responsible for many strikes and lock-outs in industrial concerns. I am sure you will agree with that one.II. Trade unions may not welcome rationalisation and improved methods of production for the fear that some of the workers will be put out of work. Therefore, they resort to go slow policy that retards industrial progress.III. When labour unions strike because of illogical grounds, incalculable losses occur to producers, community and the nation. These are harmful to the workers also. They suffer because of the loss of wages.IV. They create artificial scarcity of labour by demanding that only union personnel should be employed. Now that is not a good practice!!V. By undue insistence on the payment of standard rates of wages, they have only leveled down the earnings of the efficient workers. Coming on to the next topic that is what motivated the workers to join the Unions. Motivation to join unions Why do Workers Join Unions? Since human behaviour is goal directed, the employees will join a union if some of their wants can be fulfilled by membership in a union. The important forces that make the employees join a union are as follows: I. Greater Bargaining Power. The individual employee possesses very little bargaining power as compared to that of his employer. If he is not satisfied with the wage and other conditions of employment, he can leave the job. But I am sure that you will agree, it is not practicable to continually resign from one job after another when he is dissatisfied. This imposes a great financial and emotional burden upon the worker. The better course for him is to join a union that can take concerted action against the employer. The threat or actuality of a strike by a union is a powerful tool that often causes the employer to accept the demands of the workers for better conditions of employment. Union is strength after all! II. Make their Voices Heard. The desire for self-expression is a fundamental human drive for most people. Don’t you agree with that? All of us wish to
share our feelings, ideas and opinions with others. Similarly the workers also want the management to listen to them. A trade union provides such a forum where the feelings, ideas and opinions of the workers could be discussed. It can also transmit the feelings, ideas, opinions and complaints of the workers to the management. The collective voice of the workers is heard by the management and give due consideration while taking policy decisions by the management.III. Minimise Discrimination. The decisions regarding pay, work, transfer, promotion, etc. are highly subjective in nature. I may rate you very differently as compared to your marketing teacher! Similarly the personal relationships existing between the supervisor and each of his subordinates may influence the management. Thus, there are chances of favouritisms and discriminations. A trade union can compel the management to formulate personnel policies that press for equality of treatment to the workers. All the labour decisions of the management are under close scrutiny of the labour union. This has the effect of minimising favouritism and discrimination.IV. Sense of Security. The employees may join the unions because of their belief that it is an effective way to secure adequate protection from various types of hazards and income insecurity such as accident, injury, illness, unemployment, etc. The trade union secure retirement benefits of the workers and compel the management to invest in welfare services for the benefit of the workers.V. Sense of Participation. The employees can participate in management of matters affecting their interests only if they join trade unions. They can influence the decisions that are taken as a result of collective bargaining between the union and the management. I hope you have not forgotten Collective bargaining!VI. Sense of Belongingness. Many employees join a union because their co- workers are the members of the union. At times, an employee joins a union under group pressure; if he does not, he often has a very difficult time at work. On the other hand, those who are members of a union feel that they gain respect in the eyes of their fellow workers. They can also discuss their problem with’ the trade union leaders. And now the next topic for the day!
Structure of Trade Unions:The structure of unions refers to the basis on which unions are organised (i.e., whetherthey are organised on craft or industrial or general union basis) and to the patternwhereby the plant unions are linked to regional level or national level federations orunions.Let us examine these two aspects one by one:Unions in India are largely organised by industry rather than craft. Although industrialunionism has been the general trend, craft unions have also emerged here and there;primarily, they exist among non-manual workers like administrative staff, professionals,technicians, etc. Ahmedabad Textile Labour Association is the sole example of craftunion of manual workers.Another aspect of the structure of unions in India relates to their pattern of relationshipbetween national level, regional level, local level and plant level unions.Let us see how they are related in India. I. Plant level Unions: The first level in the structure from below is the plant level union. This comprises the unions in one organisation or factory. Please note that only seven members are required to form a union. This has lead to multiple unions in one factory. (We will discuss the details of this aspect in the problems faced by unions in India). II. Local Level federations. This is the second level in the structure from below. The local trade union federation holds together the plant level unions at the local level in a particular craft and industry. These local level federations might be affiliated to either some regional level or national level federation or these may be independent. III. Regional level federations. These are the organisations of all the constituent unions in a particular state or region. The importance of such federations cannot be exaggerated. In a country like India, conditions vary form region to region. The style of living, languages, customs, traditions, conditions, etc. are different. Therefore, it is better that workers are organised at regional or state level. These regional federations may have members of two kinds: (1) The plant ‘level unions affiliating themselves to these directly and (2) The local federations.
In the second case, plant level unions become the members of regional federation indirectly through the local federations. It may be noted that the regional federations may be independent or they may get affiliated to some national federation. IV. National federations. These are national level bodies to which plant level unions, local unions or regional level unions may get affiliated. These are the apex bodies at the top of the structure. They act as coordinating bodies. These national federations may have their own regional or state level coordinating bodies to which the plant level unions may get affiliated.Let us summarise the levels in a diagrammatic form. National Level Federations Regional Level Federations Local Level Federations Plant Level Federations Let us learn something about the central level organisations. Four important central organisations of workers in India are 1. The Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC). The Congress Party and the top congress leaders formed the INTUC like Nehru and Patel were associated with it. Every union affiliated to INTUC has to submit its dispute to arbitration after exhausting other means of settlement of disputes.
2. The All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC). This union serves as the labour forum of Communist Party of India at present. It is considered as the second largest union in India. 3. The Hind Mazdoor Sabha (HMS). It was formed in Calcutta by the socialists who neither approved INTUC nor AITUC. The HMS was organised with a view to keeping its members free from any political or other outside interference. 4. The United Trade Union Congress (UTUC). Those persons who were dissident socialist formed it. It functions mainly in Kerala and West Bengal. 5. Centre for Indian Trade Unions (CITU). The Marxists separated from the AITUC in May 1970 and formed the CITU.In addition to the above, there are four other central trade union organisations. They are: • Bhartiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS) • National Labour Organisation (NLO) • National Front of Indian Trade Unions (NFITU) • Trade Union Congress Committee (TUCC).Please don’t get confused with the names.Have you ever wondered that what could be the problems faced by the Unions!If not, let us examine them one by one.Problems and weaknesses of trade unionsThe problems and weaknesses of trade unionism in India are as follows: I. Uneven Growth. The trade unionism in India is characterised by uneven growth, both industry-wise and area-wise. Trade unions are popular in big industries and the degree of unionisation varies widely from industry to industry. Besides, trade union activities are concentrated in a few states and in bigger industrial centers mainly due to concentration of industries in those places. II. Limited Membership. The number of trade unions in India has increased considerably. But this has been followed by the declining membership per union. This is due to the reason that any seven workers any form a union under the Trade Unions Act, 1926 and get it registered. Secondly, the rivalry among the leaders of
trade unions has resulted in multiplicity of unions, thereby reducing the average size of membership per union.III. Multiplicity of Unions. There exist several trade unions in the same establishment. The multiplicity of unions is the result of outside leadership and labour laws. The law permits and gives sanctity to small unions. Any seven persons can form a union under the Trade Unions Act, 1926. This Act confers rights on such a union. It is allowed under the Act to raise disputes, file suits, go to conciliation and even bargain with employers. Therefore, small sections of workers are encouraged to form separate Unions. There is no restriction on the number of unions to be registered in one establishment. You will agree that the existence of multiple unions in an establishment leads to inter-union rivalry. Different unions attempt to play down each other in their bid to gain better hold on the workers. Please understand that this has serious consequences. Workers lose interest in unionism. Not only that, the employers also get an opportunity to play unions against each other. They are able to take advantage of infighting among unions and may refuse to bargain on the plea that there is no strong representative union. They can argue saying that they don’t know that who should they bargain with. Thus, multiple unions do more harm than good to the cause of trade unionism.IV. Outside Leadership. Trade unions in India are led largely by people who themselves are not workers. These outsiders are politicians, intellectuals and professionals having no experience of work in industry. Outsiders continue to dominate the trade unions to advance their personal interests. The existence of outside leadership has created the following problems: • Since outsiders have links with political parties, they give greater importance to the interest of their political parties. At times, they don not mind sacrificing the interest of their followers for the achievement of political ends. • Their approach towards labour problems is coloured by political considerations. This hampers the growth of healthy employer-employee relations. When there is an industrial dispute, the leaders try to solve it through political pressures and interventions. This naturally obstructs the growth of understanding and accommodation between workers and employers. • Outsides leaders are responsible for the creation of multiple unions, in case they are not satisfied with other union leaders, they would leave that union with a group of dissident workers and form another rival union in
the same plant. Such an approach kills the solidity and solidarity of trade union movement.V. Financial Problems. The financial position of the trade unions is weak because their average yearly income is very low and inadequate. The subscription rates are very low. Under conditions of multiplicity of unions, a union interested in increasing its membership figures keeps the subscription rate unduly low. As a result, the funds with the unions are inadequate and they cannot undertake welfare programmes for their members. Another reason for the weak financial position of union is that large amounts of subscription dues remain unpaid by the workers. Besides this, unions do not have proper staff and organisation to collect subscriptions. And last but not the least, the attitude of the workers also plays an important role in this regard.VI. Indifferent Attitude of Workers. In India, a large number of workers have not joined any union. Moreover, all the members of the trade unions do not show interest in their affairs. The attendance at the general meetings of the unions is very low. Under such circumstance, trade unionism cannot be expected to make much progress. The problems are so many……. Where are the solutions? They are very much here in the form of some suggestions for strengthening the trade Unionism in India. What are you thinking? Are you imagining yourself as an employer and contemplating that where is the need for strengthening the trade unions? Please remember that the Unions are not always a threat to the management. They can be a good source for knowing the feelings of the workers or in other words they can be the source of feedback. The management can pass on the information to the workers through the Trade unions. The chosen representatives, will be much more effective in sharing the information with the workers. I am sure you will agree that the members of the workers will pay more attention and be willing to listen to the union members more than the management representatives. So now coming on to the suggestions.
Suggestions for Healthy Growth of UnionismSound trade union has the potentialities for generating a healthy circle of better labourproductivity, increasing earnings of labour, expanding their purchasing power, improvingtheir working and living conditions, increasing efficiency, and having more production.Such a state of affairs would be beneficial not only to workers, but also to the industryand to the nation. Therefore, it is essential to recognise the vital importance of tradeunion as an integral part of the industrial structure of India. The Government and manyenlightened employers do appreciate the importance of the role of trade unions, and theirpolicy is one of encouragement and assistance to the trade unionism.But please note that the future of trade unionism in Indian depends mainly upon the effortof the unionists themselves. You must have heard that real strength must come fromwithin. For developing internal vitality, a strong and stable trade union movement isessential for the proper functioning of industry.A few suggestions for the development of such unions are: I. One Union in One Industry: Multiplicity of unions in the same plant leads to inter-union rivalry that ultimately cuts at the root of the trade union movement. It weakens the power for collective bargaining and reduces the effectiveness of workers in securing their legitimate rights. Therefore, there should be only one union in one industry. II. Paid Union Officials: Generally, the trade unions avail the services of the honorary workers due to lack of funds. The practice should be stopped because honorary office bearers cannot do full justice to the task entrusted to them because of lack of time at their disposal. Suppose that you are asked to do something in the office, which requires a lot of responsibility. You are not offered any thing in return. Of course the motivational levels will come down unless and until you are a very passionate or a committed person. The same applies to the officials of the unions. Therefore, paid union officials should be employed who are persons of proven integrity and who are able to evaluate the demands of workers so that they may negotiate with employers on equal footing. III. Development of Leadership from Within: It is of crucial importance that trade unions are managed by the workers, and not by outsiders. Leadership should be developed from within the rank and file of the workers. We have already discussed the problems related to the outside leadership in the organisations. Please note that the outside leadership should not be encouraged in the organisations because of the following reasons: • The outsiders do not have any knowledge about the functioning of the organisation
• They do not have any interest • Their interests could only satisfy political interests. IV. Recognition of Trade Unions. Till recently, the employers refused recognition to the trade unions either on the basis that unions consisted of only a minority of employees or two or more unions existed. You should be aware that the Trade Unions Act is completely silent on the question of recognising a trade union for the purpose of collective bargaining. Such a provision exists, however, in the Annexure A of the Code of Discipline, which is a voluntary measure. This Annexure lays down the following criteria for recognising a trade union: 1. Where there are more than one union, a union claiming recognition should have been functioning for at least one year after registration. Where there is only one union, this condition would not apply. 2. The membership of the union should cover at least fifteen per cent of the workers in the establishment concerned. Membership would be counted only of those who have paid their subscription for at least 3 months during the period of 6 months immediately preceding the month of reckoning. 3. A union may claim to be recognised as a representative union for workers in all establishments in an industry in a local area if it has a membership of at least 25% of the workers of that industry in that area. 4. When a union has been recognised, there should be no change in its position for a period of 2 years. 5. Where there are several unions in an industry or establishment, the one with the largest membership should be recognised. 6. A representative union for an industry in an area should have the right to represent the workers in all the establishments in the industry, but if a union of workers in a particular establishment has membership of 50% or more of the workers of that establishment, it should have the right to deal with matters of purely local interest such as, for instance, the handling of grievances pertaining to its own members. All other workers, who are not members of that union might either operate through the representative union for the industry or seek redress directly. 7. Only unions that observe the Code of Discipline are entitled to recognitionActivity:
Please note that registration and recognition of trade unions are not thesame terms. I want you to research on the difference and discuss amongstyourselves.And last but not the least, another way of strengthening the trade unions is theimprovement in their financial conditions. The subscription fees should be increased.The members should pay their dues in time so that the unions have enough money to takecare of the overall benefits and welfare of the workers.
Article from Indian Journal for Industrial Relations (Volume39, July 2003)INDIAN TRADE UNIONS: TODAY AND BEYOND TOMORROWErnesto NoronhaCHANGING WORLD ECONOMY AND LABOUR The last decade brought sweeping changes to the way in which the worldeconomy functioned. This qualitative changes in the world economic system can beattributed to factors such as the advent of new global markets in services, increase ofmergers and takeovers, weakening of anti-monopoly laws and the rise of global consumermarkets. The full globalising potential has been realised with the networking of ITsystems. The Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) have assisted in theintegration of some elements of the Third World into the production networks of themultinationals and have broad earned the effective reach of the market (Schiller, 2000).Economies, previously cushioned from external shocks, are now subject to fluctuations ofglobal markets (Hyman, 1999). Norms such as privatization, liberalization andderegulation are no more an issue of debate. The less developed countries (LDCs) inorder to avoid economic and political marginalisation have opened up their economies. Infact, there is a scramble to provide free trade zones, which not only guarantees exemptionof taxes and duties but also grants institutional and legislative conditions for profitableexploitation of the labour force. Multinationals can now shop around for the tax andLabour regime, which suits them best. The multinational corporation and the WorldTrade Organisation seek to outlaw national laws, which restrict free trade. In short, theeconomic environment has become for harsher and global competition has put newpressures on national industrial relations regimes (Hyman, 1999). Evans (1997) states that the response of the labour movement to the establishmentof the WTO has been a muted one. The erosion of trade union power has run alongsidethe build up of power on the side of transnational corporations. The pressure oncompanies to maintain market share and the weakening of regulatory regimes haveintensified global competition, leading to pressure on Labour standards and lower wagesacross the world (Smith, 1999). Today the traditional core constituency of trade unionmembership has dwindled. A secure and well-paid working class has ceased to be thenorm, giving way to a flexible production arrangement. The informal economy is seen asa refuge against depredation of the free market (McMichael, 2000). Plant closings,relocations abroad, removal of subside and tariffs are justified by the threat of globalcompetition (Portes, 2000). Plant closings, relocations abroad, removal of subsidies andtariffs are justified by the threat of global competition (Portes, 2000). “A typical”employment situations have become increasingly typical. Part-time work, short-term andcasual employment, agency work, self-employment and unemployment have all becomemore common. These changes in the constituencies which unions seek to recruit andrepresent have posed a new challenges to trade unions. Traditionally a potential tradeunion member was a full-time employee. As a result the trade union agenda was
predominantly concerned with terms and conditions of employment like achieving thepayment of a “family wage”, defining and reducing the standard working week, andconstraining the employer’s ability to hire and fire at will (Hyman, 1999).Furthermore, employees’ traditional identities are being slowly displaced and thetransformatory ideals have lost their grip; workers adopt “ a rational, instrumental orexperimental attitude towards the unions (or parties). To win their support, unions nowhave to pass a direct and pragmatic test. However, unions of late have come to be widelyperceived as conservative institutions; primarily concerned with defending the relativeadvantages of a minority of the working population.Management on their part has also established new forms of direct communication, liketeam working, as new mechanisms of collective decision-making with employees(Hyman, 1999). Given this context, unions have been called to abjure the path of conflictand to explore the path of co-operation.INDIAN LABOUR TODAYThe changes taking place in the Indian economy since 199 reflect the above situation.Tariff and non-tariff trade barriers have been lowered, industrial licensing abandoned inmany sectors, private capital permitted in areas reserved for the public sector, restrictionson foreign direct investment removed, steps have been taken towards privatization, foodsubsidies have been reduced and the rupee devalued. This has resulted in a strengthenedpresence of multinational companies, increase in redundancy, introduction of newtechnologies and new management techniques, the growth of the core/periphery model.Ghatoshkar (2000) and Noronha (1996) state that Indian management has todayintroduced flexibility by restructuring, of companies, banning recruitment of permanentcategory employees, shutting of units or departments, transferring of jobs frombargainable to non-bargainable categories, introducing functional flexibility, intensifyingthe working day through pressure to increase productivity, opening parallel plants,employing contract workers and subcontracting out production .The technologicalpossibility of the internet has given a boost to downsizing and lean management. Thetrend is to outsource work as much as possible to keep the core company small (Mitter,2000). Further, though law does not allow closure o industrial units without permissionby the government, in practice there are not restrictions on closures. To permit labourmarket flexibility there is a call for changes in labour laws. The VRS has enabledemployers to side-step Section 25(N) of the ID Act. Recent, long-term agreements (LTA)signed by unions at their various plants allow a management the scope for organizing andreorganizing the work processes. Managements have been able to undo the union powerby relocating units in interior places and simultaneously curbing militancy in existingplants where there is a strong union (Noronha, 2000). The unions have agreed toparticipate in re-layout, relocation, process improvement, reallocation of work,
redeployment of manpower, etc., which enable the company to be competitive(Sivanathiran, 1999). Threat of industrial closures has forced unions to give up or curbgains and accept job loss. All rehabilitation packages include enhanced hours of work andflexibility in rescheduling working hours, holidays, earned leave and so on. Normarelated to workload have also gone up. Wage freeze and even cuts in minimum wages areintroduced. The unions also promise that they will into tolerate any misconduct on thepart of the workers (Sundaram et al, 1996).Employers have begun to se methods of participation in management as a means tocombine with workers against unions. Union seem to get co-opted into the managementsscheme of things through participation techniques (Sheth, 1993. Many Indianorganisations are now using techniques like quality circles, Kaizen, just-in-time, totalquality management, total empowerment, teamwork, productivity-linked wages, profitsharing, an performance-based rewards, etc. to increase productivity. The human resourcedevelopment approach has developed workers, loyalty towards organizational goals andunions compete with this for employee loyalty (Krishna and Monappa, 1994). However,introduction of information technology has not brought about major changes in the waypeople work Organisations still rely on on-site direct supervision of workers and personalinteraction as it gets difficult for company to ensure quality of the services and deliverytime. Further, as observed elsewhere in call centers located in India, the diversity of tasksgets diminished, leading to stressful and repetitive work, e.g. uninterrupted answering ofcustomer telephones affects the physical and mental health of the employees (Mitter,2000).The trends outlined above have led to the creation of two categories of workers who areless represented trade unions. At one end of the scale are highly skilled workers;developing new careers and having new aspirations while at the other end are marginalworkers, scattered and prone to exploitation as they tend to fall outside the traditionalemployment pattern (ILO, 1999). Dietrich (1984) states that the big national federation oflabour have not been interested in taking up these issues of contract labour have not beeninterested in taking up these issues of contract labour and declining industries liketextiles. They concentrate on big profit-making industries where it is easier to getconcessions. ‘While trade unions exploit product market advantages for their members,management takes advantage of favorable labour market conditions to push more workon to cheap labour’. Benefits bargained apply only to the existing workers leaving thedoor open to recruit at a lower price (Ramaswamy, 1983). This has blunted therevolutionary potential of labour (Banerjee, 1983). Further, Reddy et al. (1991) observethat the better-educated workers are oriented towards personal rather than common goalsand this impedes participation in union activity. The workers are involved in unionpolitics only to the extent that it fulfills their personal gains. Further, traditional unionsorganize on an industry-and/or region wide basis but in then ever industries and youngerworkers it is at the plant level. The reason for this is that younger workers desire to gaincontrol over their unions, as the traditional structure of trade unions does not provide ascope for expression of these aspirations. These workers are, therefore, forming their ownindependent unions, which are not part of national trade union centers. Thus traditionalparty based unions found their potential recruitment challenged and curtailed. Further,
bargaining is becoming increasingly fragmented; there is a shift towards enterprisebargaining (ILO, 1999). Trade unions in the banking sector believe that the seventhBipartite Wage Negotiation might be the last signed settlement. The Indian bankingAssociation (IBA) wants bank-level wage settlements in the future. In another case, theunions in the more profitable jute mills want to break away from the industry-widearrangement in force and set-up their own mill-level agreement. By decentralizingbargaining structures and expanding the scope and duration of labors contracts,employers and the governments are trying to minimize the monopoly effects of unions.Enterprise based trade unions have also had to accept that their pay is determined byproductivity (Bhattacharjee, 1999).However, in spite of being on the defensive, Indian trade unions face anti-union feelingfrom the public (ILO, 1999). The unions, over the years, have lost the sympathy of thegeneral public. Strikes, called often, disrupt everyday life and cause inconvenience to themasses (Sharma and Dayal, 1999). Consumer forum now asserts that no trade union hasthe right to resort to illegal strike, in contravention of the mandatory perquisites, whichmay result in grave and irreparable hardships, inconvenience and loss to the members ofthe public. Thus, the basic dilemma faced by trade unions is the need to simultaneouslyserve the interests of their members is being seen to serve the interests of society as awhole. The challenges posed by the increasing globalisation of production, liberalizationof world trade, changing profile of workers, beside a shift in management strategies haveforced the labour movement to reassess its tactics. Unions, therefore, need to revive andto redefine their role as sword of justice rather than conservative interest groups (Hyman,1999).INDIAN TRADE UNIONS BEYOND TOMORROWThe most important task before Indian trade unions today is to organize the unorganised.There is a need for unions to coordinate the struggle of industrial workers with that ofrural laborers and widen workers’ struggles, which have remained confined to aneconomic movement for wages. No serious effort has yet been made by national tradeunions to organize home-based and part-time workers in India, although there have beena number of successful attempts at local level for instance, Self-Employed Women’sAssociation (SEWA) in Ahmedabad (ILO, 1999) states that recruiting this vulnerablesection of society and defending, their interest is not a matter of doing good for those lessfortunate. It is matter of survival for the Indian trade union movement. It clearly is timethat the Indian trade union movement broke out of the confines of the organized sectorand made serious inroads into the unorganized workforce. A strong and broad basedlabour movement is central to the development of wide and strong political agendas.In keeping with what was just stated unions should aim at securing minimum income toall in the labour market by establishing minimum standards of employment, wages,working conditions and social security. Union strategies that bridge the gap between theformal and informal sectors are central to the future of trade unions (Jose, 2000). In factthe benefits of general union membership should not be lost when workers move intonon-unionized workplaces. In case of home-based teleworking, the entire area of
negotiations needs to include allowing employees to use office space when required, e-mail and telephones links with other workers at the employer’s expense we. Further, toensure that teleworkers are not discriminated against office-based workers in terms ofbenefits and emoluments, monitoring health and safety conditions and lastly, teleworkers’right to organize through unions should be protected (Ghatoshkar, 2000).The unions will have to seriously examine the possibility of mergers and combine theirresources to influence policy makers. They also need to develop linkages with tradeunions in other countries (Sharma and Dayal, 1999). To this effect, in the South Asianregion, labour organizations have come together under the banner of South Asian LabourForum. The forum members feel that this is the only way to negotiable the imposedglobalisation in the developing world. However, the “strained diplomatic relationsbetween some nations of the region”, and the apprehensive political atmosphere of theSouth Asian countries do weaken such attempts (Hindu, 1996). Sharma and Dayal (1999)predict that the links between political party and trade unions would weaken over aperiod of time and unions may have to stand on their own. This may lead to newalignments. This is very true of the HMS, which has undergone considerable changesfrom its earlier political character largely because of the fragmentation of the socialistmovement tin the country. Woven the recent confrontation of the BMS at the 37th IndianLabour Conference points in that direction. The loosening of ties with parent bodies doeslead to great autonomy in decentralized decision-making (Bhattacharjee, 1999).However, it also reduces the economic strength and the political influences of the unions.Governments feel less need to take account of their views, especially in a climate oftough monetary discipline, curbs on public spending, privatization of utilities and publicenterprises, and deregulation of labour markets (ILO, 1999). Thus, unions need to grapplewith this change in political reality.Unions could also strengthen their technical expertise so as to become valuable advisorsto workers ‘ representatives. They could set up “employee consultancies” helpingworkers maintain their skills and expertise. They could provide information on jobopportunities, submit proposals for alternative employment, identify legal changes andemployer policies and equip employees to respond to the needs of different sectors andoccupations. In terms of the long-term viability of union organization members need tobe prepared for present and future work. Skill development processes need to beorganized that are critical to long-term economic security. Only then will people getinvolved with unions. Unions might attract new members if they improve the servicesthey offer. This calls for a subtle combination of individual services and collectiverepresentation. Unions can make unique contribution into the development of thecommunity through their contributions with such development institutions as consumercooperatives, housing societies, health funds and social security organization. However,they need to improve their public image (Jose, 2000). Besides this, the labour movementhas very little capacity or ability to do detailed research on the core issues relating toglobalisation. This is party a resources constraint and party the result of low priorityplaced upon such work. The labour movement urgently needs a body capital and willingto carry out this research function (Evans, 1997).
As representative of a well-organized and articulate group in society, trade unions willhave to move into the broader terrain of defending economic and social rights. Sharmaand Dayal (1999) state that Indian trade unions operate within their own domain and donot actively coordinate with other social groups or movements. Trade unions today facethe challenges of convincing the public that they can act on behalf of all employees,unionized or not. This requires building alliances with community bodies, socialmovements and NGOs which may require addressing concerns of communities, ethnicgroups, religious organizations and neighborhood association which lie beyond the realmof the workplace (Jose, 2000). In so many areas like child labour, human rights and theenvironment, the NGOs have been far ahead of the trade union movement. For instanceeven the international labour movement is nowhere near the power and influence of theinternational environment movement. Pressure from the environment all obey has shapedmuch of the WTO agenda on the environment. Lessons must be learnt from these groups.Alliances must also be forged with other progressive groups working in the trade field onissues of shared importance (Evans, 1997). Instead of bemoaning or complaining thatNGOs indulge in some under hand dealings to get money, trade unions need to carefullystudy NGOs, and wherever possible ally with them. One instance of this is theinternational Transport Workers Federation (ITF), which has a very good relationshipwith Green peace, the well known environmental group, on issues such as marinepollution and the toxic waste trade (Smith, 1999). Union movement in alliance withenvironment and people’s organization will be able to deal with the onslaught ofglobalisation and repression that it brings. Therefore unions will have to take the publicalong. When they want to defend their right on exclusive economic interest whereworkers interest are in conflict with those of society. They should be viewed as efficientproviders of services to their constituents and the public at large (Jose, 2000). Theyshould act as a true social partner, helping people outside the workplace and voicing theirconcerns collectively. The unions should consider themselves as instrument of societyand should strengthen society and not just its members in isolation (Sharma and Dayal,1999).Indian unions are also confronted with the low participation of rank and file membership.General body meetings are poorly attended except when it comes to wages, bonus,festival payments or some other financial benefits. The workers regard unions ininstrumental terms. Therefore the decision-making will have to be democratic (Sharmaand Dayal 1999). The changing profile of workers has given impetus to individualism,coupled with new strategies to make employees identify more closely with the company.Trade unions have to adapt their structure and strategies in order to represent workers inthe new environment. The simple notion of solidarity is now outdated, a modernizedconcept has to encompass the mutual support of those whose positions and interest aredifferent (Zoll, 1996). This traditional view of solidarity wherein trade union membersperceive a common interest is in constant conflict with individualization. It has to takeinto account individualism “ Diversity is not primarily to be a faced by starting from apostulated units, but starting from diversity, one should look for concrete differences andsimilarities and develop differentiated views of solidarity from them. (Valkenburg, 1996).This is the need of the hour given the fragmented nature of Indian trade unions today.
Moreover, the bureaucratic – hierarchical model has led to alienation anddisentanglement among trade union members. The role of trade unions official should nolonger be a universal expert but a facilitator. It implies a reorganization of trade unionactivity away from bureaucratic, administrative and control towards collaborative projectwork. This means that the dominance of paid officials should disappear and theknowledge and competence of members are at least equivalent. Participation can nolonger be viewed exclusively in the context of general central policy. The traditionalapproach is to mediate from above; such a formula satisfies no one. An alternativemodern approach is to initiate a dialogue between groups involved and helping them toreach an agreement rather than improving it from above. In recent years European unionshave searched for alternative organization experiments with networks, working groupsand circles becoming increasingly common and have built an organic link betweenleaders, activists and ordinary members (Hyman, 1996; Zoll, 1996). This could also betried in India with the profile of workers undergoing a change. Besides this, the newcommunications technologies-in particular web-based conferencing, software and videoconferencing-seem to offer the possibility of strengthening the transactional institutionsof the labour movement as well as the national ones by allowing groups to meet regularlyat practically no cost. This would make trade unions more attractive, more democraticand more powerful (Lee, 1998). Though this seems to have limited applicability in theIndian context a way of using these technologies in India needs to be considered.It is a man’s world when it comes to union leadership (Sharma and Dayal, 1999). Unionshould pay special attention to previously under-represented groups, such as women andminorities, within union structures and in promoting the interest of these groups(especially concerning gender issues) in the workplace. For instance, since the decision inthe case of Vishaka V/s state of Rajasthan and others in 1997 unions should take upsexual harassment cases more vigorously. Unions in western countries attempt toreconcile the interests of the diverse groups by establishing separate committees orgroups to represent different categories of workers, or by including representatives ofthese workers in the machinery of the union (ILO, 1999). The case for organizing womenseparately is strongly advocated to avoid the marginalisation of women’s concerns and toreconcile the competing interest of various groups.Lastly, a competitive edge will decide the survival of the organization. Up gradation oftechnology, product innovation, quality and low cost are required for survival. The unionwill have to collaborate rather than be adversarial in approach: only this will help them tosurvive in the long run. The collective bargaining agenda needs to be expanded to includethe future of each industry. At the local level, unions should approach management with asuggestion to sit together to chalk out a joint plan for saving the company (Smith 1999).To conclude, Hyman (1999) states, “to resist the hostile forces ranged against them,unions must mobilize countervailing power resources; but such resources consist in theability to attract members, to inspire membe4rs and sympathizers to engage in action, andto win the support (or at least neutrality) of the broader public. The struggle for tradeunion organisaion is thus a struggle for the hearts and minds of people; in other words, abattle of ideas”.
Definition of Trade UnionSection 2 (h) of the Trade Unions Act, 1926 has defined a trade union as“Any combination, Whether temporary or permanent, formed primarily for the purpose of regulating the relations between workmen and employers,or between workmen and workmen, 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.”
Objectives• Better Wages• Better Working conditions• Bonus• Resist unsuitable schemes• Secure welfare• Project Interests of workers• Social Welfare• Organisational growth and stability Functions• Militant• Fraternal
Criticism of Trade Unions by Employers• Lack of education• May not welcome change• Strike on Illogical basis• Creation of Artificial scanity of labour• Undue demands relating to wages Motivation to Join Unions• Greater Bargaining Power• Make their voices heard• Minimise discrimination• Sense of security• Sense of participation• Sense of Belongingness
Structure of Trade Unions• Plant Level Federations• Local level federations• Regional level federations• National level federations Problems and Weaknesses of Trade Unions:• Uneven growth• Limited membership• Multiplicity of unions• Outside leadership• Financial problems• Indifferent Attitude of workers
Suggestions for Healthy growth of Unions• One Union Per Industry• Paid Union Officials• Development of Internal Leadership• Recognition of Trade Unions• Improved Financial condition