A 'Trade Union' means 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.In other words,trade unions are voluntary organizations of workers formed to protect their rights,interests and thus enhancing their welfare by applying collective action. The establishment of ILO(International Labour Organisation)
,of which India was a founding member,prompted the formation of trade unions in India.
The trade unions are formed not only to cater to the workers' demand, but also for inculcating in the workers the sense of discipline and responsibility. As per the National Commission on Labour(NCL),following are the important functions of a trade unions:-
- to secure fair wages for workers and improve their opportunities for promotion and training.
- to safeguard security of tenure and improve their conditions of service.
- to improve working and living conditions of workers.
- to provide them educational,cultural and recreational facilities.
- to cooperate in and facilitate technological advancement by broadening the understanding of the workers.
- to help them in improving levels of production ,productivity,discipline and high standard of living.
- to promote individual and collective welfare and thus correlate the workers' interests with that of their industry.
The governing law for regulating trade unions in India is Indian Trade Unions Act,1926. The Act deals with the registration of trade unions,their rights,their liabilities and responsibilities and ensures that their funds are utilised properly. The Act is administered by the concerned State Governments.
The Act provides for the registration of the trade unions with the 'Registrars of Trade Unions' set up in different States. For registration of a trade union, seven or more members of the union can submit their application in the prescribed form to the Registrar of trade unions along with a copy of the 'rules of the trade union' and a statement giving following particulars:- (a) Names, occupations and addresses of the members making the application.(b)The name of the trade union and the address of its lead Office.(c) The titles, names, ages, addresses and occupations of the (office bearers) of the trade union as per the format given in the Trade Unions Act 1926. The Act gives legal status to the 'Registered Trade Unions'.
The registered trade unions (workers & employers) are required to submit annual statutory returns to the Registrar regarding their membership, general Funds, Sources of Income and Items of Expenditure and details of their assets and liabilities, which in turn submit consolidated return of their state in the prescribed proformae to Labour Bureau, Ministry of Labour and Employment. The Labour Bureau on receiving the annual returns from different States/Union Territories, consolidates the all India statistics and disseminates them through its publication entitled the 'Trade Unions in India' and its other regular publications.
However, this Act has been amended by The Trade Unions (Amendment)Act,2001 in order to bring more transparency and to provide greater support to trade unionism in India. Some of the salient features of the Trade Unions (Amendment) Act, 2001 are:-
- No trade union of workmen shall be registered unless at least 10% or 100, whichever is less, subject to a minimum of 7 workmen engaged or employed in the establishment or industry with which it is connected are the members of such trade union on the date of making of application for registration.
- A registered trade union of workmen shall at all times continue to have not less than 10% or 100 of the workmen, whichever is less, subject to a minimum of 7 persons engaged or employed in the establishment or industry with which it is connected, as its members.
- A provision for filing an appeal before the Industrial Tribunal / Labour Court in case of non-registration / restoration of registration has been provided.
- All office bearers of a registered trade union, except not more than one-third of the total number of office bearers or five, whichever is less, shall be persons actually engaged or employed in the establishment or industry with which the trade union is connected.
- Minimum rate of subscription by members of the trade union is fixed at one rupee per annum for rural workers, three rupees per annum for workers in other unorganised sectors and 12 rupees per annum in all other cases.
- For the promotion of civil and political interest of its members unions are authorized to set up separate political funds.
Trade unions should be so formulated such that they help in making national plans successful for economic development. Though,trade unions aim to fight for their legitimate rights, they should not misuse these to serve their own purpose and in the process depriving the unorganised innocent public of their rights.The unions should make every worker understand that his duties and responsibilities comes before his rights and privileges.Also,they need to adapt themselves to changing social needs,rise above forces of castes,religion and other biases. The social responsibilities of trade unions can be enumerated as follows:-
- They need to promote national integration
- They must influence the socio-economic policies through active participation in their formulation at various levels
- They must instill in their members a sense of responsibility towards organization and community,etc.