Trade Unions India

Indian Trade Unions image


Indian Trade Union

India has a long history of trade unions. As early as 1918, India’s first modern trade union organization was established: the Madras Trade Union, and earlier in 1890, the “Mumbai Textile Workers’ Union” similar to the trade union was established in Mumbai.

According to statistics, there are currently more than 85,000 registered trade union organizations in India, but this does not include the large number of unregistered trade unions scattered in many industries.

Considering that around 2021, the working population in India may reach 64% of the total population, so the number of trade union organizations in India still has a lot of room for development.


1. The history of trade unions in India

In the early 20th century, some workers gathered together to negotiate and negotiate with employers on working environment and wages. This type of small group gathering was the predecessor of Indian trade unions. Among the more well-known groups are the Printing Union of Calcutta in 1905 and the Postal Union of Mumbai in 1907.

After the First World War, the trade union movement in India rose, gradually developed rapidly in various industries and became an indispensable part of the process of Indian industrialization.

Many trade union organizations were established during this period, such as the “All India Trade Union Conference AITUC” established in 1920, the “Bangladesh Trade Union Confederation” established in 1922, the “All India Railway Workers Federation” established in 1922, and so on.

In March 1921, N.M. Joshi, the general secretary of the “All India Trade Union Congress,” passed a report to the government to recommend trade union legislation to improve trade union registration procedures and protect the interests of Indian trade unions. In 1922, India enacted the “1926 Trade Union Act” to regulate and protect the rights and interests of trade unions.

At present, the three largest trade union organizations in India are: “Indian Labor Union Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS)”, “Indian National Trade Union Congress INTUC” and “All India Trade Union Congress AITUC”. Unionization.


Central Trade Union Organization in India

The following are 12 national central labor union organizations and their political affiliations recognized by the Ministry of Labor


As shown in the figure, many trade union organizations in India have clear political or party connections. In addition to being influenced by political leaders, trade union organizations can also produce so-called multi-unionism, which brings great difficulties to employers in collective bargaining.


2. Trade union laws in India

In India, the right of workers to form and join trade unions and participate in collective bargaining comes from the provisions of the central and local legislation, and Indian courts protect this right of workers.


The Indian Trade Union Act of 1926

It stipulates the establishment and registration of trade unions, and explains and defines trade union registration in certain aspects.

The “Trade Union Law” defines a trade union as “a trade union is mainly to regulate the relationship between workers and employers, between workers and workers, between employers and employers, or any group that imposes restrictions on the conduct of any industry or business, including any temporary or permanent group, including any federation or combination of multiple unions.”

All workers have the right to form such a group or refuse to be a member of the group. However, not all workers’ organizations are “union”. For example, the Madras High Court ruled that “some groups such as lower-level magistrates’ courts or taxation officials do not belong to unions because members of such groups are employed and engaged in the sovereignty of the government. And the rule of law function.”


Labor Dispute Act of 1947

It also regulates trade union-related matters such as the right to investigate and resolve labor disputes between employers and employees. At the same time, the law also provides for collective bargaining through negotiation and mediation, and voluntary arbitration or compulsory trial with the active participation of trade unions. 

According to the “Labor Dispute Law”, the settlement results reached through collective bargaining by trade unions are binding on employers and employees.


The 1950 Indian Constitution

Article 19(1)(c) stipulates the basic rights of Indian citizens in terms of freedom of speech and expression, including the right of citizens to “form associations” (including trade union organizations).

However, legal recognition of the right to establish a trade union does not necessarily guarantee that the trade union can conduct collective bargaining or achieve the purpose of its establishment when it was established.

Moreover, the rights listed in Article 19(1)(c) of the Constitution of India do not include the employer’s right to recognize trade unions. Therefore, if the employer refuses to recognize the trade union, it will not violate Article 19(1)(c) of the Constitution.

The basic freedoms and rights recognized in Article 19(1)(c) of the Constitution of India are:

  1.  The right to meet between union members;
  2.   The right of union members to move from different places
  3.   The union to discuss issues and publicize The right of opinion
  4.   The right of the union and its members to hold property in accordance with the law.


3. Latest development of Indian trade unions

India has the most active trade union organization and the most frequent strikes in the world. In recent years, due to the existence of a large number of labor unions and strikes in the automotive industry in India, the development of many companies has also declined sharply. For example, Toyota’s motorcycle company in India caused losses of up to 1.2 billion rupees due to the strike of more than 3,000 workers and supporters.

Another example is that a factory of Suzuki was temporarily closed due to union activities in 2012 and restarted at the factory. After production, its production capacity only reached 10% of the designed production capacity. At the same time, some labor reforms adopted by the Indian government in the coal and insurance fields have also caused some impact.


Coal Regulations (Special Provisions) Bill 2014

For example, the “Coal Regulations (Special Provisions) Bill 2014” passed by the government focused on re-allocating coal through electronic auctions. This measure has led to strikes by unions of many coal companies, which in turn affected the entire country’s coal industry. Even the supply of electricity.

According to tradition, union activities in the service industry are the weakest, but in recent years, the service industry represented by IT has also been affected by unions. For example, Indian IT industry giant Tata Consultancy Services Ltd. (TCS) Because of the dismissal of a certain number of employees. It has been opposed by some central trade unions, such as the Central Trade Union of India (CITU) and the Indian National Congress of Trade Unions (INTUC). Some of the above reform measures encourage union strikes to some extent, because Workers may be adversely affected by these reforms.

In fact, many trade unions have already opposed and protested some of the reforms, so it remains to be seen whether the reforms can continue.

The strength of India’s trade unions also reflects the contradictions of India’s economy. On the one hand, India has advantages such as unparalleled demographic dividends and lower direct labor costs.

On the other hand, foreign investment in India has to face One of the most important issues is the issue of labor employment.

In addition to the difficulty of visas for foreign workers, the low efficiency of local labor, and the complicated labor laws, labor unions and strikes are also issues that require attention. Import and export trade enterprises will not be able to arrive at the port on time and smooth customs clearance due to port workers’ strikes.

Infrastructure and engineering enterprises will cause delays in construction schedules or affect the price and transportation of building materials due to labor strikes. Manufacturing enterprises are due to labor strikes. Intensive enterprises are most directly affected by trade unions and strikes. Therefore, when considering labor costs in India, you must consider the possible impact of labor unions and strikes.


Author’s Bio

Name: Ajay Rastogi

Educational Qualification: LLB

Profession: Advocate / Lawyer

Work Experience: 20 Years of Legal Practice

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