Trade Unionism

                Trade Unionism

 The germs of trade unionism  in India can be traced back to the year  1890 , when for the first time  an association for Mills worker was framed in the name of  Bombay Mills hands Association . This association was formed for the redressal   of grievances of the Bombay Mills Workers. It is difficult to treat this association as trade union in the strict sense in which this expression is used now adays. After the First World War was over the cost of living considerably increased. The political agitation against foreign rule was also gaining momentum throughout the country. The increase in cost of living and country wide political upsurge found its ways in economic discontent amongst masses, particularly in industries.  The industrial unrest and economic discontent led to a umbers of strikes by workers, guided and controlled by their Action Committees consisting of  representatives of workers themselves . On many occasions these strikes were successful in getting the demands of the workers fulfilled.

 The trade Union movement in India got impetus by the success of strikes in India and worldwide uprising of labour consciousness. The establishment of International Labour Organisation has also influenced the  growth of the trade union movement  in our country.

 The progress of the trade union movement in India in pre- independence days has not been very satisfactory, but the post independence has been a tremendous Trade Union activity   in very sphere of industry. Now there is very hardly any category of workers which has no union of its own.

 The Royal Commission  on labour in India  has observed :

 Trade Unionism to be fully effective , demand two things :

   A democratic sprite and education. The democratic ideal has still to be developed in the Indian workers and the lack of education is the most serious obstacle of all.  Few trade unions can  afford to conduct benevolent  work , and the majority find it  hard to convince the worker that a subscription  is worthwhile  except when  a dispute  is imminent  or in progress.

Development of Trade Union Law in India:

 After the independence democratic sprite is gradually developing among the Indian citizens and the workmen in industry are not an exception to it. It was in the year 1920 that the HC of  Madras in a suit filed against the officials of Madras Textile  Laour Union by  Binny  and Co ,  granted an injunction restraining the  Union Official to  induce certain workers  to break their contracts  of employment  by refusing to return to work . Obviously the leaders of the Trade Union found themselves liable to prosecution and imprisonment even for bona fide, trade union activities[1].

Mr. N.M Joshi, the then General Secretary of all Indian Trade Union Congress moved a resolution in the central legislative Assembly seeking introduction of some measures by the government for protection of trade unions.  After such demand the Trade Unions Act 1926 was passed.

The Trade Unions Act, 1926 made provision in respect of:

i- Conditions governing the registered trade union

ii- obligations imposed upon a registered trade union

iii- rights and privileges of a registered trade union.

The Trade Union Act was amended in 1929 so as to provide for the procedure  of appeal against  the decisions of registrar.

 The Royal Commission on Labor (1928) after examining the working of the Act made the following recommendations –

i- The Act was  to be re- examined  within 3 years.

ii-   The accounts of the trade unions  should be audited free of charge by government officers.

iii-  At least two third members of the  executive of the trade unions  should be persons  actually engaged in  industry to which the  unions relates.

iv-  Trade Union should not be  deprived of carrying  on co-operative  societies.

 Indian Trade Union (Amendment) Act , 1947

 The   T.U. Act ,1926  made provisions for registration of a trade union  after fulfilling the requisite  conditions but the employer was no under obligation to deal with  a trade union  or to recognize it .  It was highlighted in various Conferences of labour minister. Consequently the Act was amended in 1947 and providing for compulsory recognition by the employers of representative trade unions. The Trade Unions Act 1926 once again has been amended in 2001.

 Some of the salient features of the Trade Unions (Amendment) Act, 2001 are:

1. 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.

2. 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.

3. A provision for filing an appeal before the Industrial Tribunal/Labour Court in case of non-registration or for restoration of registration has been provided.

4. 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.

5. 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.

 6. The employees who have been retired or have been retrenched shall not be construed as outsiders for the purpose of holding an office in the trade union concerned.

7. For the promotion of civic and political interest of its members, unions are authorized to set up separate political funds.

Hence, trade union legislation ensures their orderly growth, reduce their multiplicity and promote internal democracy in the industrial organisation and the economy. The trade unions have thus acquired an important place in the economic, political and social set up of the country.

Objectives of Trade Union

They aim to:

i- Secure fair wages for workers and improve their opportunities for promotion and training.

ii- Safeguard security of tenure and improve their conditions of service.

iii- Improve working and living conditions of workers.

iv- Provide them educational, cultural and recreational facilities.

 vi-   Facilitate technological advancement by broadening the understanding of the workers.

vii- Help them in improving levels of production, productivity, discipline and high standard of living.

Viii – Promote individual and collective welfare and thus correlate the workers’ interests with that of their industry.

Trade Union – sec 2 (h)

 It 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 employees and employers, or for imposing restrictive conditions on the conduct of any trade or business, and includes and federation of two or more trade unions .

 Provided that this Act shall not affect – 

(i) Any agreement between partners as to their own business;

 (ii) Any agreement between an employer and those employed by   him as to such employment ; or

 (iii) Any agreement in consideration of the sale of the goodwill of a   business or instruction in any profession, trade of handicraft.

 Trade dispute sec 2( g)

 It means any dispute between employers and workmen or between workmen and workmen or between employers and employers, which is connected with the employment or non-employment, or the terms of employment, or the conditions of labour, of any person, and “workmen” means all persons employed in Trade or industry whether or not in the employment of the employer with whom the trade dispute arises

Officer-bearer  sec 2(b)

It means in the case of a Trade Union includes any member of the executive thereof, but does not include an auditor.

Registration of Trade Union

Following perspectives included in the Registration of Trade Union:

 Appointment of Registrars sec ( 3)

Under Section 3 (1) the appropriate Government shall appoint a person to be the Registrar of Trade Unions for each State.

 (2) The appropriate Government may appoint as many Additional and Deputy Registrars of Trade Unions as it thinks fit. The appropriate Government may appoint as many Additional and Deputy Registrars of Trade Unions as it thinks fit for the purpose of exercising and discharging under the superintendence and direction of the Registrar such powers and functions of the Registrar under this Act as it may by order, specify and define the local limits within which any such Additional or Deputy Registrar shall exercise and discharge the powers and functions so specified.

 (3) Subject to the provisions of any order under sub-section (2), where an Additional or Deputy Registrar exercises and discharges the powers and functions of a Registrar in an area within which the registered office of a Trade Union is situated, the Additional or Deputy Registrar shall be deemed to be the Registrar in relation to the Trade Union for the purposes of this Act.

Mode of Registration sec 4

Any seven or more members of a Trade Union may, by subscribing their names to the rules of the Trade Union and by otherwise complying with the provisions of this Act with respect to registration, apply for registration of the Trade Union under this Act:

Provided that no Trade Union of workmen shall be registered unless at least ten per cent or one hundred of the workmen, whichever is less, 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:

Provided further that no Trade Union of workmen shall be registered unless it has on the date of making application not less than seven persons as its members, who are workmen engaged or employed in the establishment or industry with which it is connected.

Where an application has been made under sub-section (1) for the registration of a Trade Union, such application shall not be deemed to have become invalid merely by reason of the fact that, at any time after the date of the application, but before the registration of the Trade Union, some of the applicants, but not exceeding half of the total number of persons who made the application, have ceased to be members of the Trade Union or have given notice in writing to the Registrar dissociating themselves from the applications.

Application for Registration sec 5

(1) Every application for registration of a Trade Union shall be made to the Registrar, and shall be accompanied by a copy of the rules of Trade Union and a statement of the following particulars, namely :-

(a) the names, occupations and address of members making the application;

(b) the name of the Trade Union and the address of its head office; and

(c) the titles names ages, addresses and occupations of the office bearers of the Trade Union.

(2) Where a Trade Union has been in existence for more than one year before the making of an application for its registration, there shall be delivered to the Registrar, together with application, a general statement of the assets and liabilities of the Trade Union prepared in such form and containing such particulars as may be prescribed.

Provisions to be contained in the rules of a Trade unionsec 6

A  Trade Union shall not be entitled to registration under this Act, unless the executive thereof is constituted in accordance with the provisions of this Act, and the rules there of provide for the following matters, namely :-

 (a) the name of the Trade Union

(b) the whole of the objects for which the Trade Union has been established;

(c) the whole of the purpose for which the general funds of a Trade Union shall be applicable, all of which purposes shall be purposes to which such funds are lawfully applicable under this Act; (d) The maintenance of a list of the members of the Trade Union and adequate facilities for the inspection thereof by the office bearers and  members of the Trade Union;

(e) The admission of ordinary members who shall be persons actually engaged or employed in an industry with which the Trade Union is connected and also the admission of the number of honorary of temporary members as office bearers required under section 22 to form the executive of the Trade Union;

 (ee) The payment of a subscription by members of the Trade Union which shall be not less than twenty five naye paise per month per member.

(f) the conditions under which any member shall be entitled to any benefit assured by the rules and under which any fine or forfeiture may be imposed on the members;

(g) The manner in which the rules shall be amended, varied or rescinded;

(h) The manner in which the members of the executive and the other officer bearers of the Trade Union shall be appointed and removed;

 (i) The safe custody of the funds the Trade Union, and annual audit, in such manner as may be prescribed, of the accounts thereof and adequate facilities for the inspection of the accounts books by the officer bearers and members for the Trade Union; and

(j) The manner in which the Trade Union may be dissolved.

Powers to call for further particulars and to require alteration of nameSec7

(1) The Registrar may call for further information for the purpose of satisfying himself that any application complies with the provisions of section 5, or that the Trade Union is entitled to registration under section 6, and may refuse to register the Trade Union until such information is supplied.

(2) If the name under which a Trade Union is proposed to be registered is identical with that by which any other existing Trade Union has been registered or, in the opinion of the Registrar, so nearly resembles such name as to be likely to deceive the public or the members of either Trade Union, The Registrar shall require the persons applying for registration to alter the name of the Trade Union stated in the application, and shall refuse to register the Union until such alteration has been made.

Registration- Sec 8

The Register, on being satisfied that the Trade Union has complied with all the requirements of this Act, in regard to registration, shall register the Trade Union by entering in a register, to be maintained in such form as may be prescribed, the particulars relating to the Trade Union contained in the statement accompanying the application for registration.

Certificate of registration – sec 9

The Registrar, on registering a Trade Union under section 8, shall a certificate of registration in the prescribed form under this Act.

Cancellation of registration sec 10

A certificate of registration of a Trade Union may be withdrawn or cancelled by the Registrar-

 (a) on the application of the Trade Union to be verified in such manner as may be prescribed, or   (b) if the Registrar is satisfied that the certificate has been obtain by fraud or mistake, or that the Trade Union has ceased to exist or has willfully and after notice from the Registrar contravened any provision of this Act or allowed any rule to continue in force which is inconsistent with any such provision, or has rescinded any rule providing for any matter provision for which is required by section 6;

Appeal – sec 11

(1) Any person aggrieved by any refusal of the Registrar to register a Trade Union or by the withdrawal or cancellation of a certificate of registration may, within such period as may be prescribed, appeal-

 (a) Where the head office of Trade Union is suited within the limits of a Presidency town to the High Court, or 

 (b) Where the head office is situated in any other area, to such Court, not inferior to the Court of an additional or assistant Judge or a principal Civil Court of original jurisdiction, as the appropriate Government may appoint in this behalf for that area.

(2) The appellate Court may dismiss the appeal, or pass an order directing the Register to register the Union and to issue a certificate of registration under the provisions of section 9 or setting aside the order for withdrawal or cancellation of the certificate, as the case may be, and the Registrar shall comply with such order.

 (3) For the purpose of an appeal under substation ( 1) an appellate Court shall, so far as may be, follow the same procedure and have the same powers as it follows and has when trying a suit under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 (5 of 1908), and may direct by whom the whole or any part of the costs of the costs of the appeal shall be paid, any such costs shall be recovered as if they had been  added in a suit under the said Code.

(4) In the dismissal of an appeal by any Court appointed under clause (b) of subsection (1), the person aggrieved shall have a right of appeal to the High Court shall, for the purpose of such appeal, have all the powers of an appellate Court under subsection (2) and (3), and the provisions of those subsection shall apply accordingly.

Registered Officesec 12

All communications and to a registered Trade Union may be addressed to its registered office. Notice of any change in the address of the head office shall be given within fourteen days of such change to the Registrar in writing, and the changed address shall be recorded in the register referred to in section 8.

Incorporation of registered Trade Unions sec 13

Every registered Trade Union shall be a body corporate by the name under which it is registered, and shall have perpetual succession and a common seal with power to acquire and hold both movable.


[1]  Backingham Case (1920)

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