Trade Unions in India: Origin, Growth, Causes, Initiatives, Conclusion

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Trade Unions in India: Origin, Growth, Causes, Initiatives, Conclusion


Origin and Growth of Trade Unions in India


Origin and Early Growth: The Trade Union Movement began in India during the closing years of the First World War. The exploitation of labor caused by the exigencies of the war created unrest among the working class people and led them to form unions which, would voice their grievances, fight for their rights and ensure to them better working conditions.

When they were sufficiently organized on the model of working peoples’ associations in western countries the Government was compelled to give them legal recognition by passing the Trade Union Act of 1926. Some valuable rights and privileges were conceded to Unions registered under this Act.

Since then Trade Unions have been multiplying in large numbers till they reached the total figure of 1,863 in the year of our independence. Their membership also has been increasing in the same manner.

Causes: The Trade Union Movement in India received a great impetus in the last war when the price of essential commodities rose abnormally high owing to the scarcity created by war conditions.

  • The rise in the cost of living made industrial workers better organized than before and the principle of collective bargaining was accepted as the only means of securing better service conditions from employers.
  • Their demand for overtime allowance, bonus, compensation, relief, etc. became more and more insistent and gathered a force which even the most resourceful of our producing concerns failed to resist.
  • Public opinion being strongly in favor of workers supposed to be mercilessly exploited by their masters, it was easy for these representative labor unions to get many of their demands conceded by the employers of labor.

Initiatives: The national government of India too having a very sympathetic attitude to laborers of all categories passed a series of Acts for the welfare of industrial labor. They gave the workers security against unjust exploitation.

The success gained by trade unionism in the field of industrial labor encouraged employees in other business organizations such as banking, insurance and similar other concerns to form associations of their own on trade union principles and wrest from the unwilling hands of their masters more and more amenities and privileges.

Now-a-days we have not only railway men’s unions, postal and bank employees’ associations but also associations of shop-keepers’ employees and even of other lower grade servants and menials. They are clamoring for their rights and agitating through their representative bodies for better working conditions and the amenities of civilized life.

Industrial Trade unions: Trade unionism, however, is ordinarily associated with the corporate activities of industrial workers. It is through continuous agitations that they were able to draw a large measure of public sympathy.

A democratic government claiming to represent the interests of the common people cannot possibly remain indifferent to the just and reasonable demands of such a large section of people condemned to a life of toll, misery and insecurity.

There should be proper mechanism to resolve disputes among the principal parties. With a view to bringing about a better understanding and friendly co-operation between labor and management, some legislative measures have been adopted  by the Government in the hope that they will mark a new epoch in the history of labor movement in this country and set at rest all disaffection and unrest among industrial workers.

Need for discipline: Under the circumstances which now prevail, it is difficult for trade unions in India to grow and develop along healthy lines and serve the cause of the members in the way they should. What is needed for the healthy growth of such unions is that they should shed all political character or affiliations and develop a sense of discipline and responsibility among the members.

Spirit of service to the nation: It is necessary that the trade unions all over the country should be actuated in their activities by a spirit of service to the nations. The workers forming such unions should be made to realize that their interests are indissolubly connected with the interest of the nations and that they cannot prosper unless the nation as a whole prospers. So they must respond enthusiastically to the call for national reconstruction.

Conclusion: They are  to strive not only for the needs of workers and improvement in the conditions of their service but also for the greater welfare of the nation in the belief that what is good for the nation is good for labor also.

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