Trade unions in India, as in most other countries, have been the natural outcome the modem factory system. The development of trade unionism in India has chequered history and a stormy career. Early Period
Efforts towards organising the workers for their welfare were made, during the early period of industrial development by social workers, philanthropists and other religious leaders mostly on humanitarian grounds. The first Factories Act, 1881, was passed on the basis of the recommendations of the Bombay Factory Commission, 1875. Due to the limitations of the Act, the workers in Bombay Textile Industry under the leadership of N M Lokhande demanded reduced of hours of work, weekly rest days, mid-day recess and compensation for injuries. Bombay Mill owners’ Association conceded the demand for weekly holiday. Consequently, Lokhande established the first Workers’ Union in India in 1890 in the name of Bombay Mill hands Association. A labour journal called “Dinabandu” was also published.
Some of the important unions established during the period are: Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants of India and Burma (1897), Management the Printers Union, Calcutta (1905) and the Bombay Postal Union (1907), the Kamgar Hitavardhak Sabha (1910) and the Social Service League (1910). But these unions were treated as ad hoc bodies and could not serve the purpose of trade unions.
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Challenges for Trade Unions in the Post-Independence Era
Let us now discuss the challenges faced by the Trade Unions post-independence:
- Weak organizational structure
- Lack of clarity in dealing with various labour union problems
- Diminishing negotiating strength due to a lack of focus on management’s labour problems and goals
- Loss of collective bargaining strength due to comparable factions
As a consequence of the labour unions’ inability to unite, they are in a position where they are unable to make their case for higher wages and improved working conditions. The risk is always involved that a more favoured organisation may be granted preference over more legitimate unions regarding union recognition.
Evolution of Trade Unions in India
There is now a legal status for the trade unions in India, rather than being ad-hoc or strike committees. Now they have succeeded in establishing themselves as a permanent part of modern civilization. With the support of Central Union Federations, the unions have established their core values and ideologies while also giving their members a feeling of purpose.
The prominence of unions in the labour movement has grown significantly in recent years. All labour-related issues are now brought to their attention by the government and businesses alike. Labour unions are also involved in formulating policies and ideologies at the state and national levels. In the post-independence era, a wide variety of unions have cropped up because of many factors, including political allegiance.
Due to their high prominence, Labour unions are now in a position to influence public policy and labour laws. Workers and management have been able to work together on various challenges by developing effective mechanisms for mutual dialogue. There is less interest in politics now because of the centrality of the evolution of trade unions in India and labour unions in contemporary industrial society. The pattern of political unionism is changing in subtle ways.