Management of Industrial Relations

Top 12 Problems of Trade Union

Problems of Trade Union

(1) Outside Political Leadership – The leadership of most of the trade unions in India has been outside leadership mainly drawn from political parties. As the labour movement in India is deeply involved in the policies and politicians, most of the political leaders are also drawn from Trade unions.

For example, Lok Nayak Jayprakash Narain, former president of India V.V. Giri, former governor of A.P. Khandubhau Desai, all worked as Trade union leaders. In fact, political parties invented Trade unions in India. Outside, political leadership has been playing a pivotal role in Indian Trade Union Movement due to the inability of insiders to lead their movement.

(2) Multiple Unions – Multiple unionism both at the plant and industry levels pose a serious threat to industrial peace and harmony in India. The situation of multiple unionisms is said to prevail when two or more unions in the same plant or industry try to assert rival claims over each other and function with overlapping jurisdiction. The multiple unions exist due to the existence of craft unions formations of two or more unions in the industry. Multiple unionisms affect the employee relations system both positively and negatively. However the negative impacts of multiple unions dominate the positive impacts.

(3) Small Size of Union Membership – Size of membership of trade unions determines their strength and financial soundness which in turn determines the activities undertaken by them and their ability to protect employee’s interest. The size of membership and successful functioning of trade union are interrelated and interdependent. The size of membership of trade unions in India over the years has been declining and consequently the unions face the problems of small size.

(4) Poor Financial Position – Sound financial position is an essential ingredient for the effective functioning of trade unions; because in- the process of rendering services or fulfilling their goals, trade unions have to perform a variety of functions and organise programme which require enormous financial commitments. Hence it is imperative on the part of a trade union to strengthen its financial solvency.

But it is felt that the income and expenditure of trade unions in India over the years is such with few exceptions, that the financial position of the unions is generally weak, affecting their functioning. It is opined that the “trade union could be more effective, if they are paid more attention to strengthening their organisations and achieving a higher standard of financial solvency.”

The primary source of income to the unions is membership subscription. The other sources of union finances are donations, sale of periodicals, etc. The items of expenditure include – allowances to office-bearers, salaries to office-staff, annual convention/meeting expenses, rents, stationary, printing, postage, telegrams, etc.

(5) Inactive Functioning – Due to poor financial position trade unions are not able to function actively. Poor financial position also negatively affects the morale of the labour which further decreases the activity of the union.

(6) Victimisation – The word “victimisation” means that a certain person has become a victim, in other words, that he has been unjustly dealt with. For example, pressurising an employee to leave the union or union activities, treating an employee unequally or in an obviously discriminatory manner for the sole reason of his connection with union or his particular union activity; inflicting a grossly monstrous punishment which no rational person would impose upon an employee and the like.

(7)  Illiteracy – Illiteracy and lack of education of the workers hinder the growth of the trade union movement because workers are often unable to appreciate, and contribute to the positive role of trade unionism. This also encourages outside leadership.

(8) Lack of Integrity – Lack of integrity and dedication on the part of trade union leaders is a major drawback of trade unionism in India. Leaders deceiving workers in the negotiations with the employer, misusing their position and funds using the union for vested interests, etc; are not uncommon. These lead to the disillusionment of workers, so that they may even back out of the union.

(9) Uneven Growth – Trade unionism activities are, more or less, confined to major metros in India and traceable only in large scale units (especially cotton textile industry). The degree of unionism also varies from industry to industry, varying between 30 to 70 per cent in coal, cotton textiles, iron and steel, tobacco, railways, cement, banking insurance, ports and docks, etc. The degree of unionism is quite negligible in the agricultural and unorganised sector.

(10) Heterogeneous Nature of Labour – Since, workers come to the factory with varying backgrounds; it is difficult for them to put a joint front in case of trouble. Employers exploit the situation, under the circumstances, by dividing workers on the basis of race, religion, language, caste, etc.

(11) Lack of Interest – For a large majority of workers, unionism even today, remains a foreign issue. In fact, workers avoid union activities out of sheer disinterestedness. Those who become part of the union do not also participate in the union work enthusiastically. In such a scenario, it is not surprising to find outside political leaders exploiting the situation to serve their own personnel agenda.

(12) Problems of Trade Union Recognition – Basically employers have no obligation to recognise any trade union for the purpose of bargaining or otherwise. Initially, employers were hostile towards trade unions. There was no provision existed in any state regarding trade union recognition before 1946.

Bombay Industrial Relations Act, 1946, provided for the recognition of representative union in the local area. This act was also applied in Gujarat and in a modified version in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. The criteria accepted at the 15th Tripartite Labour Conference in 1958, is followed in the rest of the country.

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