Sunday, September 30, 2012

Problems of Trade Union


Problems of Trade Union
The following are some of the most important problems of the trade unions in India:
1. Multiplicity of Trade Unions and Inter-union Rivalry
2. Small Size of Unions
3. Financial Weakness
4. Leadership Issues
5. Politicalisation of the Unions
6. Problems of Recognition of Trade Unions
Multiplicity of trade unions
Multiple rival unionism is one of the great weaknesses of the Indian trade union movement. “Multiple unions are mainly the result of political outsiders wanting to establish unions of their own, with a view to increasing their political influence”. The existence of different conflicting or rival organisatoins, with divergent political views, is greatly responsible for inadequate and unhealthy growth of the movement. Within a single organisation one comes across a number of groups comprising or ‘insiders and outsiders’, ‘new-comers’, and ‘old-timers’, moderates’ and radicals’, and ‘high’ and low caste’ people. This develops small unions. Inter-union and intra-union rivalry undermines the strength and solidarity of the workers in many ways.
Multiplicity of unions lead to inter-union rivalries, which ultimately cuts at the very root of unionism, weakens the power of collective bargaining, and reduces the effectiveness of workers in securing their legitimate rights. Therefore, there should be “One union in one Industry”.
Inter-union rivalry
Another vexing problem is that of intra-union rivalry. Trade rivalry is acute and pervades the entire industrial scene in India. Practically every important industry, there exists parallel and competing unions, e.g. on the Indian Railways, there are two parallel Federations – the Indian Railway Men’s Federation and Indian National Federation of Railway-men.
Small Size of unions
The small size of unions is due to various factors, namely:
The fact that by seven workers may form a union under the Trade Union Act of 1926, and get it registered and a large number of small unions have grown.
The structure of the trade union organization in the country – which is in most cases the factory or the unit of employment; so whenever employees in a particular factory or mine are organized, a new union is formed.
Unionism in India started with the big employers and gradually spread to smaller employers.  This process is still continuing and has pulled down the average membership. Though the number of unions and union membership are increasing average membership is declining.
Rivalry among the leaders and the Central Organisation has resulted in multiplicity of unions.
The small size of unions create problems such as:
Lack of funds to help its members.
Lack of ability among the leaders and members.
Low bargaining power.
Rivalry between the unions
Lack of unity among workers.
Financial weakness
The financial weakness of the union may be attributed to the small size of union and poor ability of its members to contribute. The other reasons are low subscriptions and irregular payments of subscriptions by the members.
Leadership issues
Another disquieting feature of the trade unions is the ‘outside’ leadership, i.e. leadership of trade unions by persons who are professional politicians and lawyers and who have no history of physical work in the industry. There are several reasons for this phenomenon, namely.
The rank and the file are largely illiterate as such they cannot effectively communicate with the management;
The union’s lack of formal power tends to put a premium on the dharismatic type of the leader, usually a politician, who can play the role of the defender of the workers against the management;
For ensuring a measure of ‘equation of power’ in collective bargaining where the workers are generally uneducated and have a low status.
For avoiding victimisation of worker-office-bearers of the trade unions; and 
For lack of financial resources to appoint whole time office-bearers.
These political leaders are inevitably concerned with “maximizing their individual standing as political leaders rather than with, maximizing the welfare of their members”. Further, in bigger unions, direct contact with the rank and file membership and the top leaders is missing because of their hold on a number of trade unions in varied fields; they fail to pay adequate attention to any one union. Again, often these union leaders are not adequately aware of the actual needs and pressing problems of the members. They, therefore cannot put forth the case of the union effectively.
Outside leadership of the unions leads to political unionism (each union having an allegiance to a different political party), which in turn, leads to multiplicity of unions, leading to intra-union rivalry, which cause low membership leading to unsound finances and in turn, lack of welfare and other constructive activities which may infuse strength into unions and to conduct collective bargaining effectively the unions depend on outside leadership, and the vicious circle thus goes on and on.
Over and again it has been realized that “a reorientation of policy is desirable by a switchover to working class leadership”. The National Commmission on Labour gave a good deal of though to the issue whether outside leadership shoul be retained. It felt that, “there should be no ban on non-employees holding positions in the executive body of the unions as that would be a very drastic step”. The Commission also refers to the ILO convention (No. 87) concerning “freedom of association” and protection of the right to organize, and the workers’ organisation shall have the right to elect their representative in full freedom.
The commission’s own estimate was that outsiders in the unions executive bodies would be about 10%, much less than the number legally permitted. It makes the following recommendations to deal with the problem of outside leadership:
Ex-employees of an industrial enterprise should not be treated as outsiders;
Intensification of worker’s education;
Penalties for victimization and similar unfair labour practices such as would discourage the growth of internal leadership;
Intensification of efforts by trade union organizers to train workers in union organisation.
Limiting the proportion of outsiders in the union execute;
Establishing a convention that no union office-bearer will concurrently hold an office in a political party.
Hence, leadership should be promoted from within the rank and file and given a more responsible role. Initiative should come from the workers themselves through the launching of a vigorous programme for Workers’ Education. This will enable them to participate in the decision-making and managing the union affairs effectively.
Politicalisation of the unions
On of the biggest problems of the country’s trade union movement faces is the influence of the political parties. i.e., the most distressing feature is its political character. Harold Crouch has observed, “Even to the most casual observer of the Indian trade union scene, it must be clear that much of the behaviour of Indian unions, whether it be militant or passive behaviour can be explained in political terms.
Dr. Raman’s observations are: “Trade union multiplicity in India is directly traceable to the domination and control of the trade union movement by rival political parties…. The clay of unionism is possibly an effervescent industrial labourers, but the sculptors chiseling it into shape have certainly been members of political parties.
In a recent study, Dr. Pandey had reached the conclusion: “The unions are closely aligned with political parties, and political leaders continue to dominate the unions even now… The supreme consequence of political involvement of unions in India in general, formed to safeguard and promote the social and economic interests of workers, have tended to become tools of party politics”. 
It should be noted that decisions in the trade union fields are taken by the respective political parties to which the unions are attached and, therefore, with the changing political situation, the decisions also change. With the split in the political ideology, there develops factional split in the same trade union professing the same political ideology. The divisions and sub-divisions, thus made, have affected adversely the trade union movement. It has become fragmented and disjointed. Each section pulls itself in different directions; with the result that “instead of becoming a unity and mighty torrential river, the movement is sub-divided into numerous rivulets”.
Dr. Raman ahs very aptly conclude that: “The use of political methods by trade unions may be to their advantage, but the union cause is endangered when unions allow themselves to become pawns in political fights.  Political unionism has prevented the development of a movement or organisation that could be termed the workers’ own and turned the soil upside down to such a degree that it has become impossible for a genuine labour-inspired, labour-oriented, worker-led trade union movement to take root”.
Problems of recognition of trade unions
This is one of the basic issues in our industrial relation system because employers are under no obligation to give recognition to any union. In the initial stages, the attitudes of the employers towards the trade unions have been very hostile. The employers many a times have refused recognition to trade unions either on the basis that unions consist of only a minority of employees; or that two or more unions existed.

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