Problems of Trade Unions in India11th July 2021 0 By indiafreenotes
Trade unionism, as a movement, has made considerable progress in our country, yet they have not grown up on sound lines. Unlike the Western countries, the Indian trade unions have not made the expected progress. They are beset with a number of obstacles that have considerably hampered the proper growth of unionism. Certain conditions must be met to have proper growth of trade unions and in Indian industries, all these conditions are not fully met.
In spite of the fact that our trade unionism is no longer in a state of infancy, the movement of unionism is not as strong as it should be. Multiplicity of trade unions, disunity in the rank of workers, lack of education among the working force, lack of resources, political rivalries etc., are many of the diverse causes responsible for the slow growth of trade unionism in our country.
The various problems of trade unionism can be broadly put under two headings:
- Internal Problems
- External Problems
Internal problems are related to labour. Indian labour has certain peculiar traits. Some of these traits have proved to be obstacles in the proper growth of unionism.
The internal factors responsible for the slow growth of Indian trade unions are:
- Migratory Character:
Healthy trade unionism requires the existence of a stable industrial population, which is largely absent in India. The migratory nature and the consequent lack of proper commitment of industrial workers have acted as a great hindrance to the development of sound and stable trade unions in India.
The workers who are frequently changing an industrial centre and are frequently changing their employer are less inclined to maintain a keen and constant interest in any organisation. An ultimate escape from the industry by many workers to go back to their villages tend to diminish their enthusiasm for collective efforts to their working conditions.
- Heterogeneous Character:
In every big industrial centre, one can find workers coming from almost all regions of India. These workers differ inter se in regard to language, religion, race, caste, habits of food and dress etc. Thus the workers of Indian industry are very heterogeneous in character. This weakness among the workers has often been exploited by the employers by following the policy of divide and rule. Thus heterogeneous character of the workers has proved to be a great hindrance in building up labour solidarity.
- Poor Economic Conditions:
The general poverty and low level of wages have been the other obstacle in the stable trade unions in India. The earnings of the workers have been low. They can barely meet the expenses of their family. They are usually under debt also. Under such conditions, it becomes difficult for the workers to contribute even a smaller subscription to the union funds. Further, they are unable to bear the strain of strikes and lockouts due to their poor economic conditions. Thus low economic standards and poverty of the workers come in the way of the growth and development of trade unions.
- illiterate Labour:
The Indian labourers are illiterate and ignorant and there is absence of democratic spirit among them. Illiterate workers are not fully conscious of their duties. They fall easy prey to the tactics of opposite groups. Without any proper reason, they may go on strikes and indulge in subversion.
They do not understand the true role and functions of trade unions. For generations, they have become accustomed to be ruled and have developed slavish mentality and inferiority complex. As such, many workers are incapable of thinking in terms of any organised effort on their part.
- Ineffective Leadership:
Indian workers lack the ability, capacity and courage for leadership. Generally, social reformers, lawyers or politicians hold the leadership posts of trade unions. These persons may be rude, selfish and self-seeking. They do not have first-hand knowledge about the labour problems. They may be indifferent to the true interests of labour.
They do not understand the real difficulties and grievances of the workers. Sometimes they attempt too much and thereby diminish their own effectiveness. Many of the leaders have been opportunists and have their own axe to grind. Now-a-days, most of the leaders belong to some political party and have made the trade unions a platform for the furtherance of their own political ends.
- Lack of Unity:
The trade union movement in our country has received a serious set-back owing to the lack of unity among the various leading organisations of labour. There are numerous trade unions functioning independently in our country. Each one is under the influence of one or the other political party.
The political parties misuse trade unions to further their own political ends. The mutual strife among trade unions weaken the strength of unionism. Due to mutual dissension among trade unions, each agitation is supported by some and opposed by others. This results in half-hearted action or utter failure.
- Low Membership:
Most of the trade unions have low membership and as such lack proper finances, organisation and leadership. The low membership of a union has been mostly due to the larger number of unions and workers are not united, even in the same industry.
Further the trade union activity is generally concentrated in metropolitan centres where large scale industries are located. Here again, it is the manual workers who are covered by trade union activity. The total membership of trade unions is only a small part of the total number of wage-earners.
- Low Standards of Life:
Low standard of living and long hours of work leave the workers with less energy and time to pursue any trade union activity. In the depressed conditions, the workers have failed to promote healthy unionism in our country.
- External Problems:
No trade union movement can make much progress without the active co-operation among various factors. The role of intermediaries, the jobbers, the industrialists, the labour laws etc., could impede and thwart the growth of trade unionism.
These external obstacles are discussed below:
- Non-Co-Operation of Intermediaries and Jobbers:
The jobbers and intermediaries have been deeply hostile to Indian trade unionism. The trade unions take away the powers of the jobbers, who therefore, try all fair and unfair means to create disunity among the workers and defeat the aims of the trade unions.
The intermediaries, who are mostly the agents of the industrialists, conspire against workers, in workers’ conferences and pass on all the information to the industrialists. Thus the opposition and non- co-operation of intermediaries and jobbers create an obstacle in the growth of trade union activity.
- Opposition by Industrialists:
The majority of the Indian industrialists treat workers organisation nothing but a challenge to their power and authority. They think that the growth of trade unions is not in consonance with their interests. Big industrialists try to undermine and sabotage all efforts to strengthen the trade unions.
Cases have come to light when the employers have victimized trade union workers. They even employ spies, goondas and strike breakers to disrupt the union activities. At times, the industrialists try to win over union leaders by giving them huge bribes. Many times they even refuse to recognise the unions in which they do not find the workers of their liking.
- Political Pressures:
The political parties have been responsible for creating unhealthy rivalries among the trade unionists. Each political party, with the aim to promote its interest, tries to win over the workers. In this process, they create bitter feelings and differences among the working class. Thus rivalry among trade unions and political pressures pose a serious threat to the growth of healthy trade unionism in our country.
- Less Legal Support:
There are no adequate provisions in the government laws and machinery to safeguard the interest of the workers. Law does not give much support to the workers going on strikes etc. The industrialists are better placed to take advantage of law. So lack of proper legal support impedes the growth of trade unionism in India.
- Changing Industrial Scenario:
Our industrial scenario is changing fast due to privatisation, liberalisation and globalisation. Jobs are moving from the organised sector to the informal sector. Many industries are closing down. There are voluntary retirement schemes coming out. There is more computerisation in the industries. All these are reducing the workforce in the organized sector. This is likely to undermine the strength of trade union movement, particularly that of central trade unions.