The trade unions in India developed quite slowly as compared to the western nations. Indian trade union movement can be divided into three phases:
1. The first phase (1850-1900):
During this phase the inception of trade unions took place. During this period, the working and living conditions of the labour were poor and their working hours were long. Capitalists were only interested in their productivity and profitability. In addition, the wage were also low and general economic conditions were poor in industries. In order to regulate the working hours and other service conditions of the Indian textile labourers,the Indian factories Act was enacted in 1881. As a result employment of child labour was prohibited.
The growth of trade union movement was slow in this phase and later on the Indian factory Act of 1881 was amended in 1891. Many strikes took place in the two decades following 1880 in all industrial cities. These strikes taught workers to understand the power of united action even though there was no union in real terms.
2. The Second Phase (1991-1946):
This phase was characterized by the development of organized trade unions and political movement of the working class. Between 1981 and 1923, many unions came into existence in the country. At Ahemedabad, under the guidance of mahatma Gandhi,occupational unions like spinners. ‘unions and weavers’ unions were formed. A strike was launched by these unions under the leadership of mahatma who turned it into a Satyagrah. These unions federated into industrial union known as textile labour association in 1920. In 1920, the first national trade union organization was established (AITUC). Many of the leaders of this organization were leaders of the national movement. In 1926,trade union law came up with the effort of me.N. N joshi that became operative from 1927. During 1928, All India trade union federation (AITUF) was formed.
3. The Third Phase (1947- till now):
The third phase began with the emergence of independent India in 1947. The partition of country affected the trade union movement particularly Bengal and punjab. By 1949, four central trade union organizations were functioning in the country:
- The all India Trade Union Congress.
- he Indian national Trade Union Congress.
- The Hindu Mazdoor Sangh.
- The united Trade cogress.
The working class movement was also politicized along the hens of political parties. For instance, Indian national trade cogress (INTUC) is the trade union arm of the congress party. The AITUC is the trade union arm of the communist party of India. Besides workers,white-collar employees,supervisors and managers also organized by the trade union, as for example in the Banking,insurance and petroleum industries.