Trade Union: Function and Objectives

Definition of Trade Union

Trade union is an association of workers in one or more occupation, an association carried on mainly for the purpose of protecting and advancing the members economic interests in connection with their daily work.

According to David and Robbins__ “A union is an organization of workers acting collectively, who seek to protect and promote their mutual interests through collective bargaining”.

According to Webbs__ “Trade union is a continuous association of wage earners for the purpose of maintaining or improving the conditions of the work lives”.

Thus, a trade union is an organisation of workers to promote protect and improve,through collective action the social,economic and political interest of its members.

Objectives of Trade Union

1. Security of employment: Security of employment and protection against calamity of accident,death and secure social security cover after retirement.

2. Fair Wages: Fair wages one of the main reasons for worker joining a trade union has been their belief to get wages increased and maintained fair wage.

3. To get a common platform: To air ones views,aims,ideas and feelings and obtain recognition and status among fellow workers.

4. Principle of unity: Principle of unity for the purpose of securing good working conditions,higher economic compensations,better career prospects.

Functions/Role of Trade Union

According to ‘Indian Trade Union Act, 1926’, the main function of a trade union is to promote and protect the interests of the workers and the conditions of their employment.

1. ‘The national commission on labour’ has provided certain functions of trade unions:

  1. To secure fair wages for workers.
  2. To safeguard the security of tenure and improve conditions of service.
  3. To enlarge opportunities for promotion and training.
  4. To improve working and living conditions.
  5. To provide for educational,cultural and recreational facilities.
  6. To promote individual and collective welfare.

2. The ‘First Five -year-plan’ stated the following functions of trade unions:

  1. Present plans to workers so as to create enthusiasm among them for plans.
  2. Exercise the almost restraint in regard to work stoppage.
  3. Assume greater responsibility for the success of productive effort.

3. According to Indian National Trade Union Congress'(INTUC):

  1. Serve their members and cater to the many-sides requirements of workers as responsible citizens.
  2. Plan for sustaining the interests of their members during times of individual peace by organizing intellectual,social,cultural and recreational activities, consumer co-operatives, credit co-operative and cooperative housing societies.
  3. Educate the rank and files so that the traditional agitational role should gradually be transformed into one of understanding. The unions should be given an effective role in the affairs of the industry.

4. Militant Functions:

One set of activities performed by trade unions leads to the betterment of the position of their members in relation to their employment. The aim of such activities is to ensure adequate wages, secure better conditions of work and employment, get better treatment from employers, etc. When the unions fail to accomplish these aims by the method of collective bargaining and negotiations, they adopt an approach and put up a fight with the management in the form of go-slow tactics, strike, boycott, gherao, etc. Hence, these functions of the trade unions are known as militant or fighting functions. Thus, the militant functions of trade unions can be summed up as:

  • To achieve higher wages and better working conditions
  • To raise the status of workers as a part of industry
  • To protect labors against victimization and injustices

5. Fraternal Functions:

Another set of activities performed by trade unions aims at rendering help to its members in times of need, and improving their efficiency. Trade unions try to foster a spirit of cooperation and promote friendly industrial relations and diffuse education and culture among their members. They take up welfare measures for improving the morale of workers and generate self confidence among them. They also arrange for legal assistance to its members, if necessary. Besides, these, they undertake many welfare measures for their members, e.g., school for the education of children, library, reading-rooms, in-door and out-door games, and other recreational facilities. Some trade unions even undertake publication of some magazine or journal.These activities, which may be called fraternal functions, depend on the availability of funds, which the unions raise by subscription from members and donations from outsiders, and also on their competent and enlightened leadership. Thus, the fraternal functions of trade unions can be summed up as:

  • To take up welfare measures for improving the morale of workers
  • To generate self confidence among workers
  • To encourage sincerity and discipline among workers
  • To provide opportunities for promotion and growth
  • To protect women workers against discrimination