“United we stand, Divided we fall”, so say our ancestors. That is what they learnt from their experiences and we inherit. Recollecting the concept of unionism and thereby Collective Bargaining in India we have to trace back to pre independence era. The modern concept of Unionism in India received due recognition with the enactment of Trade Unions Act, 1926.Being on the verge of independence but with a crashed economy! This was the period when employment and related issues were at its peak. The economy was divided into 2 classes – powerful Employers and helpless Labour. There were many unsolved issues in relation to wages and conditions of employment. Trade unionism served as a weapon in the hands of labourers whereby they united to get their demands right.Since enactment, the legislation has many established precedents, as in cases like,- Karol Leather Karmachari Sangathan v. Liberty Footwear Co.
– Ramprasad Vishwakarma v. Industrial Tribunal
– Bharat Iron Works v. Bhagubhai Balubhai Patel.Here Collective Bargaining has been alternatively defined as dispute resolution machinery facilitating amicable solution of various issues between labour and management.In an earlier Judgment, the Hon’ble Calcutta High Court even specified that the same legislative policy is implicit in the definition of ‘Industrial Dispute’ under the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947. In recent times with the recognition of labour issues world over even Collective Bargaining is serving as a strengthened weapon in hands of working class in any Constituency. The International Labour Organization (ILO) not only recognizes but also defines the term Collective Bargaining as,”Negotiations about working conditions and terms of employment between an employer, or a group of employers, or one or more employer’s organizations, on the one hand, and one or more representative worker’s organization on the other with a view to reaching agreement.”Domestically, since enactment the legislation has undergone not many amendments. The formalities for registration like requirement of 7 or more members engaged or employed in an establishment stands intact. A registered trade union receives legal recognition. Also the governing power of such trade union still rests with the concerned State Government.Though the Act was duly amended in 2001 aiming at gaining more transparency and to provide greater support to trade unionism in India, it is not applicable to,- The Societies Registration Act, 1860
– The Co-Operative Societies Act, 1912 and
– The Companies Act, 1956Apart from this also low participation of women in trade union activities is also criticized. Many Organizations like Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) are deploying their efforts on these fronts. Also where on one hand the progressive Constitution of India has established ideals of justice, liberty and equality on other hand it is a well established fact that trade union movement in India is governed on political grounds.The concept is really to be nurtured in recent times of recession as they serve as established sites of solidarity facilitating improved terms and conditions at work with security. All this holds true but has to taken with a pinch of caution and responsibility. National Commission on Labour (NCL) rightly emphasizes, ‘Trade Unions are formed not only to cater the worker’s demand, but also for inculcating in workers the sense of discipline and responsibility.’Author: Palak Lotiya