The story of collective bargaining is the story of the rise and growth of trade unionism itself. It had its roots in Great Britain and developed in response to conditions created by the Industrial Revolution. In early part of 18th century when trade unions came into existence, the idea of bargaining collectively gained strength. Initially the negotiations were carried out at plant level. By early 1900, industry and national level agreements were quite common. Slowly but steadily the idea spread to France, Germany, USA. After a century of rapid growth, collective bargaining has more or less, become the gospel of industrial relations. It is being increasingly viewed as a social invention that has institutionalised industrial conflict. In other words it is through the process of collective bargaining that organisations have learnt to cope with industrial conflict. In India trade unions have come to occupy the centre stage only after 1900. In 1918, Gandhiji, as the leader of the Ahmedabad Textile workers advocated the resolution of conflict through collective bargaining agreements. For another 10 years, this method of setting disputes did not gain popularity. The legal steps taken by the government after the Second World War revived interest in the subject once again. The legislative measures included the setting up of a machinery for negotiations, conciliation and arbitration. Basic conflicting issues concurring wages and conditions of employment were sought to be resolved through voluntary means. After Independence, with the spread of trade unionism, collective bargaining agreements have become popular. A large majority of disputes were resolved through this mechanism. Most agreements were concluded at the plant level. In centres like Mumbai, Ahmedabad industry level agreements were quite common – thanks to the legal blessings extended by the respective State Acts. The agreements were found in industries such as chemicals, petroleum, tea, coal, oil, aluminum, etc. In ports and docks, banking and insurance, collective agreements at the national level were also arrived at.

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